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Hart's Kathryn Cambra: Hart’s hero on the court

Senior Kathryn Cambra has earned a reputation for swinging momentum in her favor

Posted: October 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Hart senior Kathryn Cambra has earned the nicknames "Beast" and "Hero Swinger" for her impressive play this season. She now plays all rotation spots and takes advantage of being left-handed to deceive opponents.

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Almost before she was even allowed to play, Hart senior Kathryn Cambra couldn’t wait to get on a volleyball court.

She’d watch some of the kids her age — 8 years old at the time — playing at a park near her house.

Her only option was to join a local organized volleyball association called the United States Youth Volleyball League.

Cambra was in the youngest division, ages 7-8.

Her dad had to coach her team just so she could play, but it was clear she wasn’t going to let anything keep her away from the sport.

She was infatuated.

“When she saw those kids setting up those nets and playing volleyball in the park, all she could talk about was how she wanted to play volleyball,” says her mom, Brenda Cambra.

Kathryn still remembers how much she wanted to play back then, and now she’s going out of her way to cherish every minute of her final year as a varsity outside hitter at Hart.

“It’s a different mindset as a senior because these are going to be the last games I’m going to play in the Hart gym,” the left-handed senior says.

She’s making those last moments some of her best ones too.

In 12 matches this season, Kathryn has 102 kills and she’s putting the ball away with impressive accuracy for an outside hitter. She’s committed just 38 hitting errors.

As one of seven seniors on the team, she’s helped Hart to a 9-3 start including an 11-kill performance in a 3-2 victory over a talented West Ranch team in Thursday’s Foothill League opener.

It’s been a breakout year for Kathryn, who has added more power and creativity to her offensive game since making her varsity debut last year.

“She was a quiet player and person coming into varsity and she ended up getting my most improved (player) last year because in the second half of league, she ended up registering all these kills,” says Hart head coach Mary Keen. “We were calling her beast.”

But that was only the beginning.

This offseason, she made a point to get in better shape and build strength by joining an exercise program called CrossFit, an intense strength and conditioning regimen that includes a wide range of workouts.

She did that twice a week for about four months and also supplemented her club volleyball during the spring with some practicing of her own in the park.

Kathryn got a little help from an old coach from her childhood, too.

“We have our own net that we take out to the park to get some extra work when we can’t get extra work (elsewhere),” says Kathryn’s dad, Kevin.

By the time summer workouts began for Hart volleyball, it quickly became clear how much Kathryn had prepared.

“She’s just really stepped up in her hitting and passing,” says senior teammate Amy King. “Just as a player, she’s gotten a lot better, not that she was bad earlier, but she’s really making use of all her sets. … When I came back for preseason, she was just on fire.”

It turned out Kathryn’s surge at the end of her junior year was a mere glimpse into the type of dominant player she could be.

Now, she’s transformed into a player who presents all kinds of matchup problems for the rest of the Foothill League.

Somewhere along the line during preseason training, Keen decided Cambra was valuable enough to play all six rotations on the court, rather than subbing out of the match for back-row positions like she did last season.

Though it’s been a slight learning curve for Kathryn to adjust to the duties of a back-row player, Keen says it’s worth it.

“I felt during summer that I wanted Kathryn on the court the whole time, not just because she’s a captain, but because of her presence on the court,” Keen says. “She’s just all business all the time.”

So, despite not playing a full rotation since playing on a 16-year-old club team, Kathryn learned the ropes of the more defensive-oriented back-row play.

Her serve-receive has improved and she poses an offensive threat from all over the court.

As a lefty, it gives her an edge, since most defenders aren’t used to the type of spin and angles the ball can take off her hand.

But according to her, the most improved aspect of her game this year is on the psychological side.

“One thing with me is it really drives me crazy when I miss a hit,” Kathryn says. “It really makes me mad, so I’ve kind of learned to always stay focused and keep hits in, and I don’t get distracted very often.”

That kind of mentality earned her another nickname to go along with “beast.”

Her teammates call her a hero swinger because when she or another player makes a mistake, Kathryn can quickly regain the team’s momentum by putting a ball away with authority.

When things aren’t going well, it’s a player like Kathryn who can play the hero.

But for right now, things are looking up for Hart volleyball, and Kathryn can help keep it that way.

dagnew@the-signal.com

661-287-5530

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