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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


UH volleyball graduate Katie Karbo reflects on her time at University: ‘I just fell in love with it’

Defensive specialist and libero Katie Karbo (8) during a game against SMU in the 2019 season. In that year, Karbo was named to the American Athletic Conference Second Team. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Defensive specialist and libero Katie Karbo (8) during a game against SMU in the 2019 season. In that year, Karbo was named to the American Athletic Conference Second Team. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

From the small town of Azle to the bright lights of Houston, enticed by the big city with the desire to stay close enough to home, Katie Karbo found herself at UH.

After a whirlwind of four years as Houston volleyball’s defensive captain, Karbo has unquestionably left her mark on the program.

Cougars volleyball saw a groundbreaking season during Karbo’s time, highlighted by the program’s first playoff appearance in almost 20 years.

While there were several elements that contributed to the team’s breakthrough performances, the former libero served as an anchor throughout their journey.

Early days at UH

Karbo was in high demand by her sophomore year of high school, as several college coaches were interested in having the 5-foot-5-inch defensive specialist on their roster, but she was drawn to UH due to Houston’s atmosphere and her chemistry with the team.

“When I visited the campus, I just fell in love with it and the team there. It was a great environment and I loved the diversity of the campus,” Karbo said. “Once I got to know the girls on the team, that was it.”

For Karbo, the connections with her team began immediately.

“Some of my first memories are of Shasta Blast and staying in Cougar Place with different roommates before the season started, and we all just kind of bonded together that summer before the season started,” she said.

Karbo experienced growth as a player, teammate and person over the past four years playing in Houston.

Always a go-getter, she never struggled with staying determined to seize her goals, but after playing with UH, her motivation became wanting to do the best for her team.

“I was always super competitive, but at the end, I really wanted it for the team and everything that we’ve been through,” Karbo said. “I think from the very beginning it was more like a shock of reality and by the end, I knew what I was fighting for.”

Karbo’s mark in Houston

Karbo has accomplished large milestones and received numerous honors and awards during her time at UH.

One that stands out among the rest is the record for the American Athletic Conference all-time digs.

“I was super proud of doing that,” she said with a mix of laughter. “Having all-time digs for the AAC, that was pretty cool.”

She smashed the record during the AAC West Division Championships and topped off her career with 2,340 digs.

“I felt like I had accomplished something huge, but I also wanted to make everyone else proud at the same time,” Karbo said. “So the pressure was on when I realized I was close to breaking the record.  I didn’t want to disappoint anyone or myself,  so I just worked as hard as I could.”

But Karbo didn’t need the digs record to stay energized, as she was always hungry for constant improvement.

“During practices, the coaches would tell me I didn’t need to risk my body, but I would still do it because I wanted to get better each and every day,” she said.

As a freshman coming in, Karbo knew there was competition among the team for her spot on the court.

When she snagged the libero slot as a freshman, Karbo “didn’t expect that going into it,” but she did not let the small victory make her complacent, and she thanks her teammates for constantly keeping her on her toes.

“It was nice to have competition on the team,” Karbo said. “They pushed me to be better every day. They were just as good and I knew that, so I was gonna have to keep pushing.”

As a leader throughout her entire college career, Karbo has learned the significance of continuously building on her skill and character.

“You always have to push yourself 110 percent because everyone wants it just as bad as you do,” she said.

When reflecting on her own accomplishments, it was also impossible for Karbo to miss Houston’s first playoff appearance since 2000.

“Making the playoffs meant everything to me because that’s all we wanted,” Karbo said. “All four years that was a goal we set during the preseason. So once we finally made it, it was like a dream come true.”

Life beyond the court

“I’m doing surgical device sales for a company called Arthrex,” said Karbo, who is now a UH alumna after her senior season in 2019.

After discovering a passion for health promotions, Karbo switched her major from kinesiology.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for two years,” she said. “It’s really cool that I have the opportunity to work with this company right out of college.”

While Karbo is physically moving on from UH, the impact that the University made on her will never fade away as she takes the lessons she learned during her time on campus and from the team.

“It was truly an honor to be Houston’s libero for four years,” she said. “It’s taught me to never give up because there’s always something in the future that is gonna be worth it.”

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