Illini volleyball’s Stadick following lineage

For Illinois freshman middle blocker Katie Stadick, volleyball runs in the family.

Stadick is one of six immediate family members that play or have played the sport. Both of her parents played at Wheaton College, her mom on the varsity team and her dad at the club level. Her brother, Rob, plays at the club level for Wheaton and her younger brother, Scott, plays for a local club team in Watertown, Wis., where the Stadicks hail from.

Katie credits her older sister, Debbie, who played middle blocker at Iowa State from 2008-2011, as one of her bigger influences in the sport.

“(Debbie) was my role model and still is my role model,” Katie said. “She was a big influence for me just because of how she played — her attitude and her work ethic.”

Katie’s own work ethic can be traced back to her childhood growing up in the small Wisconsin town of about 24,000 people. Her grandparents, who are farm owners, spent a lot of time with her at the farm, occasionally enlisting Katie to help work.

“I would help my grandfather in the summer occasionally,” she said. “I’d like to think (it made me stronger). My grandpa taught us to work hard and just have that sort of attitude.”

Her hardworking attitude paid off early in high school, as Katie was recruited as a sophomore by the Illini, who were ranked No. 6 in the nation at the time. She committed to Illinois shortly after visiting.

“I just really liked the atmosphere and the coaching staff, (head coach) Kevin (Hambly) and everything that was happening here,” she said. “It just felt like a good fit.”

Following in her sister’s footsteps briefly crossed Katie’s mind, but she said she simply wanted to choose a different path.

For Illinois, Stadick is well on her way to becoming a key part of the program through all four years, similar to Debbie at Iowa State. Katie leads all true freshman in sets played (23), kills (22), hitting percentage (.273) and blocks (22).

“She’s great, she’s a great player, she’s a great addition to this team,” freshman outside hitter Maddie Mayers said. “She can hit balls on the 10-foot line in front of the setter, behind the setter. She’s progressing quickly, but the game is still pretty fast, and I think it’ll come to her soon.”

When asked about his expectations for Stadick for the rest of the year, Hambly said it “depends on Katie.” Blocking is one aspect of her game Hambly said she needed to work on, but he said she might be the team’s best middle attacker.

“She’s a dynamic attacker,” he said. “It’s not about physicality or size for her. She’s really high and really long, it’s just about understanding how to get over the net and giving people space. If she figures that out, she can play a lot.”

Blake can be reached at [email protected]