Kiger adjusts to play at the top level of NCAA

CLEVELAND – Two years ago, Kelly Kiger was selected to the All-Ohio Division II first team in volleyball. This year, her first year as a regular on the Cleveland State Vikings volleyball team, Kiger was honored by being named to the Horizon League All-Tournament team.

In discussing the transition from to high school to NCAA Division I, Kiger said, “It was hard when I first got here last year. Everybody was a good player in high school and it was hard to sit on the bench, getting to play on a limited basis. What made it a little easier was that the team was very good, and we won both the regular season and tournament championships and qualified for the NCAAs in 2012.”

Cleveland State’s 2012 season had five senior starters which opened up some spots in this year’s starting lineup of which Kiger was quick to take advantage.

“We worked hard in the offseason and I gained so much more strength,” said Kiger. “That is probably one of the biggest differences between high school and college volleyball; the strength of all the players.”

Due to the youth of this year’s CSU team, there were good days and bad days during the course of the season.

A middle hitter, Kiger recorded 120 blocks, 110 of which were block assists. The 120 blocks is the eighth highest total is CSU history.

“We weren’t expected to make it to the league tournament. In our last game, we needed to beat the top-ranked team in the league and we did, as we beat Milwaukee in five games.”

Beating third-seeded Oakland in the opening round, the Vikings advanced to the Horizon League semi finals before being ousted by Milwaukee. Milwaukee beat Valparaiso in the finals to earn the NCAA automatic bid.

Kiger recorded a total of 16 blocks and 12 kills in CSU’s two tournament games. She had eight blocks in each of the games, which tied a career high for the sophomore. Kiger had nine kills versus Milwaukee.

Home on break, Kiger revealed what the looming offseason workouts will be like as she gets ready for the 2014 Viking season.

“When we get back from Christmas break, we will have individual workouts one or two days per week. There will be weightlifting on the other days. After a few weeks of that, we will have one full team workout a day, five days a week, as we get ready to go to a couple of weekend tournaments toward the end of spring.”

A highly-recruited player coming out of high school, Kiger is happy that she picked Cleveland State after sifting through a multitude of Division I offers.

“I like how close we live to the buildings on campus. I am just across the street from the gym and there is an enclosed bridge called ‘The Interlink’ that enables us to go from building to building without having to go out in the weather.”

Being one of the easternmost teams in the Horizon League, results in some long bus trips for the Vikings. A National Honor Society member in high school, Kiger said:

“The traveling is tough. For the away matches, we generally leave on Thursday as we play on Friday and Saturday just about every week. On the away matches, we get back on the bus immediately after the Friday match and head to the town where we’re playing on Saturday. It’s not unusual to check into the hotel at 1 or 2 a.m. After the Satuday match, it’s back on the bus and home to Cleveland. With that type of traveling, it was important to learn how to study in the hotel. I also do quite a bit of studying on Sundays.”