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Upbeat Carroll embraces senior's role for Panthers

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
 Katie Carroll is the only senior on the Parkview girls basketball team and has stepped into the leadership role for the Panthers. 

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Katie Carroll is the only senior on the Parkview girls basketball team and has stepped into the leadership role for the Panthers. 

LILBURN — You were supposed to know all of this.

The planning for this story began nearly a year ago, just days before undefeated Parkview began an expected long playoff run in the girls state basketball tournament. But sports happened.

THE CARROLL FILE

Who: Katie Carroll

School: Parkview

Sport: Basketball

Class: Senior

Dream jobs: Pediatrics and ministry work

Favorite athlete: Hines Ward (“Because he’s always smiling”)

Do you prefer AAU or high school basketball: “They both have their ups and downs. Mostly ups. I don’t really know. I look forward to both.”

Noteworthy:

• Signed with Belmont to play college basketball

• Only senior on Parkview’s basketball team

• Played varsity since her freshman season

• Also plays volleyball

• Interns during the school day with Young Life working on its Wild Life middle school program

• Maintains a 3.8 GPA

The No. 1-seeded Panthers lost to a No. 4 seed, Redan; a stunning end to a previously unblemished season. Those plans were collateral damage.

There were no smiles following the playoff loss. And that is a rarity for Katie Carroll. But her joy is tempered only by her competitiveness. She isn’t the biggest player on the court but her size dwarfs only her fear. She’ll push, bang, dive and scrap with any player, no matter how big.

“Looking back at (the loss), we did not like that at all. It stunk a lot,” Carroll said. “But, I think it is helping us push a little bit harder this year and making us not overlook anybody.”

Carroll admits a slight malaise entering last season’s playoff loss.

And really, who could blame them? The Panthers were 28-0, at home, the top team in the state’s biggest classification. But Redan played like Carroll does, besting a team with effort.

Ever the optimist, Carroll looks back at that loss now with less frustration, as this, her final season at Parkview, begins.

It’s a new team for the Panthers. Only two starters return and Carroll is the only senior on the roster. Her view from above is changing how she acts to a degree. Before, others were there to slow down the fearless shooter. Now, it’s her job.

“It is still an adjustment being that leader,” Carroll said. “Last year we had Lauren (Coleman) and she was the one to kind of slow it down and calm everyone down. Now I feel more pressure to be that leader. Going into games I feel that load just on my shoulders just trying to get everyone mentally prepared before the game and focused.”

But her smile hasn’t faded. Before practice early in the season, Carroll and her teammates gathered in the hall waiting to change and she stood with the rest, joking and killing time, a skill mastered by high school students.

“I am still close with everyone on the team, so I don’t feel that I am alone,” Carroll said. “We are having lots of fun. We kind of have a new team.”

It’s a new team still adjusting to each other, but Carroll, a four-year varsity player, sees the same potential for success. Just a different path.

“Last year we went 28-0 and that obviously got us nowhere,” Carroll said. “We might lose some here or there this season but I think this team is different where we have to grow as a team and learn.”

The learning curves must be steep, this is Carroll’s final turn in high school basketball. The team, under Carroll, spends plenty of time away from basketball with each other. And not just in Parkview’s hallways.

“We have team dinners, which are a big deal for us because we love to eat,” Carroll said. “We even started doing little devotionals before practice and stuff and not just trying to grow as a team on the court, but in our faiths as well. I think it’s working out. We all get along. We don’t have issues with each other.”

Next year Carroll is off to Nashville to play basketball at Belmont while she studies for a career in nursing, more specifically, pediatrics.

“This sounds really cliché, but I really like to put a smile on people’s faces,” Carroll said. “I love working with kids and making them have a better day and just helping people is what I want to do.”

Another cliché is smiles are contagious and if even half true, Carroll should be a success. Since she began playing basketball, people noticed her constant cheer on the court. But for Carroll, the smile is her default face. Her attempt at stoicism ends with a grin.

“I try to be emotionless,” Carroll said. “I hear it all the time and I don’t even realize that I am doing it. I guess I enjoy playing. I don’t want to take any game for granted or any day.”

Or any season, especially this one.

“We’ve had really good years the last few years here, so I have to go out with a bang,” she said.