Steamboat Springs According to who you talk to, Katie Carter was either discovered 700 miles from home in Las Vegas or in her freshman Health class.
In reality, it was probably a little bit of both.
Steamboat Springs volleyball coach Wendy Hall saw Carter's potential during her freshman year. Hall used former health teacher and current counselor Joan Allsbury as a messenger of sorts.
"I remember telling Joan 'will you tell Katie Carter to get to open gym, she could be really good,"' Hall said.
That might be the understatement of Hall's decade-plus coaching career. Carter signed a national letter of intent Wednesday to play collegiate volleyball at UCLA, a top-flight university in the county's premier volleyball conference the Pac 10.
"This is the biggest opportunity for any of my players since I've been here," Hall said. "A school this size, you don't get this caliber of an athlete often."
And even if Steamboat churned out Division I athletes at an alarming rate, finding them on the Western Slope is half the battle. That's why CSU coach Tom Hilbert thought he had the edge.
He was the in-state coach at a great in-state school, and he was the first to spot Carter. According to Hall, Hilbert believed Carter was the one.
"He thought Katie could have pushed them into the Top 10," Hall said.
Instead, Carter will attempt to help coach Andy Banachowski and his Bruins continue their rich tradition, and Banachowski envisions Carter filling a void in the middle right away before possibly moving her back to the outside.
"I'm thrilled that Katie is coming to UCLA," he said.
For Carter, becoming a Bruin felt right.
First, Kim Jagd, an assistant at UCLA, is Allison Griffing's aunt. Griffing and Carter were teammates in Steamboat and the two girls have been going to camps in Los Angeles for years.
Second, Carter is originally from California and her sister lives in San Diego, a short drive from UCLA.
"When I moved I wanted to go back to California," Carter said. "I thought it would be cool to play there."
She takes her first "official" visit next weekend, as the Bruins host Arizona and Arizona State at Pauley Pavilion, home of UCLA volleyball and basketball.
"I never thought big schools would offer me," Carter said.
That all changed at a club tournament in Las Vegas in February.
Despite the fact that Carter's team was playing in a smaller gym outside of Vegas, the college coaches found her.
"Ten scouts were lined up to see Katie," her mother Sherry Carter said.
Names like USC, Stanford, Nebraska, CSU and Texas were whirling in the soon-to-be senior's mind. Carter had grown five inches since middle school and was coming into her own on the volleyball court. Consequently, the best programs in the country wanted her in their uniforms.
UCLA was Carter's final choice over Nebraska and CSU because the Bruins provided her with something the other two could not a chance to fulfill her dream.
The Bruins are 14-12 and ranked No. 19 in the country but lose just three seniors from the roster, leaving Banachowski excited about the future.
Carter orally committed this spring and Wednesday brought a formal end to the recruiting process. A humble girl, Carter said coaches told her to enjoy it because once she committed the attention would be gone.
Not necessarily. The UCLA coaches can't wait to get her for August practices. Banachowski believes Carter is going to look pretty good in blue and gold.
"In the long run we are a good match for each other," the UCLA coach of 36 years said. "We are a comfortable fit. I believe Katie felt comfortable here and I'm excited to coach such a quality kid and help her develop to her full athletic ability on the volleyball court."