By Kennedy Guidry
Kalen Blathers was not only the sole freshman on this season’s volleyball team, but she was also the first student from the Tallahassee area to play women’s volleyball at Florida A&M University in over 20 years.
“It’s been over 20 years since someone from around the Tallahassee area has played on FAMU’s volleyball team…the [previous] girl, she played in the 90s, she went to my alma mater, Rickards High School,” Blathers stated.
Blathers is a pre-cardiopulmonary student and has been playing volleyball since she was 10 years old.
“I was offered about four or five other scholarships from JuCo’s mostly, but honestly I chose FAMU because I’ve always wanted to go here, regardless of if I played volleyball or not,” Blathers said.
After playing volleyball in high school, Blathers was surprised to find out just how welcoming this team was.
“I did not expect the girls on the team to be so welcoming…the environment I came from in high school was drama all the time. Adjusting to playing on a collegiate level was just amazing,” Blathers said.
“It was really fun playing volleyball in high school with Kalen,” said Nydia Donaldson, a former teammate of Blathers at Rickards High School. “She was the one who always kept me on my toes… I always looked up to her and her great skills hoping to become as talented as she is. She is truly a team player.”
Although Blathers is an outside hitter, she often will play whatever position will benefit the team.
According to team Co-Captain Alexis Gosha, “Last season when playing Bethune, [Blathers] played middle blocker for us… and she is a big part of how we beat them. She quickly adjusted to the new position and played her heart out and made major contributions.”
As Blathers adjusted from high school to collegiate level volleyball, she quickly realized she needed to become more responsible considering their demanding travel schedule.
“We travel way more and it’s further distances that we travel. I have to stay on top of my academics way more than in high school, so that’s a major adjustment,” she said.
Before attending FAMU, Blathers had always been a fan of FAMU volleyball and used to watch their games in high school. Although she looks up to all of the girls, she says Co-Captain Maria Garcia and Valentina Carrasco stood out to her before even meeting them.
Since becoming a part of the team, Blathers has formed a bond with Gosha. “She makes sure we’re straight academically and on the court. She just wants what’s best for the team and I admire that,” Blathers said.
“Kalen has worked hard and continues to get better every day. She has reached our team’s level of play and has shown her potential to be a real asset to this program in years to come,” said Gosha.
For next season, Blathers hopes to increase her vertical and is working to excel mentally and physically. As a team, they have been preparing with 6 a.m. practices, working harder in the weight room and are working toward a championship.