June 12, 2020 – By NJP

“Prodigy” – a person, especially a young one, endowed with exceptional qualities or abilities, an amazing or unusual thing, especially one out of the ordinary course of nature.

As we took time to prepare our interview with Kate Stoughton of Brick Memorial, we kept coming back to the word “Prodigy” in our assessment. It’s certainly not often to engage with a student athlete who has prolific career numbers after their sophomore year. Or that has the maturity level at age 16 to have such a clear direction on her future as well as such a positive outlook on life and having fun.

The closest analogy we found was comparing Kate to Wayne Gretzky. I doubt Kate even knows who that is but for us it’s one of the highest compliments. As Wayne progressed through his hockey youth as a junior player, everyone knew their was something special about him. Was it instinct? Was it just natural talent? Or the intellect and mindset to just know where the puck was going to be on the ice. When you watch Kate play volleyball, you see the same traits. A passion to achieve greatness while having the ability to read opponents minds and know where the ball will be hit plus the skills to direct a volleyball toward an unreturnable area.

Her instincts are just amazing on the court. Despite her modest size, she plays much taller than her frame. When you watch her play, her quickness stands out as her hallmark. Her ability to get to and dig a volleyball is just over the top. And her ability to direct that ball just about anywhere she wants is equally as daunting. Although she does not always rely on power hits to get kills, she has a lethal swing that is only going to get better with age.

NJP uses analytics in almost all aspects of our website. But as Kate told us, sometimes its just not about the stats. To have over 500 kills after her sophomore season is insane but we think Kate gets more satisfaction from one day in her sanctuary on the beach playing the game she loves.

Brick Memorial was 26-7 last year putting together two win streaks of 10 and 11 games. They were a solid, senior-laden squad primed for success and had a great season making it to the Shore Conference semi-final losing to Donovan Catholic in three sets and eventually getting knocked out of the state playoffs in a heart-breaker to 22-2 Absegami in three sets. But this years squad will have a completely new look except for the “Prodigy”. We wish her the best…

Here is our interview with Ms. Stoughton…

Hi Kate…Tell us a bit about yourself? My name is Kate Stoughton and I am an incoming junior at Brick Memorial High School in Brick, NJ. My graduating year is 2022. I am a two-year varsity starter for our school’s volleyball team, but my main focus is beach volleyball.  My family consists of my mother, father, sister, and two dogs.

How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially? I started playing indoor volleyball when I was 11 years old, and the beach when I was 12. I was lucky enough to go to a grammar school that had a volleyball team starting in grade 5, but it did not catch my eye right away. I was a runner and that was a huge focus for me going into middle school. My sister had tried out for the school team and did not make it, and as a typical sibling rivalry, I was determined to beat her at anything I could. We both tried out the next year and both made the team, but she decided to not play. From the very beginning, I had a natural way with volleyball. I picked it up very easily and took in any coaching I could get. Going into 6th grade, I decided to try out for OCVBC, a local club, to take my game to a new, more competitive level. I made the national team and did very well there, but I knew I did not want to stop playing all summer. I started playing beach volleyball, and it opened up a new world for me. Although there are so many people that have got me to where I am in volleyball, I give a special thanks to my coaches, every single one of them. They are a huge part of the reason for any success I have.

Photo Courtesy of Dan Duren

What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?

I am 5’7, short… I know… My vertical on the sand is 9 ft. For highschool season, I am an all-around outside hitter. I play for Stars and Stripes Beach Volleyball Club. My favorite position to play is definitely outside because you need to be able to do everything. I think a huge part of my beach success was that I had already played every position indoors. I started as a setter and right side, then became a middle, then a libero, then an outside. This gave me a huge advantage over a lot of players my age because anywhere I was needed, I could play.

How are you and your family dealing with the current world situation with COVID-19? Are you expecting a normal Fall high school season schedule? My family and I are trying to keep our lives as normal as possible. I am still extremely focused on volleyball and recruiting, and have been working out or playing very often to stay in the best shape I can. There are a lot of states that have already opened up volleyball tournaments, and I refuse to fall behind. Other than that I am enjoying this free time that I almost never get by spending a lot of time with friends and family. My sister is a senior, she was the starting setter for our volleyball team (and she balled out this year), so she is trying very hard to get the senior summer she expected and have a fun time before she heads to FAU. My mother and father are luckily still working, and in their free time are taking care of us and appreciating some more free time as well. I am planning on being back in school come fall, and fingers are crossed that everything is back to normal by then.

How will your high school team do in the upcoming season? Do you have a lot of returning players? What will be the key to success? I have extremely high hopes for this season. We have 0 returning players, our team was 11 seniors and me. Our starting lineup and team dynamics are going to be completely new, but I am so excited about that. The incoming seniors are a great group of girls and I believe that we will not only have a successful season but a very fun season. It is hard to say what our key to success will be without knowing how we will operate as a unit. My key to success is I have fun. I can be the most focused and intense player on the court, but I will not perform at my highest potential unless I have a good time. No matter who I am playing, losing, or winning, I am always happy to be able to play. Volleyball does not feel like a “job” or a priority. I am the player I am today because the most important lesson I have learned from my first club coach, Coach CJ Herdt, is that having fun is the most important part of volleyball.

