Eaton's passion for volleyball growing at Thiel
This article is part of a continuing series on athletes who graduated from high schools in Clarion County.
By Nate Steis
For the CLARION NEWS
The 2019 Thiel College women's volleyball team can be characterized with one word; resilient.
The Tomcats' volleyball team featured three former KSAC stars in 2019 including graduating senior Becca Dougherty from Redbank Valley, Keara Henry from Clarion-Limestone, and Kylee Eaton from A-C Valley.
After beginning the season 1-14, including losing thirteen straight contests in the middle of the season, the Tomcats rallied and showed tremendous togetherness and improvement to end the season. They ended conference play with a 9-7 mark and their home record was 6-3. For a team with just one senior and has a majority of its roster as underclassmen, Theil can use this season to inspire them and rally them for the next several seasons with nearly their entire roster returning to action next season.
Eaton has enjoyed one of the best high school sports careers the KSAC has seen as of late and she is continuing to shine as she has transitioned to a college volleyball player.
The former A-C Valley Falcon was a four-sport athlete during her high school career and won thirteen letters total as a high school varsity athlete. Competing in basketball, softball, volleyball, and track and field, Eaton shined in all of them. Despite never participating in track and field till her senior year, Eaton showed her true athletic ability as a field athlete by winning a District 9 Class AA title in her lone season as a shot putter.
Despite her success in track and field, Eaton has always enjoyed team sports a little bit more. Her success in softball, volleyball, and basketball has always been known, but she admits her favorite sport changed during the later part of her high school career. While as an underclassman she was quick to say softball was her favorite sport, this passion changed, and volleyball became her favorite.
"Some college coaches and others around me started telling me that they believed I had the most upside and room to grow in volleyball," Eaton said. "I played so much travel softball through many summers, and I just lost a little bit of passion that I once had for it. I chose volleyball because I felt that I had a lot of desire to not give this sport up and to see where it could lead me."
Eaton is quick to mention that growing up in Parker, Pennsylvania has played a huge role into who she is as an athlete and a person today.
"I grew up in such a supportive community where everyone knows each other. It allowed me to have great individuality and succeed both in the classroom and in many sports," Eaton said. "I chose Thiel because it felt the exact same way that going to high school did which is exactly what I was looking for."
Looking back to high school, Eaton was a part of the best team in A-C Valley girls' basketball history that advanced to the PIAA Class 2A "Elite Eight" in 2019. The Falcons upset heavily favored Our Lady of Sacred Heart (OLSH) to make it to the quarterfinals of Class 2A in basketball. That victory is what Eaton lists as her favorite memory in sports in addition to her gold medal in shot put the District 9 track and field meet and winning the KSAC title over favored North Clarion. When reflecting on high school basketball and the joy it brought her and her teammates, Eaton had a lot to share.
"Our team did not have a lot of girls at all. We had a core group of five that had great chemistry and worked well together," Eaton said. "We had two bench players who did very well for us when their number was called despite limited experience. Looking to what we accomplished is truly amazing."
Choosing Thiel College allowed Eaton to play alongside two high school rivals who have become two of her best friends.
"Playing alongside Keara and Becca has helped me feel that comfort of home because they each can relate to me and what I am personally going through." she said.
While she credits both Dougherty and Henry for helping her in the transition to college, she credits her track and field and basketball coach Dave Sherman for being a great mentor to her and pushing her to be the well-rounded athlete she has become. Lastly, Eaton was quick to mention her mom Kelly Stevanus and the sacrifices she has made for her throughout her life.
In her first college season, Eaton played in 79 sets for the Tomcats. She recorded 147 kills including a season and career high 13 against La Roche College in just her fourth career game. She also had six blocks in just her second career game against Muhlenberg College in the Tomcats first win of the 2019 season. This ground for Thiel will only continue to gain better chemistry as they continue to play together, and the end to the 2019 campaign is a momentum the program can use going into the 2020 season.
While Kylee Eaton has accomplished more than most as an athlete, she still has three more years to compete at the college level and bring a Presidents Athletic Conference (PAC) title back to Greenville, Pennsylvania for Thiel College.