In Kaitlyn Klein's three years as a member of the Modesto High volleyball team, her Panthers haven't lost a Modesto Metro Conference match.
This year, the stellar play and quiet leadership of the 6-foot outside hitter have helped steer the Panthers to a 21-5 record — including a perfect a 10-0 mark in the MMC. In a typical outing, the team captain had 12 kills and 11 digs against Johansen last Friday; she had 10 kills against Davis, 11 against Enochs.
The only thing Klein hits harder than the ball is the books.
She is enrolled as a full International Baccalaureate (IB) student and carries a mind-bending, weighted grade-point average of 4.557.
Her combination of smarts and skill has earned Klein a scholarship to Division I Bryant University, in Smithfield, R.I. Klein is the first Modesto High volleyball player to get a scholarship to a D-I school.
"It's really cool to be the first one," said Klein.
Klein plans to major in business/accounting and says she was attracted to Bryant because of the university's renowned undergraduate business program, which was recently ranked 59th in the nation by "Business Week."
"They have one of the top business programs in the nation. It's a very rigorous program, one that's very hard to get into, and I look forward to the challenge," said Klein.
Another factor was the instant rapport she felt with Bulldogs coaches Theresa and Ted Garlacy upon visiting the university.
"The coaches there are a husband and wife team who have been there for a really long time. They're good coaches and nice people," Klein said. "When I went to visit, I felt very comfortable."
The feeling was mutual. Theresa Garlacy, the Bulldogs' head coach, expects Klein to make an immediate impact.
"We are thrilled to have her be part of probably the most dynamic recruiting class to enter Bryant University's volleyball program since its inception," said Garlacy. "Bryant is a high end school academically, and I need to look at recruits who will be successful once they get here. I am sure that she will be extremely successful in the classroom after the competitive schedule she undertook in high school."Story continues below video
On the court, Klein's athleticism and versatility appealed to Garlacy.
"We are interested in complete players with an understanding of the game and excellent ball control," Garlacy explained. "She is a very athletic player with good jump, a great wrist and quick arm swing. Her versatility on the court and being able to play several positions also interested me."
Those attributes have been a tremendous help to Modesto co-coaches Gloria Magana-Gentry and Kayla Van Duyn.
"Kaitlyn is extremely versatile and she can play pretty much anywhere," said Magana-Gentry. "She's a great hitter and a great passer. God forbid if anything happened to our setters, but we know she could step it up and play well if it did. We have total confidence in her."
Klein brings a quiet, confident intensity to every match — along with her skills.
"She's very quiet, but she backs it up on court," said Magana-Gentry. "A lot of people look up to her. Not just JV and freshmen, but girls on the team. Everyone has a lot of respect for her."
Klein also has a great regard for her coaches.
"I love them. They're both great. Both are very positive and encouraging and want us to do well," she said. "They push us in practice and they expect a lot of us, but I think it's really good for us."
Klein has played club volleyball for Delta Valley Volleyball Club since she was 13 and credits club director Richard Chan for his role in her success.
"He's been such a big influence in all my years at Delta Valley. He works with me on my hitting, and he's the most knowledgeable person I've met and also the most encouraging," Klein said. "He's been a big help in getting me to where I am today."
Ripon Christian coach Tiger Shelton has been a big influence.
"He coached our 17s team this past year, and he helped me develop my speed and taught me where I need to get to compete at the national level," she said.
Klein missed eight weeks last season, including the playoffs, after spraining her left ankle during an October clinic.
She says there are still times when the ankle reminds her of the injury, but the pain has been manageable.
"I wear an ankle brace. I did therapy last year, which really helped a lot. It was pretty bad. I sprained three ligaments. I can still feel it pull sometimes," said Klein. "It definitely was not the most exciting day of my life."
Magana-Gentry and Van Duyn are excited that Klein will have the opportunity to be a part of the action this time around.
"Kayla and I are very proud of her and very excited that she's going to be a part of the playoffs," said Magana-Gentry. "I mean, last year she was there with us and cheering her teammates on, but this year she's actually playing.
"I know she's very hungry and we're excited about that."