Kouts' Foster is small but packs a big punch
KOUTS -- It's not uncommon when Kouts plays a volleyball team that doesn't know Sophia Foster is more than just your average 5-foot-5 hitter.
A spike goes whistling by their ear and the facial expression is like, where did THAT come from?
"They do that a lot," Foster said with a smile.
At Foster's size, most players are setters or Liberos, but hitting has always been a strong suit of the Fillies junior.
"It's a big energy boost for our team," coach Jeff Maier said. "I've only had one other player that's generated that power."
Foster began playing at the age of 8, and though athletes typically do multiple sports at smaller schools, she has always focused on volleyball. The youngest of eight kids, Foster followed several siblings who played volleyball at Boone Grove into the sport before the family moved.
"I had to be tough in order to not get picked on," she said.
Early on, she developed that knack for putting hand to leather.
"Probably middle school, I started getting the power and actually controlling the ball," Foster said. "I try waiting and going as fast as I can and jumping high. I do lot of strength and conditioning, work on speed and agility."
The whole package was on display in one particular point in Monday's Porter County Conference tournament opener with South Central. At 20-20 in the fourth game of a 2-1 match, Foster dug out a spike, sprung to her feet to scurry back to her hitting position, racing and rising into the set to deliver a cross-court kill.
"When I get on the ground, I try the best I can to get up as fast as I can to get a hit," she said. "I've worked really hard. The team, we work together to do that. It all
starts with the pass. Taylor (Moyer) does a really good job setting all the positions for us to put the ball down."
Kouts, the round-robin PCC champion, went on to win the game and the match behind Foster and Mackenzie Martin, advancing to a battle Tuesday with neighbor Morgan Township, the regular-season runner-up and defending titlist. It was Foster's tenth match with double-digit kills.
"Their lefts took over," S.C. coach Jan Fitzpatrick said. "When they get inside the 20, you can't send free balls. Then it becomes, this girl (Foster) is going to see how hard she can hit it and where she can place it. She's a great player. She's got a great swing. She's a shot-maker. She went line, she went cross. She had well-placed shots."
Statistically, Foster and the 5-7 Martin are close across the board, while different stylistically.
"Mackenzie's just as good," Maier said. "They're so close in everything they do. Mackenzie's just more of a finesse player. She's still pretty quick getting off the ground, but she can place it. Sophia places it well, too. She just has more power."
On occasion, that power doesn't work, like a hard-throwing thrower pitcher who can't throw strikes, but when Foster's on, look out.
"She gets in a lot of trouble with me because I call it too much torque," Maier said. "Sometimes, it goes out of bounds, it goes in the net, it goes all over the place. I have to remind her to control that torque. It's a good thing, but there are plays where it's a bad thing."
Foster, who has played club with the Boiler Juniors out of West Lafayette for three years, typifies an undersized Kouts squad that performs well above its height.
"If you notice, we're not tallest team in the world," Maier said. "Our block kills are really good, too. Mechanically, we do well. We're at least able to slow the ball down. That's an important part of the game, too. We try to give our defense as much of a break as possible."