Senior volleyball player Katie O’Toole was recently named St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) defensive player of the year. She set a school all-time record with 1,929 digs against Iowa-Wesleyan in her final season.
O’Toole led the conference with 659 digs this season. She had been in the top five in digs for the SLIAC conference three out of her four seasons at Webster. For her efforts, O’Toole was named to the All-Conference team as a defensive specialist.
Head coach Merry Graf said what makes O’Toole such an asset on defense is her ability to read the ball.
“She frustrates opposing hitters because they think they see an open hole on the court,” Graf said. “By the time they attack she is there because she reads the play so well.”
According to O’ Toole, winning the SLIAC defensive player of the year was a huge honor. She said she was disappointed the Gorloks lost in the tournament, but winning this award ended her career on a high note.
“One of my favorite moments was the game against Iowa Wesleyan when I broke the school record for most career digs,” O’Toole said. “Being able to accomplish this on my final season of volleyball was a great feeling.”
The Gorloks won the SLIAC tournament two times during O’Toole’s career at Webster.
Senior middle hitter Emily Knowles said O’Toole does not give up on any balls and her determination on defense allows her to cover more ground than other players.
“I think Katie sets a great attitude and standard that challenges other teams and also teammates at practice,” Knowles said. “She brings up our level of competition.”
O’Toole said she looked up to the older girls when she was a freshman and helped make an impact on her as a player.
“I hope I had the same impact on the younger girls and I hope I was a role model for them as an individual and as a volleyball player,” O’Toole said. “A tip I passed onto the younger girls was to have fun and cherish every moment out on the court. It goes by faster than you can imagine.”
Graf said O’Toole has a calming influence on the court and does not rattle easily. Graf said she credits O’Toole for helping other players stay calm on the court.
Confidence and O’Toole’s ability to read on defense has improved during her time at Webster, according to Graf.
“Katie has grown a great deal in her four years as a Gorlok,” O’Toole said. “As a freshman, she joined her sister Allie, who was a junior on our roster. Midway through her freshman year she earned the libero spot on our varsity team.”
O’Toole credited her hard work for the accomplishments she has made over her four years at Webster. She said she was proud the Gorloks made the SLIAC tournament every year she played on the team.
“I am very thankful for all the friendships I’ve made over these four years,” O’Toole said. “Volleyball has brought some of the best people into my life.”