The Times-News volleyball player of the year, Kennedi Evans, earned a three-peat as Great Basin Conference player of the year, and this season was even more spectacular than the last two.
Evans, a senior middle blocker, was a key leader for a Twin Falls High School team that earned second-place honors at the 4A state tournament this year, falling in the title match to Skyview, a nationally ranked team.
“It’s not exactly the way I wanted to end high school,” she said. “I wanted to win state, but playing in the championship was probably my biggest accomplishment this year.”
Statistically, she was the backbone of the Bruins’ point production. She led the team in kills per set (2.7), with a kill percentage of better than 50 percent. Her 124 blocks on the season were more than double the next-closest Bruin (Carly Gandolfo with 48).
Would she rather get a block down or smash a kill?
“I don’t know,” she said. “Getting a big block brings a lot of energy, but kills feel good to get down, too. They’re both pretty fun.”
Caroline Bower, the head coach of Idaho Crush, a club volleyball team in Nampa that Evans played for the past year, said it’s not just Evans’ numbers on the court but her elite skills that brought coaches to practices in droves this year.
“She literally had coaches lined up on our court day in and day out,” Bower said. “That’s no exaggeration. Everyone fought for Kennedi.”
Evans signed her National Letter of Intent with the University of Utah last month, joining a nationally-ranked program and a Pac-12 conference that boasted nine teams in this year’s Division 1 volleyball championships, the most of any conference.
At 6-foot-2, Evans stood above many of her high school opponents this year, but at Utah, that could change drastically.
“As a middle blocker, I’m actually one of the smaller girls now,” she said. “There are girls who are like 6’8” in D1.”
Bower said Evans “can hang with anyone.” However, as a former BYU volleyball standout, Bower recognizes what the biggest difference to overcome will be.
“Her challenge moving forward will be, can she compete at a speed of the game that’s a step up?,” Bower said. “That’s the question every athlete has when they move to the next level. Luckily, she’s been playing on a top-10 club team in the nation. She’s playing against and with the best.”
The way Evans performs on the court, you may think she grew up with a volleyball in hand. But she didn’t start playing consistently until her freshman year, a later start than Bower said most nationally ranked players have.
“What’s been awesome is seeing her compete at a high level, having not understood things at a high level when she came in a year ago,” she said. “It’s one thing to do it when you’re young and have time to develop in the sport, but there’s a ton of skills to learn. She was able to balance that without getting very frustrated.”
Evans plans to graduate early and enroll at Utah in the spring. But that decision also meant she wouldn’t be able to play with the Twin Falls girls basketball team that she helped lead to the state semifinals last year.
Though it was a tough choice, she said, she’s happy that she’ll be able to get a jump start on volleyball training.
“Last year I didn’t get to start playing until January or February,” she said. “I wanted to play more volleyball, so this was a way to do that.”
In her new setting, thousands more people will be watching her every move on the court.
But the attention doesn’t bother her. She just wants to compete and have fun.
“I just love playing,” she said. “I just took a few weeks off of volleyball, and when I played again, it just reminded me how much I love to play.”