Kozak key to team nucleus

Women’s volleyball defensive specialist Kaitlin Kozak has no secret diary; instead, she shares the ups and downs of being a student athlete at the University of Miami with the public.

Kozak’s entries are displayed on the homepage of hurricanesports.com, where she describes the events of the week from a player’s perspective.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Kozak. “It gives fans and prospective athletes a closer look of our team and the life of a student athlete.”

The accessibility of Kozak in her diary entries is a testament to her down-to-earth character. As a senior, she is a pillar for the younger members of the squad, from organizational details to words of encouragement.

“Kate is a great leader,” said Head Coach Nicole Lantange Welch. “She is always putting the team first, which shows in her comments [to teammates] after a match.”

Kozak did not take the path of recruitment the majority of her teammates followed. Instead, she came to Miami and worked her way onto the team from scratch.

“She came in when the program was young and tried out for the team,” Lantange Welch said. “It took a lot of courage and it says a lot about her character.”

Kozak was not satisfied without being part of the volleyball team.

“I knew I wanted volleyball to be a part of my life and I worked really hard to make that happen,” Kozak said.

Regardless of how she started, Kozak has earned her position on the team. She has consistently proven to be a key defensive player that can be relied on to finish strongly.

“She is one of our quickest athletes. In terms of defense, she reads situations well,” Lantange Welch said. “We look at her to make a strong impact in the back row. She is one of the best servers.”

Part of what makes the team successful is how it interacts off the court. The players don’t just see each other at practices; they enjoy their time off together as well.

“Some of the older girls used to call her Smurfs because she’s short,” said teammate Karla Johnson. “They tied her in her sweatshirt and she couldn’t see. We were all just having fun.”

In her final year at UM, Kozak said she reflects upon the experiences she has had and what they have taught her.

“I know I will use every bit of what I learned in the future,” Kozak said.

After graduation in the spring, Kozak plans to attend graduate school and eventually work in higher education or as a guidance counselor. She hopes to continue to work with volleyball as a graduate assistant and possibly even become a coach at some point.

“Volleyball is something I love and I give it my all everyday, at every practice and game,” Kozak said. “Since it’s my last year playing, I want to enjoy it and have fun.”

Stacey Arnold can be contacted at s.arnold@umiami.edu.