Four years ago, Kate Varde came to the East Hill as a promising point guard prospect for the women’s basketball team. Then-sophomore teammate Jenny Todd ’03 said about Varde, “We have a very good point guard in Kate Varde whose coming off a knee injury. She’s recuperated very well, probably one of our faster people.”
Varde was never the force on the hardcourt that was expected of her when she was recruited, playing in just six games while averaging 2.2 points in those contests. Struggling with her balky knees, Varde left the lady cagers and headed for greener pastures — literally — on the softball diamond.
The switch proved to be a blessing for the softball team. In her first year, Varde led the team in home runs, hits, runs and slugging percentage while garnering Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Varde’s talent was evident on the field, as her athletic ability in a variety of areas was not lost on softball coach Dick Blood.
“Kate’s a five-tool player,” Blood said. “When she gets on base, we don’t have to use the bunt to get her over. She’s blessed with power at the plate, she also hits for average. She covers a lot of ground in the outfield, and she’s got a cannon for an arm.”
Since her auspicious arrival on the softball diamond, Varde has become one of the Red’s pillars. A first-team All-Ivy League selection in the past three years, Varde set the Cornell single-season record in runs, and also improved her totals in stolen bases, at-bats and total bases among many others. Making her mark as the Red’s Hank Aaron, Varde is at the top of the all-time home run list, hitting a career total of 28 bombs in her first three years.
This year, Varde has continued her fine form, batting .317 while compiling a .561 slugging percentage. She also has nine home runs to go along with 30 RBIs. Yet, testament to her selfless nature as a former basketball point guard, Varde’s first priority is her team.
“Kate Varde plays to win,” Blood said. “That’s really all she cares about. She’s not into individual stats, she’s really into winning, she’s all about winning.”
While Varde’s career has been highlighted with a variety of successes including an All-ECAC first team selection last year, her contributions have resonated with a team which has a 39-11 record this year and a season which has led the Red to their first Ivy League title since 2001.
Although Varde’s play has been exceptional during her career, she attributes much of her success to Blood. While she will remember the Red’s victories, especially the ones over Ivy League rivals, Varde said that one experience she will look back on is watching the play of teammate, junior Lauren May.
“Watching [May] leap into the sky or making a diving play or a throw, that’s one thing that I’ll miss a lot,” Varde said.
Off the field, Blood said that Varde is easy-going and down to earth, while staying committed to the team at all times. Calling her a “gamer,” Blood will miss her determination and intensity on the diamond.
“We’re blessed with Kate Varde,” Blood said. “She’s one of the finest players I’ve ever coached, one of the finest I’ve ever seen play.”
Even though Varde is not the starting point guard at Newman Arena which many projected her to be, her selflessness and humility are still evident — even as she picks up her diploma four years later. In the future, Varde hopes to be working in sports psychology — a field which is based on helping and guiding other athletes. And true to Varde’s humble fashion, she was surprised and honored when she found out about her selection as The Sun’s Athlete of the Year.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” Varde said. “It’s absolutely amazing and not something I expected at all.”
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Senior Editor