High School Volleyball

Tigers’ Key soars above all

By Dennis Silva II | Sports Editor
Posted 10/19/20

Perris Key notices the looks. The sideways glances. She hears the scoffs.

She feels the disrespect.

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High School Volleyball

Tigers’ Key soars above all

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Perris Key notices the looks. The sideways glances. She hears the scoffs.

She feels the disrespect.

Whenever opposing volleyball teams—littered with tall, athletic, imposing hitters—offer amused, if not downright smug, stares toward Katy High’s 5-foot-8, always-smiling Key, the senior right side hitter can only laugh.

“For sure, especially in club (season), a lot of teams look at me like, ‘Oh, she’s small. She can’t do anything,’” Key said.

And then she feels a bit sad for them. For only she knows what’s about to take place.

“It’s always fun to come in and show off,” Key said with a wide smile.

Key is the Tigers’ athletic sensation, a “dynamo” in almost every sense of the word. Though she has the size of a defensive specialist, Key is the hard-swinging attacker for coach Karen Paxton’s club, averaging 3.8 kills per game and thwarting blockers with crafty hitting and a jaw-dropping 28-inch vertical jump.

She doesn’t blame anyone if they’re taken aback by her numbers and play. You have to see her jump and attack the ball to fully understand. There is a giddy violence behind every swing she takes, as if dismissing each and every doubt kill by kill.

It has earned the attention of University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley volleyball coach Todd Lowery, who runs a winning program in south Texas that is a top contender in the Western Athletic Conference. Key verbally committed to the Vaqueros in September 2019, and her stock has only soared since.

“Perris,” Paxton said, “is phenomenal.”

For instance, take Key’s performance during Katy’s 3-1 win over Tompkins on Oct. 17. Key had 24 kills, including eight in the critical third set that broke a 1-1 tie in the game, and only two errors as the Tigers tightened their hold on second place in District 19-6A.

The Tigers saw the Falcons struggling on the right side, and Key took advantage.

“It’s so fun,” junior setter Maddie Waak said. “She just jumps so high and hits it so high.”

Key has had 14 or more kills in a game six times this season. Though her athleticism is impressive, Paxton singles out Key’s versatility as a true difference-maker.

She can play outside, right side or even in the middle, where Paxton likes to use Key as a change of pace.

“Perris is our star player,” senior libero Hannah Hoover said. “We rely on her and have so much trust in her.”

Key is an ideal teammate, a testament to her focus on becoming a better leader.

“She’s my hype person,” junior outside hitter Jordan Gamble said. “That’s someone who we’re always talking about what we can do better, so it’s nice to have that relationship with someone.”

The Tigers needed another offensive threat after the graduation of Skylor Weaver, who led Katy with 2.6 kills per set last season. Key worked to become that.

Last season, she averaged 1.7 kills and 0.7 digs per set. This season, following an offseason “full of volleyball,” she has upped those numbers to 3.8 and 2.1, respectively.

An eye-opening experience for Key was coaching camps for her club team, Houston Juniors.

“My volleyball IQ got a lot better just being around the game so much in the summer,” Key said. “Once I told (players) what my coaches were telling me, it clicked to me like, ‘Oh, if they’re doing it, I can do it.’ Because I am athletic and the vertical helps a lot, a lot of times I’m jumping over people who are bigger than me. I toe a lot; I tip a lot. I have to be smarter than the other team simply because they’re bigger.”

Key works hard studying the game. It shows in how she attacks and counters defenses.

“She has great court awareness,” Paxton said. “She has the ability to where if she gets blocked once, she can change her shot. A lot of hitters tend to go same shot, same tendencies. But she’s worked really hard to be dynamic from different positions.”

Key is meticulous in her ball placement on attacks, no longer simply swinging straight down on every ball. As a blocker, she’s better seeing the set and reading things the right way. She’s smarter on serve-receive.

“I’ve seen her improve all three years, from sophomore to senior year,” Waak said. “She’s amazing. She’s gotten so good, and I’m super happy because she’s pretty great.”

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