Just about a month into her freshman year, freshman volleyball player Kristen Casey is already a big hit. The 5’11” outside hitter has already been an impact player, helping lead the Crimson to an 8-5 start.
“She’s light-years ahead of where she ought to be as a freshman,” said co-captain and libero Christine Wu.
Though Casey is a versatile player, she has been most effective as an outside hitter. But she remains a threat in every element of the game—she’s second on the team with 134 kills, and her 114 digs are third-best on the squad.
“She’s very much fitting into our system,” Harvard coach Jen Weiss said. “She’s the missing piece to our puzzle ... She’s a strong, athletic volleyball player with a really diverse game.”
This past weekend, she recorded career-highs with 19 kills and 22 digs in a five-game victory over Ivy-League rival Penn—the only other school she strongly considered as a recruit. Casey was dominant throughout the contest, recording the last point in a come-from-behind victory.
“[It] was a smart hit over the block,” co-captain Sandra Lynne Fryhofer said of Casey’s last shot. “It really showed what type of player she is ... She could have just gone for the big kill, but instead found the right spot on the court.”
Despite Casey’s individual success, the Crimson’s play is a balanced effort rather than one that relies heavily on a few key players. To excel within the scheme, Harvard's players have to remain within the team concept.
“There isn’t responsibility on any one player,” Fryhofer said. “Everyone has to focus on playing their position and not trying to do too much.”
In addition to her strengths on the court, Casey also seems to bring a sense of calm and composure uncommon in freshmen.
“[Casey is] a competitive and confident player,” Fryhofer added. “She goes all out, and if she makes a mistake, she gets over it and moves onto the next play. She has a desire that you can’t teach.”
So far, Casey has had little trouble adjusting to the Crimson’s system—a success which can largely be attributed to her work with the team before the start of the season.
Before coming to Harvard, she visited the campus several times, not only to get a sense of life at the school but also to train with the Crimson squad.
“She’s been on campus quite a few times, and she has fit right in like we thought she would,” Weiss said. “She’s fit in great, both athletically and academically.”
Her success so far is hardly a surprise. The high-school standout garned a number of accolades in the sport during her career before Harvard.
At The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, Calif., Casey was selected to PrepVolleyball.com’s Academic All-American team, and was an All-San Diego Section Division IV first team pick in 2009 and 2010.