Senior setter backbone of young Olympians squad

Raw numbers don’t begin to tell the story of how much Kendal Williams has meant to this year’s Columbus East volleyball team.

She has less than half the number of assists so far this year than she had all of last season, but the senior setter has been the backbone of a young and inexperienced Olympians squad that has gone through growing pains en route to a 7-16 record against a brutal schedule.

“This year, it hasn’t been so much about our record; it’s a growth mindset that we’ve been looking at as a team,” Williams said. “It’s about getting better and preparing for the future and making these girls that much better. Like coach (Stacie Pagnard) always tells me, it’s about leaving my legacy, and my legacy is to make this team better and make these younger girls thrive in this environment.”

The past two years, Williams has had All-Hoosier Hills Conference players feeding her the ball and pounding kills off her assists. But East lost back-row players Brooke Banister and Alaysha Pollert and front-row stalwarts Cortney VanLiew and Bailey Western to graduation.

This year, the Olympians have mostly sophomores and juniors in those positions surrounding Williams, who is the team’s lone senior.

“It has been very different,” Williams said. “It has been challenging for me at times. At the beginning of the season, it was a little harder for me to adapt because I was so used to that super-high competitive, feed-the-ball-to-someone-who’s-going-to-put-the-ball-away. But it’s been great for me to adapt to this kind of environment.”

In addition to her team-leading 515 assists, the 5-foot-10 Williams leads East with 13 blocks. She is tied for second on the team with 28 aces and ranks fourth with 58 kills and 166 digs.

Williams, who wants to become a nurse after college, plans to play college volleyball and is being recruited by schools of various sizes.

“She’s had to learn a lot this year because we haven’t had the Courtneys and the Baileys and those types of people, but it’s been great for her because that’s her future,” Pagnard said. “She’s going to have to learn how to run an offense with multiple types of hitters and learn people. She’s grown a lot this year because of that.”

And Williams has become the leader on and off the court.

“There’s nobody that works harder off the court, in the weight room, in practice, in the classroom,” Pagnard said. “She’s the hardest worker, so I knew she’d be OK with it, and she’s thrived in that environment.”

Pagnard said Williams has a lot to process as a setter, and that it’s sometimes hard for a setter to take over a game, but Williams does it. Pagnard said if Williams can make the hitters successful and if she can run a balanced offense, she’s doing a great job.

For Williams, that’s a satisfying accomplishment with her new teammates.

“It’s been great,” Williams said. “We absolutely love each other. It’s fun to play with them, and I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else.”

Kendal Williams

Name: Kendal Williams

School: Columbus East

Year: Senior

Height: 5-foot-10

Position: Setter

Key stats: 515 assists, 58 kills, 13 blocks, 166 digs, 28 aces

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