Jona Braden knew exactly what type of person she needed when a position opened on her coaching staff a year ago. She wanted someone with playing experience and the ability to communicate with student-athletes. Braden needed an enthusiastic person with determination and a strong work ethic. The person would have to be organized, responsible, but above all, have an innate desire to win. She found all that and more right under her nose.
Katie Eiserman was hired as assistant coach in March 2002 after a successful playing career at Kentucky. A native of Lake Bluff, Ill., she came to the Bluegrass as a freshman under Coach Fran Flory in 1996. An outside hitter, Eiserman had broken the Illinois high school record for career kills with 1,387, earning All-State honors from the Chicago Tribune.
She made an immediate impact on the Wildcats' squad, playing in all 32 matches as a freshman. Eiserman wrapped up the season second on the team in digs and fourth in kills. In her sophomore season, she played in every match again, leading the team in digs and finishing second in kills.
For her junior season, Eiserman and the Wildcats welcomed a new leader as Braden came on board and led the Cats to their first winning season in five years. Eiserman got off to a hot start in 1998, earning All-Tournament honors in each of UK's early season tournaments. She recorded 383 kills and 269 digs, and then led UK to the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament and a 16-14 record.
Eiserman capped off a great career as a senior. She was named second-team All-SEC and finished her career as Kentucky's all-time digs leader. She remains third in career attack attempts (3,876) and fourth in career kills (1,358).
Following her playing career, Eiserman spent one season as a student assistant coach on Braden's staff while earning her degree in education. In 2000, she accepted a graduate assistant position in athletics administration, assisting with UK's Blue/White Fund while working toward her master's degree. She coached the volleyball squad at Tates Creek High School in Lexington during the 2001 season.
"Katie's love and dedication for Kentucky volleyball has been translated into efforts as a true `coach'," Braden said. "Her ability to transfer that love into a role as a leader has added a layer of complete understanding.
"Her tireless, heartfelt desire for growing this team is not only due to the fact that she's an alum, but because of her dedication to this group of young women."
Eiserman, 25, resides in Lexington.