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Originally published Monday, November 8, 2010 at 8:38 PM

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Zoe Gogan takes big-time volleyball talent to state

After a wobbly start in athletics, the Mount Si senior is now a league MVP who takes high hopes into this week's state tournament.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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FALL CITY — Kevin Gogan figured the genes were goofy.

"We checked the DNA right away," he teased.

Here he was, a 6-foot-8 former NFL star with two Super Bowl rings, certain some of his athletic talent would matriculate to his four children. And there was his second-oldest daughter, Zoe, all arms and legs and as wobbly as a newborn colt.

Even Zoe laughs about it now.

"I wasn't necessarily the most coordinated kid," she said. "I fell a lot."

And Kevin's eyes indicate that's putting it mildly.

"We have video," he said.

But Mount Si High School volleyball coach Bonnie Foote saw Zoe's potential in middle school, when she was already 5-10, and told her parents they should get her involved in club volleyball. Kevin and Heather, who met when they were students at the University of Washington, did just that and Zoe developed into one of the top players in the area, good enough to earn a volleyball scholarship from Washington State.

"I didn't see it coming, believe me," a laughing Kevin said, recalling some comical gymnastics moments for his daughter, as well.

But over the next couple of years, Zoe went from klutz to clutch. She became a starter for Mount Si as a sophomore and earned KingCo 3A/2A MVP honors as a junior.

Video of her today portrays a poised, powerful player who delivers her best performances in the biggest matches.

"She's a gamer," Foote said.

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And this week Zoe, now 6-2, plays the most important games of her prep career as Mount Si looks to improve on last year's sixth-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

"We're looking for her to be big-time for us this week," Foote said.

Eastside Catholic coach Andrew Ness expects it, too.

"She has quite the presence on the court and has the ability to take over the game," said Ness, who has coached Zoe at the club level. "She is a player you have to account for every second she is on the court."

Zoe feeds off the intensity of big matches.

"I really like the competition and getting into it with your team and getting into a rhythm," she said.

And she loves getting better. So in that respect, not being a natural athlete at a young age was the perfect challenge.

"I like to get better," she said.

Foote said her coachability is one of Zoe's best assets.

"She is so hardworking," Foote said. "She's the kind of kid that if you ask her to make a change, she'll do it. She's got a great attitude and she's just been a great teammate."

Zoe gets some coaching from Kevin, an offensive guard who was part of four bowl teams with the Huskies from 1983 to '87 and was an eighth-round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys. He earned Super Bowl rings with the Cowboys in 1992 and '93 and was selected to the Pro Bowl in '94, '97 and '98.

Kevin, a volunteer assistant with the Mount Si football team, has a penchant for perfection.

"He doesn't really say too much, but if you do something wrong, you'll hear about it," Zoe said. "He doesn't really yell a lot."

Kevin's motto: "I require effort and attitude, and then everything else takes care of itself."

Kevin, who retired from football in 2001, prides himself on never missing a practice during his 14-year pro career.

Zoe suffered her first injury of note when she hyperextended her right knee at midseason. She missed five matches, but was still voted league MVP again and is now back 100 percent. She averages nearly five kills per set and has made just 9 percent hitting errors.

The sixth-ranked Wildcats suffered just their third loss of the season in the Sea-King 3A District championship match Saturday, falling to Eastside Catholic in four sets. They have dreams of a big finish at state.

"We all want to win," Zoe said. "We've talked about it all season, how we can do it."

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com

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