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Young mind spurs Panthers

Freshman Kellie Catanach excels in reading rival defenses.

Published November 11, 2004

TAMPA - There are countless stories about coach's kids who become immersed in their parents' sports. The children often become as much a part of the team as the players. They're often called "gym rats," and while some have success, others do not.

Chris Catanach never wanted to take that chance.

Catanach, Tampa's volleyball coach since 1984, made an effort when his daughter Kellie was growing up to not keep her in his hip pocket at all times. Volleyball was Catanach's life, but he didn't want to force it into Kellie's.

"From all my years in coaching, I've seen so many girls burn out or just overuse their bodies," Chris Catanach said. "I didn't want to drag her to every one of my practices and force volleyball on her."

Turns out he didn't have to. Kellie began playing club volleyball at 10, and while her father has been a supportive presence, much of Chris Catanach's advice centers on strategy instead of skills.

"I fell in love with everything about the sport," Kellie Catanach said. "My dad's pointers focus a lot on little things."

While Catanach didn't have Kellie in tow throughout her childhood, his knowledge of the sport rubbed off. Kellie's ability to read defenses, then feed her teammates the ball in the perfect scoring position is the main reason the freshman setter will be on the floor tonight when three-time defending champion Plant meets Venice in a Class 5A semifinal at The Lakeland Center.

"She breaks down team's defenses in her head and is a dynamic thinker on the floor," Chris Catanach said. "Setters are smarter than your average bear because they have to read defenses."

Seeing any playing time on Plant's decorated team at such a young age is one thing; starting at such a key position is another. But dating to when she first picked up volleyball at the club level, Catanach has always played with older players and that's made the transition easier.

"The team was so great to me and made me feel comfortable right away," she said. "It's such a privilege to play on this team."

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