Published Nov. 7, 2023
BY TULLAH MCCOLL
Although opponents on the volleyball court may see Carmel High School senior Caroline Byrne as a force to be reckoned with, coaches and teammates also see her drive as an inspiration for her teammates and peers.
Byrne was chosen captain of the girls’ varsity volleyball team her junior year. Amid her final season alongside co-captain Riley Imamura, the outside hitter guided her team to a 20-4 record overall and a 12-2 record in league and led the team in kills for the past two years–she has 217 kills this season as of Oct. 30. The team finished their season second in league and as the first seed in Division IV Central Coast Section playoffs.
“Her excitement and positivity is contagious,” Imamura says. “It is an honor getting to play with her.”
Byrne grew as a player by starting her varsity volleyball career at Carmel as a freshman, allowing her to learn through upperclassmen how to lead a team to success.
“Having those older influences kind of carried me through, and they never made me feel ostracized for being a freshman or being young,” the three-sport athlete says.
In the 2023 season, Byrne was able to use past experience to create a welcoming environment for the five freshmen joining this year’s team.
“I’m happy that I have the opportunity to spread a good environment with a good positive vibe and make it so there is no hierarchy,” the starting outside hitter explains. “We are all a team, all playing on the same court together. It doesn’t matter how old we are.”
Freshmen on the team have seen a difference in their playing with the four-year varsity player as their captain and a role model on the court.
“Caroline has taken me under her wing this season,” says freshman middle hitter Madison Willoughby. “You can tell that she is meant to be captain.”
Beating Salinas High School put a smile on Byrne’s and her teammates’ faces as she made the final kill in the game, Salinas being the only team in league the senior class had yet to beat.
“The look on her face of pure joy and satisfaction of finally beating them and watching her and the rest of the team celebrate is a moment I won’t forget anytime soon,” assistant coach Shelby Goldman says.
Current head coach Brodie Greer sees the growth Byrne has made mentally and in her skill over the last four years. He acknowledges her drive and passion for not only the sport, but the team itself. The fuel for her astronomical growth has truly come from her work ethic and positive attitude, Greer expresses.
With changes in head coaching mid-season, Byrne took on a sense of responsibility to develop a well-rounded winning team that could grow together and individually.
“I wanted to make sure everyone was having a good time,” shares Byrne. “High school volleyball…the stakes are not very high, we are here to grow and to have fun. Yes, win, but that comes from the enjoyment of the sport.”
The four-year varsity player’s love for the sport began in fifth grade, and her mom had a huge influence on understanding the game from her own experience playing in college. Byrne’s love for volleyball grew from there. Over the years she has focused on her mindset of positivity and enjoyment in the game.
The senior hopes to keep a similar mentality towards the sport even after high school. Byrne plans to go to college and further her academic career while not letting athletics get in the way of a normal college experience.
“She has one of the best work ethics I’ve ever seen,” Coach Goldman adds, “and it’s a huge reason she is the player she is.”