New coach knew senior was special from first meeting

When then-Westfield coach Stacie Pagnard came to Columbus East to work a volleyball camp two years ago, one of the players that stood out to her was Brooke Statler.

Then, after Pagnard took the East coaching job this spring and was still coaching in the Munciana club, she would occasionally be at tournaments where some of her East players were competing for the Circle City club. She tried to watch those players when her Munciana team wasn’t competing, and again she was impressed with what she saw from Statler.

“I did my research as far as the girls that played club at Circle City,” Pagnard said. “When I sat down and was looking at who were going to be my captains, I didn’t know these girls. I didn’t know who I was going to invest my time into to be a leader, and she was one of the no-brainer choices.”

Statler has been a leader on the court, as well. After coming off the bench for the Olympians the past two seasons, she earned the starting right-side hitter spot. She has 30 kills and 13 blocks in 26 sets for East, which is off to an 8-2 start.

“She is a dynamic mover,” Pagnard said. “She’s a good blocker, and she’s good on the right side. She also gives us another aspect in our middle. She can run part of a three-middle offense, so she fits our offense well because she is so multi-talented.”

The 5-foot-11 Statler has played middle hitter for Circle City the past two club seasons.

“It’s really competitive, and it helped me improve every day I went,” Statler said. “It helped my improve all my skills. I got good at defense and in the middle.

“I’m at the bottom right now, so I can only go up from where I’m at,” Statler said. “There’s a lot of girls out there that are better than me, so I can always improve myself and try to get better. I want to improve in all my aspects and skills, especially the way I hit. That way, I can be more prepared for college.”

Last month, Statler committed to play at Division II Tusculum College. Tusculum saw first her playing for Circle City in last year’s Bluegrass Tournament.

“They sent me a few emails after that and said ‘Hey, we’d like some more film on you. Can you contact us,’ and I did,” Statler said. “I had never heard of them before.”

So she visited the Greenville, Tennessee, school in April and went there for four-day camp this summer.

“When you look out the window anywhere, it’s right in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains, and it’s just beautiful,” Statler said. “Then, their coaching staff is so nice. The head coach prefers me to call him ‘Chief,’ and all the girls are really welcoming.”

Statler began playing volleyball in sixth grade. She also began swimming competitively at that time and has been one of the Olympians’ top swimmers throughout her high school career.

In volleyball, East has won three consecutive sectional titles and made the state’s final four in Class 4A in 2013, when Statler was a sophomore, coming within one game of a spot in the state finals.

“I definitely am aiming to win sectional and regional,” Statler said. “It’s just like a dream to make it to state, so that’s the goal.”

So far this season, Statler has lived up to the standard Pagnard had seen in her in that camp and those club tournaments.

“She has a strong arm,” Pagnard said. “You can tell that she’s a physically talented kid. She’s really dedicated to the weight room, and that’s one of the reasons that I picked her as a captain — she embodies everything that I want from the work ethic to what she does off the court, as far as her leadership and her morals, her values and the intangibles that we want every kid to have.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with her as far as a player, but moreso as a leader,” she said. “I think she’s been a tremendous leader on and off the court. She’s an awesome kid, and I’m glad that I get to share her senior year with her.”

Heavy hitter

Name: Brooke Statler

High school: Columbus East

Year: Senior

Height: 5-foot-11

Position: Right-side hitter

College choice: Tusculum

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.