Below is my interview with Colorado State volleyball standout Katelyn Steffan on Tuesday night.
Steffan, a 2006 Dickinson High School graduate, leads the 20th-ranked Rams with 113 kills after making the move to the prominent left-side hitter position in this, her senior season.
I’m working on a feature article on Steffan to run this week. But first, here’s a look at our interview.
DM: We’ve been watching you online and it seems like you’re having a really good season so far. Overall, what can you say about your year to this point?
KS: It’s been a surprising year. A little surprising, a little frustrating. We lost five good players last year and everyone kind of thought we were going to struggle this year and it was going to be a rebuilding year and then we came out and we won our first three games and won our big tournament against three big teams that will be in the NCAA tournament. We beat the No. 5-ranked team, Nebraska, who is usually a Final Four. That’s kind of been a really surprising and very high point in our season so far. We’ve also kind of had some frustrating losses against teams we shouldn’t have lost to. We had a team meeting today about some stuff. I think we’re really going to get back on track and have a good rest of the season.
Talk about the switch from right side to left side. What does it mean, to the lay person, to make the move?
The left-side hitter is really a key player on the team. You get a lot of sets that are out of system. The balls that are kind of dug, but not really dug to the net. Your sets are kind of all over the place. I’ve been playing the outside hitter in the rotation that kind of gets more out-of-system sets than the other outside hitter. You have to really be patient at that position. You don’t get a lot of sets that allow you to bury the ball and get huge kills. It’s more technique and placing balls in certain spots. You do get the occasional big kills. But a lot of the kills just come from being smart with different sets you get.
Yet, somehow you’re having a great season on the kills side. You’re on track to have your best season ever there. Why do you think that is?
I think just moving me to the left side. I see the game differently on the left side. I think my vision of the game has really improved. I’m just a smarter player on the left side. It has allowed me to get a few more kills and be more productive for this team.
It’s a heck of a thing. It’s like leading a top 25 basketball team in points. It’s a big deal, how good of a season you’re having right now. Did you ever expect to be the one everyone looks to to come up with the points and the big hits.
Just being such a big competitor, I think I’ve always been ready to take on a role like this. It’s nice that it’s my senior season that it’s happening. It feels good. One of my goals looking into the season was I wanted to go out with a bang. I want to leave this program and make my mark. I think I’ve started off a good season so far to do that.
Your hitting percentage is down a little bit this year, is that because of the move to left side?
The middle hitter will always have the highest efficiency — or should. Then it goes to the right side and then it’s the left. That’s because the left side gets so many sets that are balls that are just kind of thrown at you from random angles and you have to put them in the court. If you’re hitting high .100’s or low .200’s then you’re having a great game as a left-side hitter.
Did your coach (Tom Hilbert) say to you, ‘OK Kate, this is your year. This is when we want you to take control of this team.’ Did they give you that kind of speech at all?
It was right after our conditioning test. I passed the conditioning test and he comes over to me and gives me a hug and says, ‘Let’s have a great season Kate.’ I was kind of worried but it’s like, ‘OK, you’re it, let’s do this.’
Do you feel like you have been building to this point? You’ve had to play second fiddle to a lot of really good players.
My assistant coach is who I credit a lot of our success in blocking to. They’ve seen me as one of the best technical blockers on the team since I got here. I love my role on the right side because I got to shut down the other team’s outside hitter. That was kind of my role on the team. If I’m not blocking well, I’m not doing my job. Even going into this season, I was kind of expected to play on the right side, having that comfortability and success on the right side. Moving to the left it’s like, well you’re old enough and you need to conform to this position right now. I’ve played four different positions at this school. It’s just learning something new again.
As a freshman, you started out as a middle hitter. What are the other positions you’ve played?
As a freshman I started out in middle. Then I moved to right side. Two spring seasons ago, I set for us. Now this year, I’ve went to the outside. Me and one other girl got trained as setters, just because our starting setter broke her ankle. We ran an offense when we got to the back row, we would set and when we got the front row, we would hit. The next season, when I was a right side hitter, then if our setter took the first ball and I took the next one, we could run sets at the middle instead of those teams just having to set an outside ball. We had options. We had a bit of an offense if our setter got taken out of the play.
You’re just starting the conference schedule this week. What’s the goal? Is it to win the conference this year?
I think we’re a top contender in our conference every year. I’ve already been a part of three conference titles. I don’t think I’d settle for anything less my senior year.