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Kara Walker's Volleyball Success Continues at Next Level

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By Earl Vaughan Jr.

This time last year, Kara Walker was earning Patriot Athletic Conference player of the year honors in volleyball as she helped Terry Sanford duel with Gray’s Creek for top honors in the league.
A year later, the stakes have jumped considerably higher for Walker, now a freshman at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington. She ended her first season with the Sea Devils as the National Junior College Athletic Association Region X volleyball player of the year.
Her play is a big reason why the Sea Devils recently won the region title and are headed to the NJCAA national championships later this month.
Sea Devils head coach Colby Rosser first learned about Walker from one of her Terry Sanford teammates, Natalie Jernigan. Jernigan was recruited by the previous head coach, so when Rosser saw an email from Walker, she went to Jernigan for more information.
“Nat had lots to say and they were all good things,’’ Rosser said. As for Walker, Wilmington has always been a favorite place for her. She knew some of the players on the Cape Fear team and had a great in-person visit.
“This team has helped me settle into the type of player I want to be,’’ Walker said. “All the fundamentals I learned at Terry Sanford and the years before that have become natural.’’
Rosser said it took her and the rest of the team a few games to fully work Walker into the rotation. “I think we knew early that Kara was going to be a big contributor for us,’’ Rosser said. “We wanted to make sure we were establishing a good, balanced offense so we could let her be effective.’’
Working with her setters, Walker became a major scoring force for the Sea Devils throughout the season. “Kara has a huge arm and she’s an incredibly powerful player,’’ Rosser said.
In the Region X playoffs, Cape Fear beat perennial region power Catawba Valley 3-1, then clinched the title with a 3-0 win over Richard Bland.
Walker combined to rack up 25 kills in the two wins. “We wanted to win regionals since the beginning of the season,’’ Walker said. “Once we got that first win, it was like muscle memory.’’
When Walker got the news from Rosser that she had been named player of the year in the region, her mouth dropped. “I could not believe I got that my first year coming in,’’ she said. “I’m super happy and super grateful.’’
The award was no surprise to Rosser. “I don’t think we faced another team with a player as consistently dominant as Kara was,’’ Rosser said.
Now, Walker and her teammates carry a 21-3 record into the national tournament, which won’t take place until Nov. 18-20 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The delay is caused by other regionals finishing their tournaments later, and in some cases second-place teams from larger regions facing the winner of others to earn a qualifying bid into the national tournament.
Rosser said she’s not concerned about losing a competitive edge during the long break between the end of regional play and the start of the national finals.
“We have some natural competitors in our gym that really drive the energy and force,’’ she said. “I’m not sure we play against anyone harder than we play against ourselves.’’
Like her coach, Walker is confident Cape Fear can do well in the nationals. “We can’t lose that competitiveness we’ve had through the last half of the season,’’ she said. “We’ve got to play at our level and not let whoever is on the other side of the net affect the way we play.’’

• A trio of Cumberland County runners will be in Kernersville Saturday to compete in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A cross country championships for girls and boys.
The boys will run at 9:40 a.m. and the girls at 11 a.m. with awards immediately following.
Running in the 3-A boys race are Maxwell Risenmay of Cape Fear and Octavius Smith of E.E. Smith. The lone county entry in the girls’ race is Skylar White of E.E. Smith.

• Cape Fear will be seeking to become the only Cumberland County school besides Terry Sanford to win a state dual team tennis title Saturday.
The Colts take a 16-1 record to the Burlington Tennis Center to take on Forestview in the 3-A dual team tennis final.
Matches are set to begin at 9 a.m.
Cape Fear advanced to the finals with a 5-1 semifinal win on its home court against Terry Sanford. The Colts beat Terry Sanford 5-0 earlier this season in a match halted by inclement weather. The Bulldogs finished 12-2.
Forestview defeated Lake Norman 5-4. Forestview, the No. 1 seed in the 3-A West, is 15-0. Lake Norman, the No. 2 seed, finished 19-1.


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