OCALA, Fla. — From Ocala, Florida to State College, Pennsylvania. The story of Annie Cate Fitzpatrick’s journey to Penn State University is one of hard work, training, perseverance and a loving, supportive family.
When Fitzpatrick officially enrolls at PSU in the summer, she will join a Nittany Lions squad that has been nationally recognized as one of the top volleyball programs in the country. It is an impressive feat for a girl who had to sift through multiple sports before settling on volleyball.
“I grew up playing a lot of different sports until the second grade when I decided to try out volleyball and then I stuck with that,” said Annie Cate, who also played basketball from middle school through her sophomore year in high school.
“We tried a few other sports like soccer, karate and basketball,” Annie Cate’s mom, Catherine said. “Coach Paula Batsel gave Annie Cate and Amelia (Annie Cate’s younger sister) a quick introductory lesson and we fell in love with it from there.”
Catherine also credits an old friend of hers, whose daughter was playing volleyball at Marion County Juniors at the time, for helping get Annie Cate into the sport.
From that point on, Annie Cate’s dedication to the sport has never wavered. She puts in countless hours in the gym. She has also had several people to help push her along the way.
“She had a passionate mentor that trained her in middle school,” Catherine explained. “Coach Jason Morris took her under his wing and taught her how to be a winner.
“He pushed her to be the best in the volleyball gym and weight room. It was amazing to watch her develop a drive for the sport in middle school.”
Annie Cate’s dad, John, also saw another coach take on a key role in her success.
“Coach Jeff Reavis has played a key role in working with the technical details of her game, such as strategy and shot selection,” John said. “Coach Jeff also taught Annie Cate how to be a leader on the team and learn how to make her teammates better.”
All of that training and hard work has led to some pretty prestigious honors, including this year being named to the Under Armour Girls High School All-American First Team. She was one of only 24 volleyball girls across the country to receive this recognition. She was also recognized by Prep Volleyball Senior Ace as the #28 prospect in the country as a senior. In 2018, as a junior at Trinity Catholic High School, Annie Cate was named the Class 5A Player of the Year.
Annie Cate is also able to balance her busy volleyball schedule with her studies, as she has a 4.5 weighted GPA and a 3.95 unweighted.
“Athletics makes me a better student and worker because it forces me to manage my time,” Annie Cate said. “Also, just having the motivation to be a good athlete carries over to motivating me to be a good student.”
That motivation also carries her play on the court where she helped lead Trinity Catholic to a deep playoff run this season. The year before, her and her Celtic teammates won the FHSAA Class 5A State Championship. This past year, her senior season, saw her take on more of a leadership role, which she didn’t take lightly.
“It is a lot of responsibility, making sure everyone is working hard, holding my teammates accountable and being the one to take care of any problems on the team,” Annie Cate explained. “You have to be the one on the team working the hardest so the rest of the team will follow and listen to you.”
When she isn’t on the court, or working on academics, Annie Cate loves to do other activities such as playing the guitar, playing the piano and signing. She also loves to hunt with her dad and dog, Goose, who likes to climb in the tree stand with them. Her and her family also love to be on the boat.
While Annie Cate’s next phase of her volleyball career will take her to Penn State, she had contact with other schools before ultimately picking the Big Ten powerhouse.
“The coaching staff and the respect that volleyball gets (at Penn State),” said Annie Cate, as to why she chose PSU. “The atmosphere for volleyball is amazing at Penn State and I’ve heard so many great things about living in State College.”
Nothing has been promised to her when she arrives on campus. But in true Annie Cate style, she will work extremely hard to get on the court.
“Annie Cate has always been a focused and determined child,” Catherine said. “If she put her mind to doing something, she did it well.”
It just so happens, this next “doing something” will be in State College, Pennsylvania.
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