O'FALLON — Whether she was in the front row or the back row, the O'Fallon Panthers tried to get the volleyball to Katie Roustio.
"I would not be a very smart coach if I didn't try to get her the ball almost every single play," O'Fallon coach Melissa Massey said. "We ran our offense to make sure she was consistently in that play.
"She broke 16 records at the school. She pretty much rewrote our record books. She obviously was an incredible player for us."
Roustio was chosen as the Belleville News-Democrat's Class 3A-4A Volleyball Player of the Year, beating out Edwardsville's Sarah Parker and Columbia's Savannah Wittenbrink in voting by metro-east coaches.
The University of Illinois-bound Roustio led all metro-east players in kills with 508 and service aces with 88 this season.
"She worked hard for us this year," Massey said. "She had to learn to step her game up. As good as she was, she still had to get mentally strong to go into a big Division I program next year, and I think she did."
In her four seasons with the Panthers, Roustio totaled 1,468 kills, 1,232 digs, 210 service aces and 220 blocks.
Roustio had a lot of weight on her 6-foot-2 shoulders, but she dealt with it.
"I really don't take it as pressure," Roustio said. "I see it as just getting the job done for my team. You have be aggressive 100 percent of the time.
"If I get the ball anywhere on the court, I'm willing to take it and do whatever I can with it."
Roustio also was an adept back-row player as she led the Panthers in digs with 320 and serve receive with 418.
"That's super important going into the University of Illinois," Massey said. "She has to be a six-rotation player if she wants to see any playing time. That's really going to benefit her."
Roustio prides herself on her defense.
"You have to work harder on defense than offense," Roustio said. "Anybody, if they work hard enough, can put a ball down, but defense is really the key to it all. It's what gets it started."
Roustio, 18, the daughter of Michelle and Scott Roustio, played basketball, volleyball and track in grade school.
"I ran the 200, 400 and 800 and the triple jump was my biggest thing," Roustio said of her track career. "I won state in the triple jump."
Roustio gave up track upon reaching high school.
"It really hurt my knees, it really messed them up, so I didn't want to risk anything," Roustio said of the triple jump.
Roustio comes from an athletic family. Her dad played basketball at Edwardsville High School and her mother was a cheerleader at Belleville East High School.
Her uncle is former Belleville East High School basketball coach Doug McCrary and her great uncle is former Jacksonville High School basketball coach Mel Roustio.
Roustio's older sister, Rachel, was a distance runner at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Roustio's younger brother, Parker, is a sophomore on the Panthers' boys basketball team.
Roustio realized that volleyball was the sport for her during her freshman season, though she continued to play basketball until this season.
"I realized that I loved it more than any of the other sports," Roustio said.
The Panthers posted a 31-7 record and captured a Class 4A regional championship in Roustio's senior year.
"It was huge, especially since it was my senior year," Roustio said of winning the regional. "We won it my freshman year, and my goal was to win it at least one more time before I left high school."
The Panthers battled past Collinsville 18-25, 25-22 and 25-21 as Roustio had 17 kills and three aces in the championship match of the O'Fallon Regional.
"Really, in the big games that we played this year, we didn't play well," Massey said. "When we played Mater Dei, we completely fell apart. When we played Althoff, we fell apart. It was frustrating because we didn't come to play in the big, big games.
"I think that was our third match going to three games the whole season. We just didn't play a lot of matches like that. To overcome being down the first game spokes volumes about where we wanted to be at the end of the season."
Roustio committed to Illinois in late March of her freshman year.
"I have always been a fan of Illinois," Roustio said. "When they offered me a scholarship, I thought to myself, 'There is no place I would rather go to.' It's close to home and my family can come to watch. I thought it was perfect."
Roustio has a laid-back personality, but she realizes that Big Ten volleyball is intense.
"It's definitely a lot more serious than any volleyball club, but I am excited for it," Roustio said. "I'm excited to start working with the team and all of the coaches and learning new techniques and everything."
Roustio said she's looking forward to playing her home matches at cozy Huff gymnasium in Champaign.
"It's pretty cool because the bleachers are so close to the floor and it's almost like the crowd is sitting right on top of you," Roustio said. "It's a really crazy atmosphere."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.