Katelin Batten has faced the question what is a libero? so many times that she now seems to have an entire monologue committed to memory.
“We (the libero position) started in 1998 at the international volleyball level and then it trickled down to college around 2002 .” said Batten, who then continues describing the rules that guide the position for at least a minute, blitzing through all the regulations for the position.
Here are the rest of the facts she mentions:
Only one libero per team, and they wear a contrasting jersey from teammates.
Allowed unlimited substitutions, but must play in the back row.
Cannot attack above the net.
If setting in front of the 3-meter line, then the attacking player cannot play above the net.
Can only serve for one player in a regular rotation.
After pausing for a breath, Batten then follows up with a very succinct summary of what libero must do.
“My job is to dig balls, generally on the back row, and make great plays,” said the Rams junior.
Batten certainly fits the job description for the Rams, as she stepped in to start immediately for the Rams as a freshman in 2006.
She set the CSU record for digs in her season during her rookie campaign (438), and improved even more as a sophomore, upping her record for digs in a season (463) and setting the record for digs per set (4.21).
“She’s as good as it gets. She is a stabilizer for us, and she is our best passer. She is certainly one of the best passers in the conference,” said Jesse Mahoney, the Rams assistant head coach. “She is a very hard worker who loves to have you hit balls to her for hours.”
The Rams are certainly thrilled to have a player like Batten at the position, but it took some luck to get her to come to CSU.
Batten wasn’t heavily recruited in high school despite being an all-state performer at Grandview High School, but she did have an offer from Northern Colorado and had verbally committed to attend.
At the same time, during Batten’s senior season, CSU already had an incoming freshman libero in Kelsey Hoff, who was expected to be a mainstay for the next four years, so Batten wasn’t in the recruiting picture for the Rams.
Then, everything changed. Hoff quit the team two weeks into the season, and Batten’s committment to the Bears was interrupted.
“One year before I was going to go to UNC, the coach (Ron Alexander) quit to be a fireman,” said Batten.
She got in contact with Mahoney, who had tried to recruit Batten when he was a coach at Fort Hayes State, to tell him what happened. After a couple of recruiting trips, she decided to come to CSU.
“Liberos are always the last people to be recruited, so I thought it was too late to find any big school to play at. Then, to be able to go to Colorado State, which was my dream school growing up, it was really a dream come true,” said Batten.
Volleyball beat writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.