For senior Katlyn Hudson, the volleyball team’s victory over Eastern Kentucky Saturday was bittersweet.
The victory marked the final time Hudson will wear the Murray State blue and gold as she is the lone senior on a team otherwise comprised of freshmen and sophomores.
It has been nearly a 13-year journey for Hudson, as the Columbus, Ind., native began playing volleyball at age nine. Her father was a lifelong player and also served as a high school volleyball assistant coach for much of his life. It was her dad, Hudson said, who instilled in her a passion for the game.
“He basically just took me in the backyard and started playing with me and I fell in love with the sport and have been playing ever since,” she said.
Hudson played throughout middle and high school, competing on club teams and spending all four years on the varsity squad at Columbus East High School.
Standing at 5-foot-2-inches, however, Hudson was unsure if she had the height to play at the collegiate level.
“I really didn’t plan on playing in college,” she said. “I wasn’t very tall, so I didn’t think there was any chance I’d be able to play, let alone get a scholarship.”
With plans to attend Indiana and possibly try out for its club team, Hudson had all but decided to move on. Her plans changed, however, when she met Murray State Head Coach David Schwepker at a tournament during her senior season.
He invited her to visit Murray State’s campus and offered her a spot on the team. Hudson knew it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
“When we left Murray after my visit, my mom and I both had a feeling this was the school,” Hudson said. “When I came and talked to my department head and saw the school and met the girls, I just knew it was the one.”
Fast forward, and Hudson has seen action throughout her four years on her way to becoming the 15th player in Murray State history to join the 1,000 dig club.
Perhaps Hudson’s greatest accomplishment, however, is leading this year’s inexperienced team to a 16-14 record – the program’s first winning season since 2008.
“In brutal honesty, I thought we were going to be terrible at the beginning of the year,” she said. “We were so inexperienced and our tallest player got hurt before the season even started – I just thought it was going to be a whirlwind. But we started preseason and we won three out of four tournaments and we just clicked. It was awesome.”
Despite the team’s unexpected success, Hudson’s senior season came with its fair share of struggles as well.
On Oct. 17, Hudson was hit with a ball and suffered her fifth concussion.
“I really just freaked out when it first happened,” Hudson said. “For my own health, I was really nervous because I’ve had so many. It’s been a really big deal lately with all the concussion stuff going on in football, so I was really worried.”
As she worked to regain her health, Hudson soon faced one of the toughest decisions she’s ever had to make.
“I had to make a decision whether I even wanted to play again,” she said. “Your head is with you forever, it’s not like your elbow is sore. I really had to consider it and there were a lot of tears and sleepless nights. It was scary.”
In the end, Hudson said she knew she would have regrets if she did not finish her senior season on the court. Vowing to play relentlessly, Hudson made her return Nov. 8 against Southeast Missouri State
During the three weeks Hudson was sidelined, the Racers struggled to a 1-5 record. Upon the senior’s return, Hudson led the team to a strong finish, going 3-1 in the final four games of the season.
“I look back and I know if I could have played in some of those games, where we are now would be a different story,” Hudson said.
Despite a strong finish to the season, the Racers fell just short of earning a berth in the OVC tournament.
Though she said she is sad to see her season and collegiate career end, Hudson knows the memories are what she will take away.
“When I leave, it’s not the wins that I’ll miss,” she said. “It’s the memories. The memories I have here will stay with me forever.”
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer