For Peabody High's Katie Houlden, the libero on the girls’ volleyball team, going 17-2 this season wasn’t as much fun as she and her teammates had hoped. Unfortunately, the Tanners lost their 19th game of the season in the Division One North quarterfinals to Central Catholic, 3-1, ending their season.
Peabody came in as the second overall seed, behind 20-0 Andover (the eventual state champs), before they bowed out. A match-up with the Golden Warriors for a state title didn’t happen.
Houlden, who shared the Tanners' captaincy with fellow seniors Kim Sousa, Jen Pearl and Lauren Zaines, will have to wait until the spring lacrosse season starts to compete for Peabody again.
Houlden plays attack on the lacrosse team and libero on the volleyball team. The libero position is unique to indoor volleyball and is a “defensive specialist” who doesn’t rotate positions during a match.
“You can only stay in the back row, I’m five-foot-one, so I’m on the back, playing defense and setting up the front,” Houlden said.
“I think I’ve always played volleyball, it’s really fun... I used to play it in gym at Higgins, [then] I tried out and made it (varsity) freshman year,” Houlden said. She added that she's loved the game since the first time she hit the ball over the net and doesn't hold back in practice.
Houlden said the fall season was still exciting even though it didn't end the way anyone hoped.
“We lost our first game of the year very badly -- it was discouraging -- but then we won 17 in a row,” she said.
The streak ended in the state playoffs. Peabody received a bye into the quarterfinals, entering the tournament with a .944 winning percentage, one game off perfection for the regular season.
The Tanners spotted the Raiders the first two games; fought back to take the third, but lost the fourth game, 25-13.
“We knew they were a strong team, we lost to them in the tournament last year too,” Houlden said. “We couldn’t keep up the momentum after winning the third game.”
“I loved playing for Peabody volleyball, and I’m very disappointed it’s over,” she said. “I’m going to miss my teammates, and playing at home; I’m not going to play (volleyball) in college so this was it, I think.”
Houlden, whose favorite subject is math, is still working on a college choice and hopes to attend High Point University in North Carolina if everything works out.
“I’ve got family there and I’ve always wanted to go to school there,” she said.
Houlden lives in South Peabody with her mom and dad. Her two older siblings were both athletes at PVMHS. Her older brother played lacrosse, and she’s been playing herself since third grade. She'll be back this spring for her final time with the Tanners.
This winter Houlden will be working at the YMCA five days a week, as part of the after-school programs for elementary school children. On her shift, she helps kids with their homework and takes them on field trips around the area. This is her first winter session with the YMCA after-school program.
Houlden said the biggest influence on her has been her parents, who come to every one of her games and always support her. She also just celebrated her 18th birthday this weekend.