LINCOLNSHIRE — Kara Maleski has always been the tallest girl in her class, but she did not give volleyball a try until seventh grade.
Now the former competitive swimmer is a star player for the Stevenson Patriots, who have the tall task of following up last year’s dominant 34-4 season.
Maleski, a senior middle, has committed to play at Wichita State next year. The Shockers are coming off their first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance and have produced 10 straight 20-win seasons.
“It was a long process for me in choosing, but I just fell in love with the coaches and the girls and the program.” Maleski said. “Over time, just visiting there I knew it was the perfect place for me. It felt just like home.”
At 6-foot-5, Maleski towers over most players and classmates. Height also runs in the family: Her parents and three brothers are over 6 feet tall.
“I love being tall and it obviously has its advantages,” she said. “It just makes me unique and I like it and embrace it. It’s kind of a joke around the house because we’re all really tall.”
While many kids begin playing recreational volleyball as early as age 4 or 5, Maleski was busy swimming year-round in different leagues and clubs.
“Some girls in school introduced me to it and I just feel in love with it,” she said. “I’ve dedicated myself to do it ever since.”
As a freshman, Maleski played on the junior varsity squad. She was promoted to varsity her sophomore year.
“She’s made a lot of great strides in a short amount of time,” Patriots coach Tim Crow said. “It’s not just as a volleyball player, but she’s a great teammate, a great girl and more of a vocal leader.”
Maleski’s relatively brief experience with volleyball means she still has room to grow and fine-tune her talent, Crow said.
“She’s still growing her skill set and is really going to shine for us the rest of the year,” Crow said. “Her timing has gotten better on our attacks and she’s adjusting a little bit better. It’s a patient process and she’s done a great job. We expect some great things from her.”
Maleski said she is looking forward to maintaining Stevenson’s success this year on a squad that includes Howard University recruit Khaila Donaldson.
“I’m excited for this season. I think we’re going to be good,” Maleski said. “We’ve had an interesting start and played some amazing teams, like Libertyville. They showed we need to step up our game and improve ourselves, and we’re going to have fun doing it.”