Kaia Castle ‘24 is graduating from Buffalo High School on Friday in order to join the Ohio State Buckeyes D1 volleyball team. She balanced taking extra classes over summer break alongside playing club volleyball in order to graduate two trimesters ahead of her classmates and jumpstart her volleyball career.
Since third grade, volleyball has been an important part of life for Castle. Her volleyball journey started with Junior Bison, where she played until sixth grade. Once she got to seventh grade, Castle joined Club Bison, a club organization directed by her mother. Through Club Bison, Castle continued to work and grow as a player and person. In her freshman year of high school, she moved to MN Select, where she played on the 14U team. She attended camps, trained with her peers, and worked her way up to be one of the top players in the country.
On October 12, 2023, Castle was honored with a jersey for the 2024 Under Armour Next All-America Game at a high school volleyball game in Buffalo. “Kaia has been chosen as 1 of 24 seniors in the entire country to participate in the 2024 Under Armour Next All-America Game,” said Ziva Recek-Blackmon, an All-America Camp & Game Coordinator.
Recipients of this award travel to Orlando, Florida to train and hone their skills. Castle, as a recipient, will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Orlando for training and competition with other high-level peers. This high-stakes game features the best high school athletes in the country and will be broadcasted live on ESPNU from the University of Central Florida on January 2, 2024.
As well as playing, Castle has been coaching volleyball through Club Bison since seventh grade.
“When I was young, I was just coaching first grade and stepping in on the court to help my mom toss balls,” said Castle. “I wasn’t actually doing much coaching.”
Over the years, Castle’s coaching has expanded as she has learned from her mentors. Through watching and learning from her coaches, Castle has shaped her coaching style to benefit the team as much as she can.
“The way I act sets the tone for the team,” said Castle.
Castle’s coaching style is especially effective with young students. Emry Mullenbach, a 7th-grade student at STFX, has been taking lessons with Castle for four months. After breaking her foot, Mullenbach was even more determined to be on the court. Castle adapted the sport of volleyball as much as possible to ensure that Mullenbach could continue to play and grow, even though she couldn’t move around the court.
“I really liked [Kaia] coaching me when I broke my foot,” said Mullenbach. “I had to sit on a block, but she would still help me so I’d stay active.”
Castle’s way of modifying the game for Mullenbach stretched far beyond the physical sport.
“She just gives me that encouragement that wants me to do better,” said Mullenbach. “She’s an amazing, loving, sweet person and I love her.”
Castle’s ambitions with volleyball stretch beyond high school, and past college, too.
“I want to play pro after [college],” said Castle. “There’s kind of a wide variety of things [I want to do]. I want to be a D1 collegiate volleyball coach, but I’m also really interested in marketing and sports photography, so I’m probably going to major in sports and history with a minor in French and marketing.”
Castle continues to share her journey through her Instagram, @kaiacastle.