Kate Perryman and the rest of the North Forsyth volleyball team felt frustrated.
Playing against state power Lassiter this past Saturday, the Raiders were on the receiving end of a long run by the Trojans, who were showing why they were a top contender to win the state title. The Raiders huddled up.
“We were all like, 'We got this. Everyone needs to calm down,'” Perryman said. “Everyone got it through their mind. You can see on the court when everyone clicks together.”
Standing tall at 6-foot-2, Perryman came out of the huddle and exhibited the kind of defensive prowess the Raiders had become accustomed to. Even though North lost 25-20, 25-13, the result was closer than many expected.
“She was shutting down some of their big hitters,” North co-head coach Kelly Cecil said. “We were making a big run there at the end of the first set. Kate was fearless up there, just going after those big hitters. It was awesome.”
Perryman played regularly as a freshman at middle blocker on last year’s state quarterfinalist squad, making her an outlier on a team with a wealth of experience. This year, as a sophomore, Perryman has become an ever more critical part of North’s squad, and not just because of her defense. She’s remade her game without sacrificing what made her valuable to the Raiders in the first place: Perryman already has twice the number of kills that she did in her freshman year, and is on pace to surpass last year’s number of blocks as well.
Volleyball wasn’t Perryman’s first foray into athletics. She had tried gymnastics, and basketball, which she had played since she was very young, had become her main sport of choice. It wasn’t until her mother made the suggestion to try volleyball that she decided to give it a go.
She started playing on feeder teams in seventh and eighth grade, but with her focus on basketball, she never took the game seriously enough to play on a club or travel team. When she made the Raiders’ varsity team as a freshman, she felt a bit outmatched.
“I found myself being very insecure when I first started school volleyball,” Perryman said. “You're on a team with 10 18-year-olds, and you're 14. Starting, it was kind of tricky to figure out everyone's team dynamic, but I respected all of them.”
She found her place in the middle, with a very similar job to the one she had on the basketball court. Perryman led the Raiders defensively with 101 total blocks as a freshman as the upperclassmen carried the volleyball team to a state quarterfinals appearance.
“It was the best first year of volleyball I could have had,” Perryman said.
Inspired by the success her school’s team had, Perryman played with A5 Volleyball Club over her first varsity offseason to further hone her craft. It was the first time she’d ever played with a club volleyball team, and marked a turning point for her.
Even after North’s girls basketball team made a deep run into the playoffs, volleyball was beginning to garner more of her focus. She still plans to play basketball this year, but doesn’t plan on doing any more travel ball for that sport. She sees volleyball as the game she has a future with, as it’s not as tough on her body.
“I've been playing basketball for so long that it's like a job now,” Perryman said. “You should do what you love because you love it and not because it feels like work. I still love basketball, don't get me wrong, but just not as much as I did. Volleyball is so much fun for me and I love it.”
With A5, Perryman continued to play in the same position she did in her freshman year, but when preseason practices for her sophomore year started, North co-head coaches Kelly and Drew Cecil had other ideas. Only one senior, Mary Ellen Enright, was returning for the 2018 season, and the Raiders needed more attacking power. The Cecils moved her to play primarily outside, but the transition wasn’t a smooth one at first.
“I think the biggest struggle for her was her timing,” Kelly Cecil said. “Middle, it's so much quicker, whereas outside you have to wait a little bit more on your set. She’s starting to figure it out now but there was a while there where she was wanting to go up quicker and she was not timing it right. I think she's got it down now.”
North’s coaching tandem referred to Perryman as a ‘game changer’ due to the kind of height and athleticism she has. In future situations like that night against Lassiter, Perryman hopes she can continue being that game changer, and not just because of her play.
“I can't speak for the girls, but I hope they respect me,” Perryman said. “The main thing about being a leader is it's someone who's always uplifting – always kind and always has everyone's best interest in mind. That's what I was taught in my house. Bringing it to the volleyball gym, that's kind of helped me step into a leadership role. They've told me I have.”