When Garden City High School hired a new volleyball coach in the spring of 2017 to replace the departing and successful Abby Piha, whose family moved to Tulsa, Okla., Reagan Karlin was keenly interested to see what that person would bring to the Buffaloes’ program.
“When we got our new coach, practices and workouts were more intense,” said Karlin of first-year coach Trista Bailey. “We worked on passing a lot more, and being an outside hitter, I just knew I had to improve in a lot of areas.”
That improvement was evident throughout the fall 2017 season as Karlin was one of many key components to the 27-11 record the Buffs compiled en route to a third straight appearance at the Class 6A state tournament.
For her performance, Karlin, a 6-foot-1-inch sophomore outside hitter, has been named The Telegram’s 2017 Volleyball Player of the Year.
She is joined on the six-player squad by sophomore teammate Remi Vargas; Ulysses’ Riley Oglevie and Jazstyn Moyer, Holcomb’s Eboni Sapien and Lakin’s Aaliyah Jones.
Karlin said her continual improvement came in a variety of ways this season, working on putting more hip action into her attacking shots.
“I’m definitely better hitting from the left side,” Karlin said. “The set comes from a different angle and I’m able to my body into a better position to hit the ball harder. On the right side, I have to turn my body differently.”
Karlin, who had 387 kills this season (4.7/set), said it was an area that was greatly improved upon from her freshman season.
“This year, I worked on placing the ball better, but I still have a lot of room for improvement in that area,” Karlin said.
Karlin said one thing Bailey introduced to the team was playing at a faster pace, something she welcomed.
“When you’re playing faster, the game just seems to be easier,” she said. “We did more double-blocking and used a lot more of the court. The up-tempo seemed to work well for us.”
While working to better her serve/receive, Karlin said she had also focused on her digs.
“Those are coming at you really fast and you don’t have much time to react,” she said. “I feel like I’m still a little hesitant going down for the ball. Again, it’s something I need to improve on for next year.”
While making a return trip to the state tournament was one of the team’s goals, they were unable to achieve another in making Saturday’s final four semifinals.
“Honestly, I thought we did better this year although we didn’t win any of the matches,” Karlin said. “We were more competitive and I thought we were closer to the other teams than we were a year ago.”
Karlin said she hopes to develop a jump serve next season as a way of diversifying her overall court game.
“I want to be able hit my zones better and we’re working on a lot of serving drills,” she said. “You have to hit a certain spot for it to work.”
Karlin also said she thought her defense on the back row had taken a step forward.
“I think I can still improve there, too, but playing the back row more this year, I know I improved from my freshman year,” she said. “I can get better at double-blocking, and I can work on my footwork at the net.”
With a number of returners for 2018, Karlin is excited about the future of the Buffs program.
“I think we’re gonna be really good,” she said. “We want to go win some matches and make the second day at state. That’s the next big step. We’ve got a lot of confidence in coach Bailey and we just want to pick up where we left off.”