Girls volleyball: Libertyville's Kasten earns Lake County All-Area Captain

  • Libertyville's Keira Kasten earned the Captain honors of the Lake County All-Area Team after a senior season that included 319 kills and 138 digs. She will play college volleyball at Elon.

      Libertyville's Keira Kasten earned the Captain honors of the Lake County All-Area Team after a senior season that included 319 kills and 138 digs. She will play college volleyball at Elon. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Lakes' Paula Ceneac, left, spikes on at Libertyville's Keira Kasten during their game Tuesday in Libertyville.

      Lakes' Paula Ceneac, left, spikes on at Libertyville's Keira Kasten during their game Tuesday in Libertyville. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/10/2022 6:17 AM

Keira Kasten says Libertyville volleyball will forever have a special place in her heart.

Fittingly, Kasten will forever be remembered as one of the finest to play the sport at the Lake County school.

 

Despite the shortened COVID-19 season of 2020-21 which impacted her time on the floor, Kasten's 768 career kills are the most of any player in the program for the last 20 years.

The 319 kills she clubbed this fall as the Captain of the Lake County Daily Herald All-Area Girls Volleyball Team rank second for a single season in Libertyville history, breaking her own personal best of 278 last fall. The only Wildcat who had more in one fall was Arian Adam Colton, the mother of Kasten's current teammate Mia Colton and the head girls volleyball coach at Grayslake Central.

Add in 36 aces and 138 digs (both third best on the team) with 25 blocks, and you have a complete volleyball player who will spend her future playing in the Division 1 Elon University women's program in North Carolina.

The two-time Wildcats captain will never forget her time in Libertyville.

"I would not be the volleyball player I am today without the Libertyville volleyball program," Kasten said. "I am very thankful for coach (Greg) Loika and (assistant) Jenny (Smith) and all my teammates along the way who have provided lots of guidance and support over the years."

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Smith, a former Prospect High School standout, and Kasten had a unique relationship.

"A running joke on our team is that she and Jenny look like twins," Lioka said. "It's something that was noticeable early on. It's uncanny.

"Often opposing coaches, fans and teachers at LHS ask if they are sisters. Keira grew to love the jokes and would just throw a sheepish smile out there when someone would ask her that."

Loika said Kasten has dressed as Smith for Halloween and vice versa.

"Keira has a great sense of humor and she's an amazing leader," Loika added.

Kasten's success extends into the classroom where she sports a 4.05 GPA. She plans on majoring in nursing at Elon.

"I have been interested in biology and human anatomy since I was little," Kasten said. "I am really looking forward to the all-around experience of being a student-athlete at the collegiate level. I am extremely excited to be part of the volleyball program and I'm looking forward to attending a university such as Elon. It is the perfect school for me."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Just like Kasten was a perfect fit for Libertyville, where her success was hardly a surprise.

"We knew early on that Keira could be a special player," Loika said. "She had size and strength as a freshman, good physical skills and an eagerness to learn. Potential though isn't nearly enough, she had a strong drive as a competitor and I think that's what's helped her grow so much."

As a freshman in 2019, Kastren became an important role player to the team that ultimately won a sectional title, falling to Fremd in the supersectional.

"We would assign Keira to the opponent's best attacker, a difficult assignment for a 14-year-old player," Loika said. "But she would always rise up to the occasion as a blocker."

Kasten played middle and right side that season and while she wasn't yet the offensive focal point yet, she was very versatile.

"That's not typical for a freshman to be able to grow so quickly in multiple positions," Loika said. "We knew she'd eventually move to the other side of the court as an outside hitter."

And would move on to become one of the best players in the state.

"When I was a freshman, I was aware that I had potential and lots of room to grow as a player," Kasten said. "But becoming one of the top players in the state seemed out of reach at the time. It's crazy to compare the athlete I was freshman year to the player I am now and have become."

She did it with an intensity, competitiveness, leadership quality and commitment that made her special.

"She wants to win and holds herself to a higher standard than anyone else.," Loika said. "In our program, four-year varsity attackers are rare, but she had the mindset, physicality, and ability to just go hard without fear that was needed. In terms of her ability to dominate a match and be a force as a hitter, she's one of the best I've coached, probably one of the best Libertyville has had, which is saying a ton."

In fact, Loika compares Kasten's physical skills to Catie Steffen (2011 graduate who played at Rhode Island) in terms of her presence on the court and her ability to leap and attack from anywhere.

"Catie played a six-man rotation outside hitter for the 2010 team that went 35-3 and their games mirrored each other greatly," Loika said. "Catie was an assistant coach in 2019 with us and got to see and mentor Keira a bit "

Loika said the biggest jump in Kasten's game came with her dedication to her passing and defense between junior and senior year.

She became a six-rotation player this season and took the Wildcats to the next level.

"Teams often would try to target her with serves and she became as steady as anyone in the back row and a real weapon offensively," Loika added. "I think what makes her most special is she can play anywhere with the same high ceiling, that is not something you see often in young players or even the most skilled players being able to manage different places on the court."

Off the court, Kasten was just as impressive.

At a match this fall, two little girls in elementary school approached Kasten and teammate Hannah Fleming, looking for a photo.

"The little girls told them they wanted to grow up to play just like them (Kasten and Fleming)," Loika said. "Things like that are what make our team and these girls so special. They are true role models, and the best kind of players a coach could ask for."

Kasten said she couldn't have asked for anything more from everyone who supported her.

"I would say I have a strong work ethic and lots of determination which has helped me with my success over the years," she said. "But my success would not be possible without all of my coaches, teammates, and family who have pushed me to work hard over the years. My success comes from my supporters at my side pushing and training me to be the best athlete I can be."

One of the best in Libertyville history.

"Her presence on the floor, leadership, and her intensity will be hard to replace," Loika said.

"But the girls who've witnessed her development know the recipe to do what Keira has done. I think they will be trying to emulate that for years."

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