For Karbo, success in volleyball is a long time coming
Her passion began on a sandy backyard volleyball court, but this was no run-of-the-mill love story.
Senior libero Katie Karbo’s love affair with volleyball is one that consists of strength, determination, practice and, above all, years of unwavering commitment.
“To me, I think my biggest commitment is always how I can make myself better to help better the team,” the health promotions senior said. “So, doing the most I can do that’s going to benefit the team in the long run.”
As a child, Karbo was athletic in every sense of the word. She participated in basketball, soccer, figure skating, horse riding, dance and track and field.
Her mother, a former athlete, and father played key roles in her athletic career and helped foster her love for sports.
“Both my parents were very supportive in everything that I did,” Karbo said. “They pushed me to be a competitor in everything I do, whether it was sports or not.”
The native of Azle even has a ritual of calling home to her parents to catch up on life and calm her pre-game jitters before playing.
“They’ll check in with me,” Karbo said, “wish me good luck. It’s always nice to have a comforting talk before.”
After being introduced to the sport by her older cousin, Karbo began playing at the YMCA before becoming the star of both her middle and high school volleyball teams.
Although she enjoyed the other sports, Karbo said, she made the choice to dedicate all her time to volleyball.
Her pursuit of collegiate volleyball was not in vain.
Karbo leads Houston’s volleyball team in defense and recently became one of only three players in the UH program to surpass 2,000 career digs. This contributed to the American Athletic Conference naming her the Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 23.
“I wasn’t expecting it really,” Karbo said, “but I’m proud to accomplish something like that. I’m hoping to continue it and hoping to continue getting better as a player and a teammate.”
David Rehr, volleyball’s new head coach, said Karbo is special and that he noticed her talents on and off the court in his first few days coaching the team.
“She’s the ultimate competitor,” Rehr said. “She sacrifices a lot to do what she does. Physically, mentally, emotionally — she gives it all to the program.”
Karbo, who played while hurt during Houston’s AAC-opener against SMU Sept. 27 with an undisclosed injury, continues to push herself and said she doesn’t mind the sacrifice if it helps the team.
“My teammates have always been like family to me,” she said. “They’re why I’m here, and they’re why I continue to play and compete the way I do. It’s for them.”
Her dedication to the program and to her peers set her apart from other athletes for Rehr, who said she is an asset and a “rarity” on the team.
“She’s one of the best I’ve ever coached,” Rehr said.
Set to graduate in December, Karbo is playing her last season with UH before she goes on to be a medical device sales representative, leaving large shoes for the program to fill.
“She’s gonna be hard to replace” Rehr said. “I don’t care who it is. I don’t care if they’re already on our roster or if they’re gonna be a newcomer coming in.”
Reflecting on her time at UH, Karbo said her journey has taught her a lot about herself as a competitor.
“Obviously the most challenging thing for a competitor is not getting the result you want,” Karbo said, “but not getting the result, to me, is how we can push ourselves to be better for the next game and the next week.”
While Karbo already gives her all on the court, Rehr wants the team to match her performances.
“I bet she would trade any award for more wins, and that’s the best thing about her,” Rehr said. “She does everything right that we needed her to do. We just gotta put her in better situations, and we will.”