M.K. Roberts signs with UNC-Asheville

Gordon Lee senior volleyball M.K. Roberts signed on to play at UNC-Asheville on Thursday. Also on hand for the ceremony were Bobby and Sophia Roberts, Jay Roberts, Jeanette Roberts and Vicki Orr.

There have been many outstanding volleyball players that have suited up for the Gordon Lee Lady Trojans in the past 20 years, but few have possessed an all-around skill-set quite like senior M.K. Roberts.

Despite standing just 5-foot-5, Roberts is more than capable of playing nearly every position on the court and did just that during her four seasons in Chickamauga.

Her versatility made her unique and, on Thursday, she became the first Gordon Lee volleyball player in program history to sign with an NCAA Division I program - something she said meant a lot to her - as she put her name on a letter of intent with UNC-Asheville of the Big South Conference.

Roberts signed while surrounded by friends, family, teammates and other well-wishers during a ceremony at the high school.

"I just love seeing all these people coming together to celebrate (with me) because I've just worked so hard. (Today) really means a lot and I'm really excited."

A fixture in the starting lineup from her very first high school match as a freshman, she played in 407 sets in four years, recording 1,540 assists, 209 aces, 1,275 digs, 256 kills and 76 blocks in her career, while playing as a libero, at outside hitter and as a defensive specialist.

She also racked up her share of postseason awards, including All-Region and All-State honors as a sophomore and as a junior to go with an All-Region award this past season.

"She's going to be hard to replace because she's just so good all the way around," said Gordon Lee head coach Kelli Payne. "She's a super defensive player, but we've used her a lot on the front row as well because she just knows where to be and how to score points when they are needed, even if she's not the tallest out there. She was a big asset for us and will be for any team."

Tricia Goodwin, who helped coach Roberts all four years at Gordon Lee, said Roberts had a knowledge and understanding of the game at its highest level.

"She can read the court well before the play happens," Goodwin said. "That's something that's usually learned as you get older than high school. She's a great athlete and super teachable. She hustles for everything and she wants to win.

"She's a competitor and that's what makes her so good. She loves to win, she loves being part of a team and she loves making everyone around her better as much as she loves getting better herself. M.K. is just an all-around great player. You can put her anywhere and she'll make it happen."

Roberts, who committed to the Bulldogs earlier this past season, said there was a lot to like about UNC-Asheville.

"I really loved the campus and the coaches there are just so good," she explained. "I've been able to go to some practices and camps up there and it's just so nice. I really love the city too. It's just so pretty.

"They really need more serve-receive coming in, so I'm hoping to go up there and start out as a libero. Hopefully, I can bring some good serve-receive (skills) and good defense in general."

Payne echoed Goodwin's remarks.

"She's a very mature player and she knows the game very well," Payne said. "She loves competition and playing with other great players is going to push her to get better and excel at that level."

While at Gordon Lee, Roberts was part of a senior class that won four Region 7-AA/A Public championships, went to four Final Fours, and played in the past two state championship matches.

"I still haven't brought it all in yet," she said about looking back at the last four years. "It's crazy how far we got as a Class A public school team. We got to the state championship game twice. We didn't beat Pace Academy, but we beat Lovett. I feel really good about what we did, even though we weren't able to win state."

Roberts said she is considering biology as a major with designs on one day becoming an occupational therapist.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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