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Nazareth grad Katie Hurta excited to start collegiate volleyball career at Penn State

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By Randy Whalen
Correspondent

There are numerous facets of the game that Katie Hurta excelled in as a volleyball player.

Now, she has taken those talents to at Penn State, where her collegiate athletics career will begin in roughly one month.

Hurta, of Palos Hills, helped Nazareth win the IHSA Class 3A girls volleyball state championship last fall. To cap it off, she was named the 2021-22 Gatorade Illinois Volleyball Player of the Year.

Both feats were first for the Roadrunners.

“It’s difficult to think of just one or two ways in which Katie helped lead us to the state championship,” said Nazareth coach Melissa Masterson. “If you watch her play, you quickly realize that she is one of the best all-around volleyball players to have ever played in Illinois. She can attack and score points from any front row position and she is an extremely talented setter who runs an efficient offense. Katie plays great defense, she is a strong blocker, and was one of our top passers.”

Hurta doubled as a right-side hitter and a setter her senior season Roadrunners. She had 415 kills, 360 assists, 198 digs, 30 blocks and 22 aces on the season. In the state title match victory over Belvidere North, she had 15 kills, 10 assists and eight digs.

Nazareth trailed 12-6 in the third set of that match.

“I honestly got emotional at point 24,” Hurta said. “I had tears in my eyes at that point. It was special and everything paid off that we had been working for.”

Hurta was exposed to volleyball at a young age. She recalled traveling during her grade school years to watch her sister Camille, now a senior at Grand Valley State, play in tournaments.

“Being around that environment made me fall in love with it and I never stopped,” she added.

She never stopped growing in the sport, as a player or a leader.

“Katie’s leadership and the type of teammate she chose to be may have had the biggest impact on our success, not just last season but the previous three seasons,” Masterson said. “I’ve been fortunate to know Katie since she was 14 so I’ve seen how much work she has put into being the best athlete, teammate, and leader she can be.”

Hurta credits her growth to her coaches, including Masterson and Masterson’s husband, Kyle, who is an assistant at Nazareth and the girls program director at Adversity, Hurta’s club team.

“Having them as coaches is just going to help me down the road,” she said. “They helped set me up for success.”

Hurta committed to Indiana her sophomore season in 2019 before changing her mind last February.

At Penn State, she’ll play for head coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley, a 1997 Mother McAuley graduate who helped guide the school to a pair of Class AA state titles in 1994 and 1995.

“They have a really good team and I’m excited to have the opportunity to play,” she said.

The Nittany Lions are excited to have her.

“Katie Hurta is a tremendous asset to the Penn State volleyball family,” Schumacher-Cawley said. “She’s a confident, fiery player with great all-around skills. She’s a very versatile athlete who will make an impact.”

Hurta said she will do anything to help the team.

“I’ve loved doing both hitting and setting in high school and in club,” Hurta said. “Setting helps me a lot because I love the power of controlling the offense. But I also love to be able to get a kill and have that power to end the rally.

“I’m not sure what I will be doing yet at college, but I’m just going to keep up on my skills and do whatever it takes.”

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