Nov. 3, 2011
By Nic Hallisey
Athletic Media Relations
CSU vs. Wyoming - Senior Night
Friday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. - Moby Arena
Youth and students get in free; Residence Hall Challenge
Senior opposite hitter Katelyn Steffan has lived in Colorado for more than four years and has yet to find something she doesn’t like about the Centennial State. The Dickinson, N.D. native came to Fort Collins in hopes of a successful volleyball career at Colorado State University but found so much more.
“I came out to Fort Collins for a visit and immediately fell in love,” Steffan said. “I fell in love with the campus, the city of Fort Collins, the community, the team and coaches. There wasn’t a single thing, and still to this day I feel the same way, that I didn’t like.”
Entering her final regular-season match at Moby Arena Friday, Steffan has played in 370 career sets, has amassed 830 kills and more than 300 blocks. With at least three more weeks guaranteed in the 2011 season, she could finish her career with more than 900 kills and be among the winningest players in program history. Including her redshirt season in 2007, she has been a part of 114 wins (114-30, .792 winning percentage), including a 69-7 record (.908) at Moby Arena.
Steffan is inching closer to her fourth Mountain West title and has already played in nine NCAA tournament matches and has aided the Rams to eight wins over ranked opponents, including three in the top 10
Steffan credits much of her success to Head Coach Tom Hilbert.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of success at CSU,” Steffan said. “Tom keeps us grounded. He makes sure that we’re aware that it can be taken from us at any point; that keeps the drive in our practices and games, to really keep going after more.”
As for her favorite moment at CSU, it’s a tossup between the three top-10 wins: Beating No. 8 Florida her redshirt freshman season, defeating No. 6 Washington to advance to the Sweet 16 in 2009 or the Rams’ win over No. 5 Nebraska in September.
CSU’s win against Florida was the first match Steffan ever played in at Moby Arena, perhaps a good omen for what was to come.
“Those wins were so surreal,” Steffan said. “It’s moments like that you will always remember.”
Those moments, though, almost never happened for Steffan, who stood at a crossroads during her senior year of high school.
“I almost didn’t come to CSU,” she said. “I almost didn’t play volleyball.”
Standing at 6-4, Steffan has always had the size advantage to block opponents’ attacks, but her size was also an advantage on the basketball court. Steffan seriously listened to basketball scholarship offers from schools across the country, while mostly looking locally for volleyball.
That changed when she visited CSU for the first time.
“When I came here to visit I loved the coaches and players,” Steffan said. “I watched a game at Moby; the playing environment was awesome and it allowed me to give volleyball a lot more consideration than I originally was.”
Basketball had always been Steffan’s thing, but she was starting to feel burned out. She ultimately chose the sport she thought would be most fulfilling.
“I looked at the effects each sport would have on my body in the long run,” she said. “I had played basketball since I was little and volleyball was still new to me. I chose the sport that made me happier.”
As for how the decision panned out?
“I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason,” Steffan said. “I was destined to come here. Nowhere else would have been this rewarding. How much I love CSU and the campus and the people I’ve met here, it’s different thinking about not having all of them in my life.”
At the beginning of the season, Steffan switched to the left side, a new position for the outside hitter.
“It’s unreal how well she’s transitioned,” Hilbert said. “Man, she’s doing a great job. It’s really something else.”
Entering the Rams’ home finale, Steffan leads the Mountain West in both kills and points per set. Her kills-per-set average is the second highest among CSU players in the past decade.
In conference play, her numbers are even higher, averaging 4.06 kills and 4.86 points. She has led the Rams in kills 15 times this year, and ranks fifth in the MW in hitting percentage (.351), sixth in service aces (0.28 per set), and is just outside the top 10 in blocks (0.91). She is the top outside hitter in the conference in terms of kills and hitting percentage, twice has been awarded the MW Player of the Week honor and has earned two tournament MVP awards.
“She’s always been a great blocker,” Hilbert said. “That’s what she’s done for us. Now, she’s not just a great blocker, but she’s a great all-around player. She really understands how to be good at that left-side spot. She plays really low error, she makes smart decisions. I would never have guessed she would be as efficient as she is. Had I known that, I might have put her there earlier.”
The lone senior on the Rams’ roster will graduate in December with a family and consumer sciences degree. Due to her redshirt season in 2007, the group she came in with graduated this past year, which she admits was difficult.
But it also gave her a chance to take on a leadership role she had never experienced before.
“The coolest thing that she’s bringing to us this year is maturity,” Hilbert said. “She’s stepping into an all-around playing role after we lost so many good volleyball players. We lost Jacque (Davisson), we lost our libero (Audrey Hemmings), we lost Evan (Sanders). Handling the ball and that kind of stuff was going to be our Achilles heel.
“She’s come in and has been a real stabilizing factor for our team,” Hilbert said. “She’s always been sort of a leader but not like she is this year. She’s matured so much in four years. She’s so quiet and she never really communicated a whole lot. Now she’s communicating, even if it’s in a quiet way. She has good presence. She’s the leader. She’s the captain. That’s been really neat to see.”
After Steffan’s final go-around at CSU, she has pondered the idea of playing professionally overseas. In fact, when Nova KBM, a national team from Slovenia, played CSU in September, its coach marveled at how well Steffan would do internationally.
However, the thought of leaving her new home is a little bit unsettling.
“I love Colorado,” she said. “CSU and the Fort Collins area have so much to offer to me and I hope to stay here. I’ve found my home in Colorado and I’m very drawn to the state. I even have a Colorado driver’s license; I’m a Colorado girl now.”