When Kelly Hubbard joined the Wofford College volleyball team last year, she brought a resume that was hard to top: A three-year starter at middle hitter for Coach Brian Wheatley’s Indians, Hubbard led Venice to the 2017 state championship. She was Florida’s Class 8A Player of the Year, an All-American and a finalist for national player of the year. Indeed, the 6-foot-1 Hubbard was so dominant that in one playoff match she recorded 22 kills without making a single error.

Like most college freshman, however, Hubbard had to prove herself all over again. Appearing in just three matches, she spent most of her first season in an unfamiliar position — on the sidelines, stuck behind talented veteran players, including a senior who was an all-conference performer.

Hubbard did not complain or pout. Instead, Wofford Coach Lynze Roos said, Hubbard worked hard every day in practice and shined as a representative for the program, including volunteer work.

“I think a lot of that comes from the culture of playing in a program like they have in Venice,” Roos said. “Kelly knows how to be a great teammate. If she wasn’t playing, you could be sure she was making the starters better. You can tell that she loves being a volleyball player.”

Now gearing up for a new season, it looks likely that Hubbard will be playing far more than a supporting role with the Terriers, a Division-I program located in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Stronger, quicker and vastly more confident, Hubbard “has had a great preseason. She’s really owning her position,” Roos said. “She really started coming into her own during our spring practices and she has just built on it from there.”

“I’m really excited about this season,” Hubbard said. “I trained hard all summer. Probably the biggest change is my confidence. I can be shy around new people. Now, I’m really comfortable and my confidence is way up.”

Hubbard said she could not be happier that she chose Wofford, a private college with fewer than 2,000 students sited on a 175-acre campus dotted with historic buildings, some that date to before the Civil War. Wofford has so many green spaces that its entire campus is designated as an arboretum.

“Our classes have 25 students or fewer, no huge lectures with hundreds of students,” said Hubbard, who is majoring in math and business. “And the team gets great support. The gym gets packed for our matches.”

Hubbard also savors the amenities that come with being a scholarship athlete at a Division-I school. This summer, for example, the team toured Italy, playing a series of exhibition matches and taking in the culture. Not surprisingly, Hubbard said, her favorite city was Venice, where she rode in a gondola.

Wofford competes in the 10-team Southern Conference, with other Southeastern schools including The Citadel, Furman, Western Carolina and Virginia Military Institute. The Terriers do not shy away from playing large schools, with matches this fall against Clemson, Georgia and Duke.

Hubbard said she is strengthened by the support she receives from her family. Her parents, Ken and Cindy, made the summer trip to Italy and attend as many matches as they can get to in the season. Her older brother, Kenneth, is a standout rower for the Syracuse University crew team. Hubbard also is grateful for the advice and support she receives from her grandfather, Ted Caiazza, who played basketball for the University of Illinois and then became a high school coach. Caiazza, who now lives in Venice, is a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

“My grandfather has been through all this and understands what it’s like to be a college athlete,” Hubbard said. “He’s helped me a lot.”

Now, Hubbard is poised to make her own mark in college athletics.

“It’s preseason, so I don’t want to make any predictions,” Roos said. “But I will say that we are very excited about how hard Kelly has worked, how much she has improved and what a great attitude she brings to the team every day. We’re expecting big things from her.”

Wofford opens the season at the Clemson Tournament on Aug. 30 against Kennesaw State University and then takes on Clemson the next day.

If you know of a former area athlete deserving coverage, please email davidmhackett@comcast.net

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