#GirlPower boosts Louisville, Katie George

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No. 23 Louisville is 16-4 overall, and at 10-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference tied for first in the league with Florida State (17-4, 10-0). Three of those four Louisville losses came to Big Ten schools Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin and the other to Kentucky. Louisville goes to North Carolina (11-8, 8-2) on Friday and N.C. State on Sunday, while Florida State goes to Pittsburgh (17-5, 7-3) and Virginia Tech in a weekend that could either cause some separation or tightening of the top four in the ACC. DVB’s Amy Farnum Patronis has this feature on Louisville’s Katie George.   There’s really no better person to tell stories of #GirlPower than Louisville’s Katie George. George, a hometown girl, not only stars on the volleyball court for the Cardinals, but also is the reigning Miss Kentucky USA. So, when the aspiring broadcaster was offered her own weekly news segment — #GirlPower — on the local CBS affiliate, she jumped at the opportunity.

Katie George, the broadcaster
Katie George, the broadcaster
“I loved the idea,” George said. “It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve met so many amazing young women ages 8 to 25. I try to tell stories about young girls and women who are doing something amazing or inspirational, whether they are giving back to the community or helping others.” It was Andrea Stahlman, a former Notre Dame volleyball player and news director at WLKY, who contacted George two days after she finished in the top 11 of the Miss USA pageant this past July. “There was no one in the community telling stories about young girls, and empowering the young girls in Louisville and the state of Kentucky,” George said. Stahlman knew George from her internship with the station’s sports department, and knew she was a perfect fit to share #GirlPower stories. “She is a great role model herself, so this segment is right up her alley,” Stalhman said. Since she is in the middle of volleyball season, George is working part-time for WLKY. Her segment runs every Friday. “I suspect it’s been a difficult juggling act, but she handles it like she handles everything else,” Stalhman said. “It’s a challenge, and she is determined to learn and succeed.” And George loves to take on a challenge. A year ago, she decided to enter the Miss Kentucky USA pageant because she wanted to set herself apart from other women athletes who also were pursuing a broadcasting career. “I thought it would give me something I could add to the list to make myself more marketable and more versatile,” George said. She got the idea two summers ago when she was interning at CBS Sports Network and researching the backgrounds of other women broadcasters. She noticed that Allie LaForce, who played basketball at Ohio University, won the Miss Teen USA pageant in 2005. While George originally believed pageants had a negative stigma in society, she decided to take the plunge last November and shared the news with her parents on a volleyball road trip to Notre Dame. George had never competed in a pageant so they were surprised, but took her seriously. After weeks of watching YouTube videos of pageant walks, George walked into Louisville’s Ursuline Arts Center wearing Chuck Taylors armed with her high school prom dress and a swimsuit she ordered online. She walked out a winner. “I think people counted me out when they first saw me,” George said. “I think a big part of life is pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and seeing what you’re capable of.” The months that followed were hectic between school, spring practice and Miss Kentucky USA appearances. Dry shampoo became a staple in her gym bag. While the schedule was a bit overwhelming at times, George went on to compete at Miss USA in July and finished in the top 11. “She was already a minor celebrity in town and she became a big-time celebrity,” said Louisville head coach Anne Kordes. The whole city of Louisville — the whole state of Kentucky — was behind her.” To Kordes, it was just another example of George’s #GirlPower.
Anne Kordes
Louisville coach Anne Kordes
“On top of being a great athlete, she’s a great story of endurance and toughness,” Kordes said. “If you look at her, you might think she is a fragile, beauty queen type, but she’s as tough as nails.” Kordes, a Louisville native and former U of L volleyball player, was the head coach at Saint Louis when she started recruiting George. She says there were a lot of coaches who deemed the 5-10 George too short. “That’s was probably true to some extent, but she makes up for it with her level of play,” Kordes said. “She’s so in command and so prepared. She’s so ready to play. You don’t ever get anything but 100 percent effort, and she’s competitive.” When she took the head job at Louisville in 2011, Kordes didn’t even have a scholarship to offer to George. “I got lucky that Katie wanted to stay home to go to school,” Kordes said. George walked onto the team in 2012. By the fourth match of her freshman season, she had earned the starting setter spot. “I would absolutely take the size of her heart over the size of her body any day of the week because it’s everything in my opinion — and it’s a big reason we’re doing so well,” Kordes said. It should be noted that George also played at Assumption High School in Louisville, the same school where the coach just happens to be legendary prep and club coach Ron Kordes, Anne’s father. While George has battled injuries — a back surgery, a bone bruise, a blood clot — her competitive nature has not waned and her play has earned numerous accolades, including First Team All-ACC honors last year. And, Kordes lauds George for her volleyball IQ. “I really can’t say enough about the impact she’s had on our volleyball team here,” Kordes said. Katie George as Miss Kentucky This season, George ranks fourth in the NCAA with 12.1 assists per set and had led the Cardinals to a No. 23 national ranking and 10-0 start in ACC play. “She’s been having the best year she’s ever had this year,” Kordes said. “That’s how you hope it goes. Our team is doing well on top of it, but if were to take her performances out of that and evaluate them — she’s having an incredible senior year as an individual player.” Last season, Cardinals posted a 15-15 overall mark in their first year as an ACC member. Louisville returned the foundation of the 2014 squad, and added a few key components like a pair of freshmen with great ball control (Aniah Philo and Molly Sauer) and a senior transfer outside hitter (Erin Faris) who can terminate. The Cardinals boast a balanced attack throughout the lineup, and are benefitting from their depth. “We have a lot of contributors right now and that makes it really fun from a coaching standpoint because there are a lot of options,” Kordes said. George thinks the difference might be #GirlPower. “I feel like we have a killer instinct this year, and last year, I don’t think we had it,” George said. “Anne has done a tremendous job motivating us this year to be different because we are capable of doing it.”

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