Kat Fischer

Katherine Fischer kayaks with her niece, Ellen, in Lake Tahoe. A volleyball standout at Homestead High and the University of Oregon, Fischer recently moved back to the Bay Area from the Tahoe area. She works as a controller for the tech startup Branch.

It’s been several years since Katherine Fischer played volleyball at Homestead High and the University of Oregon. Still, the former Los Altos resident said she hasn’t lost her competitive edge.

“I still love to win,” Fischer said. “It has kind of translated to the work environment. I just want my company to do the best we can, and do whatever I can to help.”

Fischer, who recently returned to the Bay Area after living in Lake Tahoe, is a controller at the tech startup Branch, working in both accounting and management. She still makes time for volleyball, though, playing in the Industrial Volleyball League, as well as her work league – which isn’t quite as challenging for a former college volleyball star.

“I had to tone down my competitive spirit,” she said.

Fischer graduated from the University of Oregon in 2013 with a degree in accounting and finance. Her road to becoming an NCAA Division I athlete started in middle school. She played for Cupertino Middle School and also joined a club team at City Beach Volleyball.

By the time she reached high school, Fischer moved to the Vision Volleyball Club and also made the varsity team at Homestead. As a freshman, she started at outside hitter for the Mustangs. A two-team league MVP, Fischer served as team captain her junior and senior seasons.

Drive to thrive

More than a decade later, former Homestead coach Matt Hoffman vividly remembers just how good Fischer was on the court.

“Her want and her drive separated her from everyone else,” said Hoffman, now the head coach at San Francisco State. “She was great to coach. It’s not going to surprise me that she has that same work ethic today.”

In 2008, Fischer helped lead Homestead to its first state championship. Although the Mustangs lost, she called the experience the “best moment of my high school career.”

“People didn’t see it coming at all,” Fischer said. “We definitely rallied together and did what no one had done before for Homestead.”

Her list of club volleyball achievements is also long – it includes winning the Far Westerns National Qualifier, the Colorado Crossroads National Qualifier and the bronze medal in the USA Volleyball Junior Olympics.

Becoming a Duck

When the University of Oregon reached out during the recruiting process, Fischer said she quickly realized it was a good fit.

“I went up there for a camp and just loved everything about it,” she said. “The coaches were great, the girls were great and I quickly became onboard.”

Fischer called her overall experience at Oregon “challenging and rewarding.” A four-year starter, she holds several records, including ranking in the top 10 for most aces, digs, kills and kill attempts. She only missed four sets during her college career and helped the Ducks advance to the national championships in 2012.

Over the course of it all, Fischer maintained a 4.0 GPA and was the PAC-12 Senior Scholar-Athlete Award winner. Fischer said the hardest part of being a college student-athlete was managing both volleyball and academics.

“It was a balancing act, but I’m very happy I got an experience that I know a lot of people don’t,” she said. “It was a hugely defining experience in my life.”

These days, volleyball is just one of many activities she participates in. Fischer said she likes to hike, paddleboard, bike and run, and she was able to do a lot of that in Tahoe. However, nothing beats her time playing competitive volleyball.

“Definitely looking back, it feels like those were the glory days,” Fischer said. “It’s just really nice to watch old videos and just remember those good times with good friends, achieving amazing things.”