January 12, 2013 11:08:28 PM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to remember Khris Carr is only a sophomore.
There are times when the 5-foot-8 Starkville High School volleyball standout will rise up and deliver a rousing kill or make a dig on an angled attack that makes you think she is more experienced. As a result, it's easy to expect Carr to do more than many sophomores and to be a team leader.
Maybe that's why Carr is used to talking about potential. For the past two seasons, she has been a key member of Starkville High's run to the postseason. Mix that with her desire to play volleyball in college and you can tell Carr is doing everything she can to make the most of her potential.
"The word potential, I don't think about it when I am playing or practicing," Carr said. "I am just trying to get better at what I know needs to be worked on. I have heard that I have potential, but it hasn't dawned on me yet."
Carr flashed her ability to lead this season, guiding Starkville to a 19-12 finish and a trip to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class II playoffs. Carr had a team-high 13 kills in a season-ending 3-1 loss to Center Hill. For the season, she paced the Lady Yellow Jackets with 131 kills, 378 attempts, and 1.7 kills per set.
For her accomplishments this season, Carr is The Dispatch's All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year.
"Every season Khris hits harder and she gets a little more confidence," Starkville High School volleyball coach Lauren Love said. "She continually wants to improve. Technically, if she makes a mistake, she wants to know what she did wrong and how to make it better, even in a match she wants to know how to make it right.
"Tactically, too, she wants to work on her game as to what spots are open, where are the best places to swing. I think that ties in with being aggressive that once she feels more comfortable and gets more confident with her technique so she can just swing hard and know where to swing that that will deliver with the aggressiveness."
Love, who played volleyball at the University of Tennessee, knows a little bit about potential. She said Carr's strength was her biggest area of improvement from her freshman season. She said the added strength allowed her to put more pace on the ball when she attacked. Love feels even more playing time with the Mississippi Juniors volleyball club and coach Tina Seals will help Carr take the next step.
Carr has heard coaches and other adults mention the word "potential" in conversations about her. She said she is "very honored" that people recognize the hard work she has done to improve as a player. She also realizes there is a long road to go if she wants to realize her ultimate dream and play volleyball at a Division I school.
"As far as life as well, I have standards I must meet in order to be, I feel, successful," Carr said. "Knowing and hearing I have potential in volleyball, that is something I keep in mind, and if we're not doing so good I have that, 'OK, you can do this, you can overcome this.' It is not a heavy weight. I can deal with the fact that I hear I have a lot of potential."
Love said Carr's versatility is something that could help her attract interest from college coaches. Love said Carr played in all six rotations and was equally at ease receiving serves or lining up a set for a kill. She led the team with 182 serve receives and was third on the team in digs (98).
"She is definitely an all-around player for us," Love said. "That makes you more versatile, especially at the higher levels so you're not limiting yourself to one position for three rotations. Being able to play all of the positions allows her to contribute anywhere on the court. Her defense and passing were very important to our team this year."
Love said Carr's ability to handle serves and to deliver a solid first pass to keep Starkville in system allowed the team to change its defense to put her in a position to get more chances.
Carr, whose mother, Ann, is the senior women's administrator at Mississippi State University, understands she will hear more talk about potential and that expectations will continue to be there for her. She feels she handled the next step in her maturation well this season and wasn't as nervous as she was as a freshman. Her goal for next season is to be more aggressive and to build on what she did in 2012.
"I think I definitely need to put more into it and be a more of an aggressive bulldog if I plan to go on killing the ball," Carr said.
But Carr also knows that there is more to being a "bulldog" on the court. She said she grew more aware this season of the location of blockers, or grew accustomed to stealing a glance across the net on her approach to see if she could find an opening on the court.
Now that Carr has demonstrated she can "play smart" she is focused on putting everything together so she can take another step closer to her goal.
"I think I have improved, but I can definitely can improve more," Carr said. "I think I have improved. I have gotten one step closer to my goal, but once I lay down the math, I know I need to improve some more. Hopefully next season I will improve and get better and have more to say for you next year."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.