Carthage volleyball standout Kristen Stewart’s plans initially was to stay close to home and walk on at Panola College.
Those plans changed, however, when DI Florida A&M University reached out to her.
“I got into the recruiting process a little bit late. So I thought nobody else would want to recruit me,” said Stewart, who had committed to Panola in April. “I thought Panola was a good fit for me. Then Florida A&M contacted me and said they were interested.”
Stewart’s club coach, Lindsay Mashe, who is also head volleyball coach at UT-Tyler, played a significant role in turning her interest to the Tallahassee-based school.
“Panola’s scholarships were all filled up and Kristen was going to walk on and look to earn a scholarship next year,” said Dawn Stewart, who is the Carthage head volleyball coach and Kristen’s mother. “We then got a message from Lindsay that Florida A&M wanted to look at Kristen and they had a full scholarship available. The rest is history.”
Stewart recorded nearly 1,000 assists as a senior and proved versatile in leading the Lady Bulldogs to the University Interscholastic League State Volleyball Tournament last season. It marked Carthage’s first trip to the state gathering in over 15 years.
Carthage topped Palestine, Gatesville, China Spring, Splendora and Midlothian in the playoffs before eventually falling to Hereford in the Class 4A state semifinals.
The Lady Bulldogs wrapped up an impressive 41-5 record in 2019 and Stewart was named Outstanding Setter in District 20-4A after finishing with 925 assists to go along with 300 digs, 50 blocks, 100 kills and 82 aces.
Stewart spent the first two years of her varsity career with the Spring Hill Lady Panthers where she posted 372 kills, 119 aces, 335 digs, 310 assists and 89 blocks.
“I’m doing this to better myself. I think it’s going to be a great experience and I’m really excited,” said Stewart, who reports to college later this month. “The coach (Gokhan Yilmaz) told me that he was looking to run a 6-2 offense and that it would include me.”
Florida A&M is a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and competes against Howard, Morgan State, Coppin State, Maryland Eastern Shore, Delaware State, Norfolk State, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central, Bethune-Cookman and South Carolina State.
On Thursday, the MEAC joined a growing list of conferences across the nation to announce suspension of the 2020 fall sports schedule in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic.