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Silent Synan: Cavaliers' Young Gun

Although other members of the Virginia volleyball team may have flashier personalities or a more vocal presence, few have received more praise recently than sophomore outside hitter Katie Synan.

"Katie is a person that won't say much, but she'll do her job," senior outside hitter and co-captain Jenny Harmon said. "I think that sometimes how quiet she is undercuts people's opinions of her ability because they don't see her yelling, they don't see her screaming, but she's doing amazing things."

In the Cavaliers' last three games - all against ACC rivals - Synan has posted 27 kills, a consistent .290 hitting percentage, and an all-around display of blocking and digging on defense. To her coaches, who have seen her progress greatly over the last two seasons, Synan's performances are evidence that her volleyball sense finally has caught up with her superb athleticism.

Katie "has been posting great numbers recently," Virginia coach Melissa Aldrich Shelton said. "It's just been in the last two weeks that she's become a volleyball player, and not just an athlete that plays volleyball. She's been able to combine bringing the heat, working her shots and getting higher [hitting] percentages."

Unlike almost all of her teammates, Synan did not grow up playing volleyball. Instead, after years of playing basketball, she took up volleyball along with basketball during her freshman year in high school. Despite her late arrival on the volleyball court, Synan was selected to high school all-state teams in both sports. But which would she play in college?

"That was a really tough decision for me," Synan said. "I had played basketball for so long, and volleyball was new and different, so I thought, 'Why don't I give this a try?'"

Surrounded by more experienced teammates at Virginia, Synan attacked the obstacles with determination. Called on to start in 16 matches as a freshman last year, Synan stepped up and placed sixth on the team with 109 kills in 26 matches.

"It was tough at first - coming in as a first year - especially not knowing a lot of the volleyball stuff," Synan said. The first season "was just learning a lot of new things and a lot of new skills - things about volleyball that I didn't know."

Further recognition of Synan's skills and powerful left-hand shot came last spring when she was invited to the extended tryouts for USA Volleyball's junior national team. Although Synan just missed making the team, she said it was a remarkable experience.

"That was really exciting, just to go and play with people that are so good, people from around the entire nation that play volleyball all the time and are so incredible at it," said Synan. "Just to be a part of that group is really, really amazing."

As the ACC tournament looms and the young Cavaliers' team looks into the future, Shelton sees an incredible future ahead for Synan.

"She is going to be phenomenal," Shelton said. "She's a hard worker and very focused, and her potential is unlimited. Her making the junior national team extended tryouts is a testament to her potential. If she can stay healthy and keep improving at the rate that she's improving, she could do almost anything she wants to do with this game"


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