LAREDO — College recruiters didn’t exactly knock down Kristi’s Gomez’s door after her senior season at PSJA Memorial.

It wasn’t like the 5-foot-9 outside hitter’s outstanding play went unnoticed. Gomez earned District MVP and was an All-Valley selection with the Wolverines. She possessed outstanding physical skills and was solid in the classroom.

Still, only Laredo College came calling, and she signed with the Palominos in April 2018. Fast forward nearly two years, and Gomez now looks like the one that got away given her remarkable performance on the court in 2019.

Gomez is the National Junior College Athletic Association’s leader in kills, kills per set, total attacks and total points. Gomez recorded 654 kills for Laredo College in 2019 — more than anyone in the country on the two-year college level.

“My freshman year I was more timid. I would get my points, but it wasn’t like my sophomores (teammates),” Gomez said. “But when I became a sophomore, I wanted to make those points. I wanted to make a difference.”

Gomez spearheaded Laredo College’s attack alongside her sister Deserey Gomez. Kristi Gomez wasn’t just a kill artist, either. In addition to her 1,699 attacks, 4.77 kills per set and 715 total points, the 21-year-old also recorded 409 digs. She started all 38 matches in 2019 for Laredo College.

She was particularly dominant toward the end of the season. In the Palominos’ last 13 matches, Gomez notched more than 20 kills nine times including hitting a season high 29 twice — against Blinn College and Coastal Bend College.

What makes Gomez’s success even more surprising is that it belied her approach to volleyball as she entered the collegiate ranks.

“When I was going to sign with LC, my mentality was not to be an outside hitter,” said Gomez, who added that Laredo coaches wanted her to step into the outside hitting position soon after she arrived on campus. “I did struggle playing outside, but my teammates and my coaches really helped. I got more comfortable the more games I played at that position. It’s been fun.”

First listed as a middle blocker her freshman year, Gomez still racked up 324 kills. That was good enough for second-best on the team. But Gomez’s improvement has been extraordinary as she nearly doubled her stats in categories across the board.

She said her kills came in a variety of ways. At times she can jump high enough to smash the ball over the defense’s blockers. Other times, she picks her spots and gets the ball between defenders. At 5-foot-9, Gomez is not a prototypical collegiate-level outsider hitter, but clearly she has managed to get the job done combining experience with athleticism.

Laredo College, which plays in the ultra strong NJCAA Region I4 Conference along with 2019 national champion Navarro College, ended the season at 27-11 and made it to the conference championship final but lost to highly-ranked Panola College.

“We have no regrets,” Gomez said. “We played our hearts out. We left everything on the court. With that Panola team (ranked 18th nationally), we took them to four sets and nobody thought we could have done that.”

The Gomez sisters were a package deal for Laredo College. Deserey (213 kills, 357 digs, 284.5 points) more than carried her own weight with solid play. However, Kristi said the two have spoken and understand the pair may not be able to play together at the next level.

Gomez has not yet committed to a four-year school, but said she is weighing several and looks forward to a new experience as much she’s enjoyed playing for the Palominos.

“I love Laredo College. I love the campus. It’s beautiful,” Gomez said. “My experience here with the coaches, how they’ve helped me learn in difficult situations, and my teammates has all been very positive. I would not have done it any other way.”