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Volleyball district preview: Hitter Kayla Walton hopes to take Northside Christian into state final four

Kayla Walton, who missed Northside Christian’s postseason run last year due to an injury, hopes to lift her squad into the final four this year.

LARA CERRI | Times (2007)

Kayla Walton, who missed Northside Christian’s postseason run last year due to an injury, hopes to lift her squad into the final four this year.

You're arguably the hardest hitter in Pinellas County. How are you able to generate so much force and power with your kills?

Honestly, I don't know. I guess it's just conditioning from the weight room. We do a lot of conditioning and weight lifting. And we work on getting in the right position. I'm getting stronger. I could only work on upper body when I hurt my knee. A lot of it is technique and also having someone who can give you good sets. Luckily, we have a great setter (senior Kayla Turner).

You committed to USF three days after you had knee surgery last year (Oct. 12). Did that injury play any role in deciding to commit?

No, I've always wanted to go to USF, and when I hurt my knee, quite a few colleges backed down and wanted to see me play again. USF was still coming after me strong. I really wanted to stay in Florida. Now a lot of those schools that backed off have come back to me. Two of the USF coaches (head coach Claire Lessinger and assistant coach Michelle Collier) tore their ACLs and they knew that a player can come back even stronger after it's been repaired. It was nice to have someone there to support me, to help walk me through the rehab and help me stay focused on my conditioning.

Is the knee 100 percent or does it still bother you at times?

I feel pain a little bit. We had a huge tournament this past weekend, and playing so many matches it festered up a little bit. It's getting better. I'd say it's pretty much 100 percent now. That's what the doctor said the last time he checked it out. That was my last visit. He said I didn't need to see him again, that it was looking great.

Last season, Northside held a 2-0 lead in the region final but lost to Tampa Prep in five games. Was it tough watching your team lose like that from the bench, knowing you might have been the difference in the match?

Yeah, it was really tough, but my team's strong. They did good. It was really hard to watch. They could have pulled it out. I honestly don't even know what happened. But we'll get them this year. Last season's over; we can't fix that.

Does this year's team have the talent to match or even surpass what last year's team did?

Our team's very close. We're a big family. We lost a big player in Callie Hasko, but I think we're just as good as last year if not better. We've all gotten better through club. We trained and worked all summer. We all became closer. Our team chemistry has gotten a lot better. We're always together. Pregame stuff, warmups, whatever, we always have fun with each other.

Northside Christian senior and USF commitment Kayla Walton missed most of the 2008 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, medial meniscus and lateral meniscus in her left knee during a regular-season win over Indian Rocks Christian on Sept. 22. Despite Walton's injury, the Mustangs advanced to the region final before losing to Tampa Prep in five games. Now, with a healthy Walton, Northside looks to go a step beyond and make the state final four for just the second time in school history. The St. Petersburg Times caught up with Walton as the Bay Conference champion and 2A-11 top-seeded Mustangs prepare for their district tournament opener Tuesday against the Shorecrest-Admiral Farragut winner.

District tournaments

class 6A-7

Schedule: Tuesday — Sarasota (5) at North Port (4), 7; St. Petersburg (6) at Sarasota Riverview (3), 7; Wednesday — 5-4 winner at Palm Harbor U. (1), 7; 6-3 winner at Countryside (2), 7; Friday — final, 7 (highest seed hosts)

class 5A-11 at Seminole

Schedule: Tuesday — Tarpon Springs (4) vs. Dunedin (5), 7; Wednesday — Seminole (2) vs. Clearwater (3), 6; 4-5 winner vs. East Lake (1), 8; Friday — final, 6

class 5A-12 at Pinellas Park

Schedule: Tuesday — Pinellas Park (4) vs. Gibbs (5), 7; Wednesday — Largo (2) vs. Boca Ciega (3), 6:30; 4-5 winner vs. Northeast (1), 7:45; Friday — final, 7

class 4A-10 at Bayshore (Bradenton)

Schedule: Tuesday — Lakewood Ranch (5) at Osceola (4), 7; Palmetto (6) at Lakewood (3), 7; Dixie Hollins (7) at Bayshore (2), 7; Wednesday — 4-5 winner at Braden River (1), 7; 3-6 winner vs. 2-7 winner, 7 (highest seed hosts); Thursday — final, 7

Class 3A-10 at St. Petersburg Cath.

Schedule: Tuesday — St. Petersburg Catholic (5) vs. Academy of the Holy Names (4), 7; Wednesday — Clearwater Central Catholic (3) vs. Tampa Catholic (2), 5:30; 4-5 winner vs. Berkeley Prep (1), 7:30; Thursday — final, 7

class 2A-10 at Indian Rocks Christian

Schedule: Tuesday — Bishop McLaughlin (4) vs. Tampa Prep (1), 6; Calvary Christian (3) vs. Indian Rocks Christian (2), 7:30; Thursday — final, 7

class 2A-11 at Out-of-Door Academy

Schedule: Monday — Shorecrest (4) vs. Admiral Farragut (5), 7; Tuesday — St. Stephen's (2) vs. Out-of-Door (3), 6; 4-5 winner vs. Northside Christian (1), 7:30; Thursday — final, 7

class A-9 at Keswick Christian

Schedule: Monday — Academy at the Lakes (5) vs. Lakeside Christian (4) at Canterbury, 5; Berean Academy (6) vs. Keswick Christian (3) at Cambridge, 5; Tampa Bay Christian (8) vs. Canterbury (1) at Canterbury, 6:30; Carrollwood Day School (7) vs. Cambridge (2) at Cambridge, 6:30; Tuesday — 2-7 winner vs. 3-6 winner, 5; 1-8 winner vs. 4-5 winner, 7; Thursday — final, 7

Volleyball district preview: Hitter Kayla Walton hopes to take Northside Christian into state final four 10/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 24, 2009 10:51pm]
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