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By Brandon Mattingly
Landmark News Service
Before the 2011-12 volleyball season started, Assumption senior Katie George wasn't sure she was ever going to see the floor during her senior season. She suffered a pulmonary embolism following a tonsillectomy, and was told by a doctor that she wouldn't be able to play this past season because of the blood-thinner she was taking. Instead of getting down on herself and giving up on her senior year, George led Assumption to a 43-1 record, their second-consecutive Kentucky state championship, Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year and now she's been named PrepVolleyball.com's 2011 National Player of the Year.
"When I was in the hospital with a blood clot and they told me I couldn't play I was devastated," George said, "because I've been waiting so long to get my chance to be the senior leader on this team."
Shortly after learning of her diagnosis, George was determined to find a way to get back on the court with her team. After some digging, she found out there had been volleyball players at Bellarmine and Northwestern that had played on blood-thinner, and she decided she was going to do the same.
"I started talking to my mom about possibly finding a soft helmet and pads," she said. "From there, I knew if I could get a doctor to go for it I'd be able to play."
George said the new look was a difficult adjustment at first, but it wasn't long before she grew accustomed to the new equipment and picked up where she left off on the volleyball court.
"(The helmet) was funny at first because I looked so ridiculous, and my teammates thought it was pretty funny too," she said. "It was bulky and i didn't like having all the pads because I felt like it slowed me down a little bit, but once I got used to it there wasn't anything different."
An attribute that George's coaches at Assumption are quick to point to when talking about her success is her natural feel for being a leader, even being described as, "maybe the best leader I have ever coached," by head coach Ron Kordes.
George credited her family with making her the leader that she's become.
"My parents stressed to me that I can do anything that I set my mind to, so I like to push people around me and make people around me better," she said. "I try to lead by example because nobody's going to follow you if you aren't doing your job first."
George said she is honored by all of the awards and attention she has received since the end of the season, but her focus throughout the year was on winning, not on individual awards, which is part of what's made her such a special player in the first place. Assumption backed down from no opponent this season, traveling to Las Vegas and Chicago to compete in tournaments on a national stage, and took on -- and beat -- some of the top teams in the country.
"I was just focused on winning the national tournaments we went to. That was our main goal as a team," George said. "I didn't know how we would measure up to those other nationally-ranked teams, but beating those highly-ranked teams gave us confidence."
The next stop for George is the University of Louisville, where she's sure to star for the Cardinals' in the near future. She was originally committed to play for Saint Louis University, but when head coach Anne Kordes -- daughter of Assumption coach Ron Kordes -- made the move to Louisville, George went for a visit and was quickly sold on the program.
"I switched my commitment to UofL because I really want to play for Anne Kordes, I think she's a great coach," George said. "The coaching staff that they have there is perfect for me, and getting to play in front of family and friends is a great opportunity."
When George moves on and joins the Cardinals' program she said she only has one goal in mind, and that's to get on the court immediately.
"My number one goal walking in as a freshman is that I'd like to start," she said. "That's the only goal I'm worried about right now."
If 2011 was any indication, it won't take the National Player of the Year long to find a permanent spot in the rotation, and when she does, next to nothing will get in her way.