When the coaches met at the end of the volleyball season to select the Metrolina Athletic Conference’s top 14 players, Northside Christian Academy coach Trista Collins knew which player she’d be nominating.
Under league rules, coaches could nominate as many players as they’d like, but they could not vote for their own nominees.
The Knights had finished the season 1-13, however, so the fourth-year coach was concerned her player might not get the recognition she deserved.
“Keziah Caton,” Collins said when her time came.
Instantly, a chorus of nodding approval rippled throughout the room.
“All the other coaches were like, ‘Oh yeah, we know her,’” remembered Collins.
“The fact that (Caton) made the all-conference team is impressive,” Collins said. “We were the last team in the conference, and she was still looked at as one of the top 14 players.”
Caton, a junior libero for the Knights, was excited to hear the news.
“It’s great to have been presented with all-conference honors,” she said. “I’ve been working hard and really trying to improve myself. I’m just very thankful, because it shows how my work has paid off.
“But even though I got that award, it doesn’t mean that I can stop,” she said. “I need to keep working and improving myself.”
Since making the varsity squad as an eighth-grader, Caton has been a force for a Knights team that has struggled to find players to fill its roster each season.
“I feel bad as a coach that our record didn’t help her and her stats more, because she deserves it,” Collins said. “If she was playing on a higher-caliber team, she would fit right in.
“It just so happens that this is where she goes to school, but she never lets that slow her down, and that’s what’s amazing about her.”
Despite having two seniors on the team, Collins chose to make Caton one of her two captains at the beginning of the season because of the leadership she provided both on the court and in practice.
Caton hadn’t expected to be named a captain as a junior, but it had been something she’d been working hard for.
“It was coach’s decision, and it was an honor for her (to notice) how hard I’ve worked,” Caton said. “I’ve been trying to come to all these workouts and keep improving my game. I guess she saw that. I’m very thankful to her.”
Among other things, Caton’s character caught Collins’ eye this past summer.
During workouts, Caton would finish her required allotment of running for the day and then find a teammate who was struggling and run with her until she had finished as well.
“That was very impressive to me,” Collins said. “Even though she was already done and had finished what was required of her, she would continue to run just to help someone finish.”
What’s allowed Caton to perform so well on the court has been her focus in practice, which she tries to make as game-like as possible.
“We’d do service practice drills, and I had this game called ‘For All the Marbles,’ where they’d have to hit a service position that I called out,” Collins said.
If players hit their mark, there would be no extra running after practice. If they missed, extra laps would be added.
Sometimes, however, Collins would allow a server to go double or nothing to knock off some laps.
“Keziah would always be one to volunteer,” Collins said. “She always wanted that extra pressure.”
In Collins’ eye, Caton also seemed to have a way of keeping positive and getting the most out of her teammates.
“Others tended to get down or caught up in drama, but she always managed to distance herself from that,” Collins said. “From the moment she entered the gym, she would set a positive example. She was always the leader of the pack.”
Caton said, “It’s been hard here and there. We’ve had our ups and downs – well, mostly downs, because we lost a lot – but we improved a lot as a team. Even though it may not have looked like it, we’ve come a long way.”