As great of a season Kathryn Bell had on the volleyball court for North Hall High, her biggest contribution might have occurred before the season started.
Knowing her team needed more athletes, Bell convinced her friends Tess Patton, MaryKate Rushton and McKenna Rushton to give volleyball a try.
After some speculation, mostly surrounding the uniform, Patton, a standout soccer player, and the Rushtons, both starters on the basketball team, immediately impacted the Lady Trojans and vaulted them into the top 10 of the coaches poll.
“I wanted them to come play because I wanted to have a good senior year,” Bell said. “They made stuff happen.
“They’re biggest concern was wearing spandex, but I don’t know why,” she added. “But after they got out on the court and actually touched the volleyball, they fell in love with it.”
That display of leadership was something North Hall coach Emi Hughes has been expecting since Bell was a sophomore, and its just one of the reasons why Bell is The Times Volleyball Player of the Year.
“When you watch a player with her skill set, you wonder how she could possibly get better,” said Hughes, whose coached Bell for three years. “I think she grew the most in a leadership sense where she had the confidence to run our team.
“She really got to a point this season where you knew it was her team and she knew the direction we wanted to go.”
One look at her statistics and it’s obvious Bell played a major part in North Hall’s most successful season in program history.
Along with her 94 aces and 50 kills, Bell was eighth in Class AAA with 459 assists to give her a school-record 1,347 assists in her career. Her calming presence as a setter played an integral role in North Hall finishing the season 28-14 and advancing to the Class AAA quarterfinals.
“Kathryn’s one of those players who’s extremely smart when she plays, and that’s going to be hard to replace,” Hughes said. “She has great court awareness and she’s the player who does everything you ask her to do.”
Hughes noticed that characteristic when she took over the North Hall program three years ago and immediately tabbed Bell as the one she wanted to run the offense for the next three seasons.
“She took that opportunity and ran with it,” Hughes said.
A volleyball player since the seventh grade, Bell played JV for North Hall as an eighth-grader and varsity since her freshman year. She took to the sport because it was unlike any other sport she played and she loves fast-paced games. It was that love of the game and dedication to going out on top that kept her focused throughout the trying times of her senior season.
The first of those such times came near the start of the season when, according to Hughes, North Hall was playing “average volleyball.” So Hughes talked to Bell about where the team was headed, and the two decided they wanted to be better.
The Lady Trojans went on to win 12 of their next 13 matches.
“She took over,” Hughes said of Bell. “She pushed herself and that in turn made everybody want to work harder.
“She’s a silent leader and leads by her actions.”
Bell took a more vocal leadership role following her team’s disappointing loss to West Hall in the Area 8-AAA tournament, where the Lady Trojans assumed they’d play top-ranked, and eventual state runner-up Oconee County for the championship. Instead, the Lady Spartans ousted North Hall in two games, subsequently giving the Lady Trojans the No. 3 seed from the area.
“That was the only time in the season I cried,” Bell said. “I know we could have beat Oconee the next time we saw them, but at the same time, it made me want to play even harder. It made me want to go farther and show West Hall that we were better than them and that we just choked.”
Her teammates felt the same way, so Bell gathered them and told them losing was OK.
“I told them it wasn’t the end of the world, and that we had to push ourselves from here on out,” she said.
The rest is history, one in which Bell is proud to be a part of.
“It means a lot,” she said. “I’ve never been a part of North Hall’s history, so it’s kind of cool to think about coming back and watching the players and being able to tell them I was a part of the team to go that far.”
Bell hopes to write some more history in college, and although she hasn’t received a volleyball scholarship as of yet, she’s “keeping my options open.”
“I’m not ready to give this sport up,” she said. “Playing in college would make my college experience 100 times better.”