Your statistics are literally off the chart. You have the opportunity to break just about any girl’s high school volleyball records in existence. You have already amassed over 550 kills, almost 200 aces, and 440 digs through your sophomore year. What are your ultimate goals and how much do you want to accomplish through volleyball? My ultimate goal is to play Division 1 beach volleyball, and when I say play, I mean I am going to work my hardest to be the best. I am not sure about what I am going to do after college, but no matter how much longer I am playing there will always be goals for me to accomplish. In high school, I definitely strive to reach 1,000 kills and 500 aces, but it is not all about the stats at all, it is more about what we can accomplish as a team, and that is being the best we can be, on and off the court. I plan to leave a big mark on the BMVB program with the help of everyone on the team, past and present.

Photo Courtesy of Dan Duren

Who is your support group? Honestly, everyone in my life is my support group. My mom and my dad handle my volleyball in the best way they can. They know when to push me, but they also know when I need to figure things out on my own. Their love for me shows in many ways, but I cannot appreciate anything more than the dedication they have for me to do what I love. I owe a ton to my sister also. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know that I would have ever even picked up a volleyball. She is very proud of what I have done, and she proved herself immensely this past volleyball season. She was a great teammate and an even better sister. My grandparents also never missed a game. One of their favorite things to do was to come to see my sister and I play, and there is no one I would rather wave to during warm-ups with a big smile on our faces. All of these people are the reason I keep playing, but even more so, are all of my coaches, past, and present. They pushed me whenever I refused to push myself or I thought I wasn’t good enough. They never let me slack off or be average. They have not only taught me extremely valuable volleyball lessons, but even more important life lessons, and I am so glad to have called each and every single one of them my coaches.

Which player last season was the toughest competitor that you faced and why? A star player in my eyes is definitely Lexi Tamburello. Being a libero is a very hard position to fill, and in her years at Donovan she balled out. When your goal as a hitter is to keep every single ball away from the libero because she is going to dig it, that person is obviously very talented. Off the court, as well, she is extremely nice and always very friendly, which is something I always appreciated.

Photo credit to Mark Sullivan

Tell us about your high school coach? Club Coach? Mr. Thomas Trembulak. The GOAT. I cannot express the respect I have for him. First time I met him I was at one of Sydney’s volleyball games waiting for the match to begin. I found a volleyball and started peppering with myself and slamming hits against the wall. He walked by and joked about something for me playing on the team and I just laughed. Fast forward to freshman year, my main focus was to impress, impress, impress. Within the first few weeks being coached by him, we built a great trust for each other and immediately began to bounce ideas off of one another. Together, we built up a big advantage over time with new plays and playing options. This also relates to my current club coaches, Mike Adams and John Bracco. Both of them have shown a great amount of trust in me as well as always opening new doors in the volleyball world. They have shown me so much and I could not ask for better people to have learned from.

Can the Mustangs win a state title in 2020? I strongly believe that with hard work and determination, this team can achieve anything we set our minds to.

Can you recap the awards you have collected thus far such as All-County or All-State or others? Freshman Year: First Team All-Shore, 2nd Team All-State, season kill record, season and all-time ace record, MVP, Ocean Star VB Player of the Year (unsure about others) Sophomore: 1st Team All-Shore, 3rd Team All-State, All-Decade Team, Offensive Player of the year, Ocean Star VB Player of the Year, all time and season kill record, all-time ace record, 100 ace mark, 500 kill mark.

That’s it?

How do you get motivated before games? Good music, a lot of food, and a solid warm-up. 

NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state and at the top of your class year. What colleges are you targeting to further your academic and athletic career? I plan on playing D1 beach volleyball in my college years. I have been talking to schools for about 3 years now and my top pics are all ranked top 20 in NCAA. I am able to begin communication on June 15, so I am extremely anxious and excited to start my commitment process.

Which schools are your biggest rivals? Southern and Donovan. Both schools consistently put up a strong roster that is eager to win.

Tell us about the differences for you between beach and school/club volleyball and which do you prefer? Definitely beach. I am so thankful for the opportunity to get to play for BMVB and the memories and accomplishments I have had will always have an impact on my life, but there is a special place in my heart for beach volleyball. You need to be a well-rounded player for the beach and although this sounds silly, the people that have been introduced to me through the beach have changed my life.

What makes Kate tick? What is the key to your immense success? I believe that success comes with hard work. The key to success is surrounding yourself with things that make you better in all aspects. You have to have a certain drive at all times and always have a desire to get better. A thing that I would tell younger players is that you need to always challenge yourself. Never accept being the best player in the group and always have someone to challenge you.

Who is your favorite college or pro volleyball player and why? Sarah Sponcil. I just simply think she is insane, obviously in a good way. Not only is she a phenomenal defender and overall player, but her demeanor on and off the court is inspiring to many.

What else would you like us to know about you? Although beach volleyball is a huge part of my life, I have many other interests. I love to snowboard, photograph basically anything, and overall just have a fun time.

Is there a teacher or coach who really helped you along the way? As I said, everyone in my life has impacted me and helped me choose which path to go down. I would like to thank each and every one of my coaches. My first club coach, Coach CJ, thank you for giving me an amazing beginning and showing me so many opportunities that kick-started my desire to be a great player. My beach coach, Coach Bracco, thank you for welcoming me into the beach world with open arms and always forcing me to get better. Another one of my beach coaches, Coach Mike, thank you for always going out of your way to make sure that I and every other player has a chance to succeed. And last but not least, Coach Trembulak, thank you for believing in me from day one and trusting my instinct. There are many people that have pushed me along the way, the good and the bad, and I can go on and on about them, but I owe it all to everyone one of them.

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