FAIRBANK — It was bound to happen.
A team loses its top two offensive producers, statistically. Someone must fill the role.
Odds are it would be senior outside hitter Hannah Knight. Knight was third on the team in kills in 2021 with 140 on 440 attempts, adding 9.5 total blocks, five assists 49 aces and 295 digs.
The way she’s gone about it, however, has even some within the program surprised. Twenty-one matches into the season, Knight has eclipsed her junior year production in kills (148) and kill attempts (440) with at least a third of the season’s schedule remaining.
She also has 151 digs, 17 aces and nine total blocks prior to a multiple-match-in-three-days run.
“Having someone step up and fill that role, Hannah’s had more opportunities to get those kills and numbers,” head coach Austin Shepherd said. “Now we have it more spread out and have more people to come up and step up and own it. It felt like it would be a free for all, but she’s stepped into that lead role.”
Added classmate, setter and longtime teammate and friend, “She has a lot more experience than some of our younger girls. Knowing that, the job is to get her the ball as much as possible, and then mix it around.
“On bad passes or tight situations, the first thought is ‘Find Hannah. Find her and have her put it away.’”
Again, Knight knew it was expected of her. She was fine with it, even reveled in it. The other aspect, the leadership role, is something she is still getting used to. Knight has a large group of classmates, which has helped.
“It’s kind of hard for me because I’m a naturally quieter person; I don’t talk that much,” Knight said. “To have to step up into this role has really made me come out of my comfort zone in every aspect.
“It’s a little more difficult because I know that I always have to be on during a game since I’m an outlet player and I have to push the other girls to step up, too.”
Matthias noted she and Knight are “sharing the leadership position” and including fellow seniors Emma Jones, Macy Ott and Kalvyn Rosengarten.
“For a majority of the senior class, it is out of their comfort zone,” Shepherd said of being a vocal leader. “Everybody we go to (during camps) or guest we’ve had come in to help us has commented, ‘You girls have to be loud.’
“They’re loud in the hallways and everything; it’s just finding that voice on the court with each other. I think the whole senior class has stepped up, and especially Hannah, in being more vocal. You’re seeing them become more comfortable and it’s starting to become more natural.”