Karli Rodriguez was a volleyball rookie early in her sophomore year at Harker Heights High School.
She only took up the sport as a way to make friends after her family moved to Texas from North Carolina. Three years later, the game will give her an opportunity to make more friends in another state.
Rodriguez committed to play for Hesston College earlier this month during a signing ceremony at Harker Heights High School.
“I can’t believe it,” Rodriguez said. “It’s like a dream because I didn’t even expect to play volleyball, and now I’m excited. I’m determined to go even further than that, and it’s a relief to know that people actually wanted me.”
Hesston, a National Junior College Athletic Association Division II independent in Hesston, Kan., finished with a 4-23 record last year.
For Rodriguez, the ceremony was also a culmination of years of work to improve on the court.
“I signed away two years of my life,” Rodriguez joked.
Lady Knights head coach Chris Wiley said Rodriguez has been a valuable player for the last three years and this opportunity was a well deserved one.
“I think what we’ll miss the most about Karli is her leadership and her desire to be the best that she could be,” Wiley said. “She goes out there and shows everyone the heart and desire it takes to be a Lady Knight volleyball player.”
Rodriguez, a 6-foot middle blocker, was a District 8-5A all-district second team selection.
Rodriguez said that she’s not passionate about many things, with the exception of volleyball.
Rodriguez visited the campus in November to meet the coaching staff and players.
Rodriguez took in a quick workout during practice with some of her future teammates during the visit and left an impression on Larks head coach Jessica Cleveland.
Rodriguez will join a Larks team that includes three returning sophomores next year.
“She came out high energy, very encouraging and talking,” Cleveland said.
“She was a great blocker. Everything that came over the net she touched or blocked, and she shocked us all at her ability to do that. We were impressed right away.”
Rodriguez said she saw that workout as a tryout for the team and knew she needed to take advantage of having Larks players and coaches see what she could do.
“When I got out there, I felt that this is serious,” Rodriguez said. “They’re looking at me, and I had to show them what I could do.”