This feature originally appeared in the 2021 Fall edition of the Cal Sports Quarterly. The Cal Athletics flagship magazine features long-form sports journalism at its finest and provides in-depth coverage of the scholar-athlete experience in Berkeley. Printed copies are mailed four times a year to Bear Backers who give annually at the Bear Club level (currently $600 or more). For more information on how you can receive a printed version of the Cal Sports Quarterly at home, send an email to CalAthleticsFund@berkeley.edu or call (510) 642-2427.
After being born in Berkeley and growing up in San Mateo, Golden Bear blood has been in Cal volleyball senior Katie Smoot's veins from day one. She was born into a family of Bears, and a large one at that.
Smoot's mother, Lisa, was a standout field hockey player at Cal, and her three brothers all played water polo for the Bears.
Smoot was destined to be a Cal student-athlete, even if it didn't work out that way from the beginning. Coming out of high school, she wound up committing to the University of Arizona.
Smoot played outside hitter for the Wildcats, and in her junior year in 2019, she recorded 307 kills with a 2.87 kills per set average, both ranking second best on the team. While being successful on the court, something was missing outside the lines being in Tucson.
"It was tough only being able to come home for the month of December," Smoot said. "I was always gone with volleyball during the season and then we had the offseason workouts. I realized I needed a change and the transfer portal became an option."
When Smoot entered the portal, she knew Cal was where she wanted to be, and she was determined to make it happen. Not only was it a logical move from the volleyball side, Smoot had family members currently on other athletic teams in Berkeley.
Smoot's younger sister, Krissy, is a thrower on the track & field team, while two of her cousins, Morgan Rogers and Chris Rogers, were on the women's soccer team and football team, respectively. It was the perfect situation.
Smoot grew an appreciation for Cal Athletics' overall family atmosphere while she was at home through much of the early days of the pandemic.
"Being here at that time, I was able to get closer to the friends I had already met on other teams and the volleyball team through Zoom and our phones," Smoot said. "That was something I really appreciated because in Arizona, I didn't go out of my way to meet friends on other sports teams. I feel like at Cal that's completely different, we're a family."
Krissy and Morgan were two of the people who had the biggest impacts on that family atmosphere and Katie's transition to life at Cal. The very first day she set foot on campus as a student-athlete, they introduced her to their friends. Katie and Morgan signed up for classes together. Krissy helped her find her classes and showed the best routes to navigate campus.
"When Katie first mentioned coming to Cal, I was excited and I knew she'd be a great fit here," Krissy said. "Her personality fits the environment, and she brings such great energy to everything she does. We've always been so close, especially since high school, and now we live across the hall from each other. She's my person that I go to. It's like having a built-in support system."
Smoot's goal is to leave her own mark and legacy at Cal, just like her mother and family members have done before her. She's on the way to doing just that, leading the Bears in kills and kills per set as she approaches 1,000 career kills as a Division I volleyball player.