Minnesota Volleyball Magazine sat down with senior Kyla Roehrig to talk about her career, her 1,000th career kill and her expectations of her senior season. Last week, Roehrig became one just 19 players in school history to reach 1,000 career kills.
Minnesota Volleyball Magazine: You sat out the spring after having shoulder surgery. Talk about that process and what you did to make sure you would be ready to have a strong senior season?
Kyla Roehrig: “We found out at the end of the year there was something wrong with my shoulder. We were not sure what it was. In the spring season, I found out it was a torn labrum. I could have played through it, and not made the injury any worse. However, it would have been very painful and tough to play through. I had surgery on it in February. As fall camp came, I was trying to get back to being loose because my shoulder was really tight. It affected me a little bit going into the season, but it has been better as we’ve progressed this season.
While I was sitting out, I was not sure if I was going to play. Katie (Vatterrodt) and Hailey (Cowles) both had great spring seasons at outside hitter. I was determined to play my senior year, and I worked extra hard in preseason to make sure I could play and help my team in every possible way. I wanted to make sure if I was not hitting well that I could block better. Whatever I could do to help the team, I wanted make sure I was ready to take it on as I started my senior season.”
MVM: Did you pick up anything in the spring while sitting back from afar and observing the team?
KR: “Spring was a great time for me to see who I was as a person and who I was as an athlete. I was mainly trying to figure out what role I was taking on this team. I knew after sitting out the spring, I would have to figure out a role and build it up in the preseason when I came back. It was hard to watch everyone playing and not be out there, but it helped me figure out some additional things I could do to help the team off the court.”
MVM: What type of leadership role do you try to play on this team as a senior?
KR: “I think we have good leadership set up right now. Kelly (Schmidt) is our captain. She sees everything and communicates well with the coaches. I am on the court telling people where to go, where to be and how we should do things. Rachel (Hartmann) is taking her leadership role and figuring out who is getting what set, where they should be and the best timing to go to them in key situations. Katie (Vatterrodt) has also done a good job of using her experience with the program to help everyone. We all work together. As seniors we all wanted to make sure we were on the same page and everybody had trust in one another going into the season. That has been a big reason for our early success.”
MVM: Talk about your bond with the three other seniors on the team.
KR: “Our bond started before we got to the University of Minnesota. We were all playing against each other every year in club volleyball, and that helped us get to know each other. We knew each other, knew we were all going to Minnesota and our bond kept strengthening from there. We are more like sisters than teammates. This year, we really want to leave a mark on Minnesota volleyball. Our freshman year, we were still trying to figure out what the program was all about. The last two years we have played our roles and tried to help out the seniors on the team to be successful. Now we are seniors in our last season. We know what type of team we want to have, and what our goals are. Now it is time for us to go out and show what we can do, and leave our mark on the program.”
MVM: What have you learned about yourself in your time with the program?
KR: “I am a person who wants people to feel comfortable approaching me and talking to me. I like to talk to people, help them out and work through situations to be successful. I think I have been able to open up and do that a lot more as I have advanced in my career here. It is kind of scary thinking about the real world. I want to get into business and marketing, which requires a lot of networking. I think volleyball has really helped me be sociable and a person who is out there getting to know people. That is something that can help me moving forward with whatever I end up doing.”
MVM: You worked with Nao Ikeda (Director of Volleyball Operations) this past off-season? Talk about how that experience helped you?
KR: “It was a great experience working with Nao. She is so detailed. Nao wants to get things done, and does a great job of making sure you stay on track get it done the right. I enjoyed seeing all the details that go into making our trips and other events with our program happen successfully. It is cool to be behind the scenes, and see how she works to make sure things are easier for us.”
MVM: How proud are you of becoming the 19th player in the program’s history to reach the career 1,000-kill mark?
KR: “As a freshman my role was more of right-side hitter who came in occasionally, and I was already surprised when I was going in. As a sophomore and junior I knew my team was counting on my to terminate and produce kills to help our team. Now I try to be that player who can get us a tough point in a big spot, and can also provide leadership on and off the court.
“The 1,000 kills were a great accomplishment, and I am proud to join some of the great players who have reached the mark in our program. Cassie (Busse) and Erin (Martin) are around practice sometimes. To see them, and watch Nicole Branagh on TV, and join them as part of that exclusive club makes me proud and confident about my ability and what I am able to accomplish on the court.”
MVM: How exciting was it to play in front of all your friends and family at Omaha to open the season?
KR: “It was a lot of fun. I had about 52 fans with bright yellow t-shirts rooting me on in Nebraska. It is exciting to still have fans in Omaha even though I am at the University Minnesota. Now those people know about Minnesota volleyball, and follow us on a regular basis. They always welcome me, and talk about Minnesota when I come home. I think it is cool that they care about both Minnesota and Nebraska now. Our goal as a team is to play at a high enough level so we will get the chance to make the return trip back to Omaha for the NCAA Final Four in December.
MVM: Talk about the journey of your career, coming from Omaha to play at the University of Minnesota?
KR: “My journey started when my sister was playing up here with Michigan State for women’s basketball. I decided to take a visit to Minnesota during one of her games. We visited, and I fell in love with the campus, the fans and everything about the program. They were nice to me even though my sister was with Michigan State. It was a great experience, and it has continued to be very positive throughout my career. Now I want to stay here, and call this area home even after I am done playing for the University of Minnesota.”
MVM: Now that you are in your senior season, talk about the bond you have had with your sister sharing the different athletic experiences you have each had?
KR: “It has been great, because she had already been through her career as a college athlete when I started. She has constantly told me what to expect throughout my career, which has helped a lot. It has been very helpful to talk back and forth about our different experiences. In her senior season, Michigan State went to the national championship game and had a special run. I would love to follow her experiences of having a special senior season like she did. Another way she has helped me is that she has grown up, come back and told me things she wished she could have done, and now I get to do those things. It’s cool that she has been through the same experiences and has been able to help me throughout my career.”