As the Colorado State volleyball program prepares for the start of the new season, one of the biggest questions facing the Rams is how to replace former libero Katelin Batten.
That task will fall to former walk-on Audrey Hemmings, a senior from Greeley.
â€œSheâ€™s very versatile, sheâ€™s very composed,â€ said CSU volleyball coach Tom Hilbert. â€œShe can do some different things very well.â€
Batten leaves huge shoes to fill in her departure. The four-year starter was a 2009 All-Mountain West Conference selection and honorable mention All-American. She was named top libero in the MWC â€” ranking third all-time in career digs â€” and holds CSUâ€™s single-game, single-season and career records for digs.
Hilbert, however, said it would be a mistake to spend the season comparing the two.
â€œTheyâ€™re big shoes to fill, but we canâ€™t compare the two,â€ he said. â€œWe will use Audrey in a way to help us be a good team.â€
Hemmings calls Batten her teacher and is excited to follow in her footsteps, even though she admits that it will be hard to match Battenâ€™s accomplishments.
The battle at libero was one of the most intriguing storylines in the pre-season. Hemmings was in a tight battle with Izzy Gaulia when Hilbert ultimately decided that right now Hemmings is the best option for the team, feeling that her consistency and maturity set her apart.
While Hemmings has been named libero for the start of the season, Hilbert stressed that the situation is fluid. He said that there is still competition for the libero spot and that the position will be re-evaluated as the season progresses.
As the libero, Hemmings main role will be that of a defensive specialist. The libero is often responsible for receiving opponentâ€™s serves. A good libero can hamper an opponentâ€™s serving options by reducing the size of the court if an opponent tries to serve away from the libero.
The libero often attracts a lot of attention from the crowd. The libero wears a special jersey in a contrasting color from their teammates and they touch the ball a lot as it is their job to pursue every ball defensively.
Described as a quiet and shy person by her coach, Hemmings has earned her teammates respect through hard work and determination.
â€œShe leads because people trust her. For a walk-on to last four years, that says something,â€ Hilbert said. â€œShe works hard on and off the court. Sheâ€™s respected and trusted a lot which allows her to be a leader.â€
Hemmings comes from a family with an athletic background. Her mother is a volleyball coach and she has two sisters who are college student-athletes. She is now looking forward to the opportunity being presented to her.
â€œI just need to play my best and not try and think about who I am replacing,â€ said Hemmings.
Hemmings and the rest of the CSU volleyball team open the season Friday against Atlantic Coast Conference power Duke at Moby Arena.
Volleyball beat reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.