ST. CHARLES – Months before St. Charles North volleyball would make the program's first visit to state in program history, junior outside hitter Katie Lanz was challenged to help lead the charge.
North Stars coach Lindsey Hawkins knew what Lanz was capable of, she just needed to encourage Lanz to embrace the opportunity in front of her. As a sophomore on varsity last year, Lanz was careful not to assert herself in a role typically reserved for upperclassmen – despite starring as one of the program's elite players.
"I just told her, as a junior, it was her time," Hawkins said.
In the team's leadership meeting prior to the season, the mission was set forth to the group by Hawkins: State-bound.
"It inspired everyone to think, 'Ok, we can actually do this.'," Lanz said. "I think, that's why we made it so successful. [Hawkins] believed from Day 1."
Whispers of a possible state tournament appearance even came from within Lanz's family. Her uncle jokingly asked her on a family vacation in Florida this summer following the soon-to-be nursing major's recent commitment to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington that now she was 'in college, why did she need to go to high school [anymore?]'
Her mother, Mary Jo, reflected her daughter said: "Oh no, Uncle Scott. We have to go to state. That's my next goal."
Soft-spoken and humble off the court regarding her unmatched athleticism and lethal attack on the outside, Lanz channeled her gift into North victories and jammed the stat sheets on a nightly basis.
Lanz led the North Stars with 283 kills – 67 more than second-leading attacker, Abby Graham. Lanz is also a lethal server, launching 89 aces, but Lanz's growth as a leading face for the program helped earn her the honor of Kane County Chronicle All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year.
The North Stars reeled off a whopping 25-match win streak that began on the heels of a loss to Downer's Grove North in mid-September, and finished in the state semifinal match against Minooka. The North Stars ultimately took fourth place.
Lanz's brother and sister, Drew and Emily, both North volleyball alums, were in attendance at the semifinal – a journey that came full circle since the three would duke it out in the backyard volleyball court growing up.
Lanz's volleyball acumen continued to climb. At 15, she made a switch to another club team, Fusion, with collegiate volleyball aspirations in her sights.
Lanz credits the adjustment as one of the biggest changes in her volleyball career, as she left her previous club and worked with new coaches. Her friend and fellow North teammate, GiGi Crescenzo, helped with the transition.
"[Lanz had] very high-level potential right from the start," her Fusion coach, Dave Soller said.
Now, with the college decision behind her, Lanz's senior campaign could be her best yet – and another challenge awaits: A state title, for a roster that is graduating 11 seniors.
"My job is to keep calm on the court," Lanz said. "And, lead my team either by example or vocally."