Bellevue West senior expands athletic abilities

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There were times when she wanted to quit. The first time, Kate Liveringhouse was a gangly and uncoordinated seventh grader who was told she may not make the summer league basketball team. This was around the same time she met former Bellevue West coach Matt Fritsche and current coach Marc Kruger.

The second time she wanted to quit was after her first year at Omaha Marian. Liveringhouse didn’t think she had improved from middle school to tenth grade and felt though as if her ultimate goal of playing Division 1 basketball would be unreachable.

Long before she was a 6’1” Thunderbird post player, Liveringhouse was in her early years of elementary school, right around the time Fritsche began his career at Bellevue West in 2002. As long as she could remember, playing sports was always part of her life.

“I’ve played a lot of sports and I think basketball is the most fun and what I put the most time in, so I thought that was the best way to go,” Liveringhouse said.

It was also early on in her youth when Liveringhouse knew basketball was the sport for her.

“Kate has been around the game for most of her life. Her step-father was a college basketball coach and she has spent hours in grade school, high school, and college gyms. Whether she was playing or watching, she always wanted to know about the game and the players,” Kate’s mother, Tressa Jungers said.

As Liveringhouse transitioned to middle school, the coach she had gotten closer with during the summers led Bellevue West to three Class A State Championships in a four year span.

Her relationship with the two Thunderbird coaches grew stronger as did her familiarity with the 2013 senior girls. Being around the Bellevue West program before leaving Marian helped her figure out what she needed to do to get to the upper tiers of collegiate athletics.

Liveringhouse’s transition from royal blue and white to purple and gold wasn’t easy.

Transferring to an unfamiliar place is tough, but she believed she made the right move to reach her goal.

“I wanted to transfer right at the beginning of my sophomore season, because over the summer I didn’t do any preparation. From my eighth grade year through my freshman year I hadn’t gotten any better. I didn’t transfer only for basketball but that was a big reason why I chose Bellevue West,” Liveringhouse said.

She knew she had made the right decision about Bellevue West before even stepping foot inside the school. Liveringhouse had spent summers with Thunderbird basketball players and coaches.

In April of 2012, Fritsche left Bellevue West after a decade to become head coach of the women’s basketball team at Midland University in Fremont, NE.

Fritsche is currently an assistant coach at Creighton University of the women’s basketball team. Fritsche couldn’t comment on Liveringhouse, a commit of another university, due to NCAA rules.

“When she first transferred I was just the assistant. I had known Kate for a couple years before from summer leagues. She knew some of our kids on summer teams so I think that’s where it all started,” girls basketball head coach, Marc Kruger said.

As Liveringhouse made her way to Bellevue West, everyone around her that she counted on, supported her decision to transfer.

“We wanted her to be at a school that had good academics and a positive environment, both socially and athletically,” Jungers said.

From her first day at West, Kruger has watched Liveringhouse develop on and off the court.

“When she first moved here she was actually in my class as a sophomore because Marian doesn’t have American History for freshman. She fit right in and participated as if she was here all along and I think her personality helped her fit in socially first, and then athletically,” Kruger said. “Knowing those kids before, it was a pretty easy transition. The kids were happy she was here, she wasn’t viewed as someone who was here to take someone’s spot.”

Two years after leaving Marian, Liveringhouse has grown into her body and is a powerful force on the Thunderbird team. Liveringhouse leads Bellevue West this season with 192 total points, 42 free throws, 99 rebounds, 11 blocks and averages 18 points per game.

As a leader of the Thunderbird basketball team, Liveringhouse has high expectations to get back to the State Championship game in Lincoln on March 8.

“Kate has high expectations for herself. She has always had goals she wanted to accomplish. I don’t feel there has ever been a time she didn’t want to play, but maybe we encouraged her to focus on one aspect of her game above and beyond the required practice time,” Jungers said.

Liveringhouse has led the Thunderbirds in scoring so far this season and she is seen as a star player on the team in charge of handling the strong athletes on the court.

“Kate plays a lot of roles for us. She is our leading scorer, I feel one of the best players in the state and we depend on her to score for us and guard other teams big kids to rebound and to be a leader on and off the court,” Kruger said.

Liveringhouse’s parents knew she had the the ability all along, and she has put in lots of time to make herself into the basketball player she is today.

“Kate has spent early mornings going to the gym, she has spent her summers travelling to practice and tournaments, and off season strength and conditioning. We are very proud of her commitment and the example she is setting for her younger brothers,” Jungers said.

Even though she has dedicated tireless hours under the hoops, there are other things in life for Liveringhouse.

“She has a really great perspective on things. Basketball is really really important but it’s not the end of the world for her,” Kruger said.

Her ultimate goal since sitting in the bleachers as a kid, watching her step-dad John coach his teams, was to play Division I basketball. And her dream is just a handful of months away from becoming realized.

Early in the school year, Liveringhouse made countless visits to universities. No other college made an impact like the University of South Dakota.

“I went on my unofficial visit and took a tour of the campus, I had taken some other tours and been to other schools,” Liveringhouse said. “When I went to USD the weather was so nice out and people were so nice. We were in the middle of the campus and I was like, ‘yep, I’m going here.'”

Liveringhouse liked what South Dakota and what head coach Amy Williams had to offer to her. Amy Williams is in her second season as the head women’s basketball coach at the University of South Dakota. Williams was named the Coyote head coach on June 4, 2012.

Williams saw Liveringhouse play at last year’s State Championship game, in which the T-birds fell short.

After the upsetting outcome in the title game, Liveringhouse knew she had to dedicate her summer and season to get back to that same stage.

“Going into [last year’s] State Championship we were so excited and almost over-confident, and we kind of got hit in the mouth and couldn’t come back from that,” Liveringhouse said. “Afterwards I didn’t want to hear anything, talk to anyone, we were all crying, It’s just the worst feeling. But that’s what our motivation is for this year. Just unfinished business.”

Liveringhouse counts on her teammates just as much as she counts her coaches and parents.

“I rely on my teammates the whole entire game. As a post, you don’t get the ball unless it’s from a rebound or unless they pass it to you. I depend on them a lot and they are really great teammates,” Liveringhouse said.

Besides graduating from Bellevue West in May, Liveringhouse’s eyes are on the Championship plaque, that was just out of her reach last season.

“We have to play as a team and trust in our coach to do what is best for the team as a whole and we can’t be selfish and do what we can,” Liveringhouse said.

Like any other program, West believes this is their year. But unlike most teams in the state, the Thunderbirds have the credentials fit for a rebirth in the title game.

“I think they all are really focused. They have a motto that they put on a sweatshirt, ‘Unfinished Business'” They have that ability and go down there to win the state tournament,” Kruger said.

As a Thunderbird, Liveringhouse grew with the girls around her. She transferred from Omaha Marian three years ago to make an impact on the court far more than she could have accomplished in royal blue and white.

“Our program here opened up more opportunities for her to play college basketball, and she wanted to be with players that wanted to be as good as her and would push each other to become better,” Kruger said.

Liveringhouse’s transition from purple and gold to black, red and white won’t be easy. But with her determination and self-driving attitude, that transition to Division I may not be so hard after all.

“Basketball has taken Kate to new places and meet new people from different areas of the country. It has taken her out of her comfort zone and continues to expose her to how much opportunity there is on and off the court,” Jungers said.

It has been five and a half years since she was lanky and graceless. Liveringhouse came to Bellevue West to win. And besides a few losses, that is exactly what she has done.

Nick Wilkinson
Sports Editor