Steffan's switch: Move to left side giving Dickinson native a big senior year at Colorado StateKatelyn Steffan wanted to do what was best for her team. She never thought the decision would lead to her playing her best volleyball in her final season at Colorado State.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Katelyn Steffan wanted to do what was best for her team. She never thought the decision would lead to her playing her best volleyball in her final season at Colorado State.
“It’s been a surprising year,” Steffan said.
The 2007 Dickinson High School graduate is now a senior for the No. 20-ranked Rams and has had a flying start to her final season in Fort Collins.
Through 11 matches this season, Steffan has a team-high 132 kills, 31 blocks and a .231 hitting percentage. She ranks second in the Mountain West Conference in kills and has accounted for a team-best 159 points.
Last season, she had 119 kills in 31 matches.
The sudden uptick in production is owed mostly to a position change, she said.
Colorado State head coach Tom Hilbert moved the 6-foot-4 standout from the right outside hitter spot to left-side hitter before the season.
It sounds simple. But it made Steffan change the way she approached the game.
“You have to really be patient at that position,” Steffan said. “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.”
While there are set plays designed for the left-side hitter, junk balls and misplayed sets are usually hers for the taking.
“At that position, you’re not given the best of situations,” Hilbert said. “She gets a lot more junk. She has to take care of the ball in difficult situations. That’s where she’s relied upon to take more swings than anyone on our team and to perform night in and night out.”
Behind Steffan’s match-high 14 kills and four blocks, the Rams swept new Mountain West opponent Boise State (25-13, 25-17, 25-20) on Saturday night.
She had a career-high 21 kills in loss to Wichita State on Sept. 9.
Hilbert said his goals for Steffan this season were not outrageous. He doesn’t need her to be an All-America caliber player. He just wants her to be solid.
“You know, lead our team, and that’s what she’s doing,” Hilbert said.
Steffan has come a long way since she was North Dakota’s Class A high school player of the year after leading the Midgets to back-to-back state championships in 2005 and 2006.
In four successful seasons at Colorado State, she has helped the Rams win three Mountain West championships and qualify for the NCAA tournament each season.
Steffan has done so from almost every position on the court, too. She has played four different positions.
That’s much of the reason why Steffan says her most recent position switch wasn’t too jarring.
Steffan spent her first season at her natural position, middle hitter, before moving to the right side. In the spring between her sophomore and junior seasons, she trained as a setter when one of her teammates was forced out by an injury.
“The next season — when I was a right side hitter — 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,” Steffan said. “We had options. We had a bit of an offense if our setter got taken out of the play.”
While the Rams are just getting started with their conference schedule, Steffan said the team’s goal is clear: win the Mountain West and get back to the NCAA tournament.
“We’re a top contender in our conference every year,” Steffan said. “I’ve already been a part of three conference titles. I don’t think I’d settle for anything less my senior year.”