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Athlete Spotlight: Kaylin Kuhn goes for the kill

Kaylin Kuhn 21′ has already been elected team captain as a second year

This past weekend, Kaylin Kuhn ’21 achieved the honor of All Tournament Team member at a volleyball tournament held at Illinois College that included Iowa Weslayan, Greenville, Anderson and MacMurray. Kuhn came up with a team high of 20 kills in one of the matches. The team as a whole earned a sweep.

Kuhn initially became interested in volleyball as a little kid, when she would watch her older sister play.

“I would always come to her games and toss the ball around with my dad on the sidelines,” Kuhn said, adding that her town, Bettendorf, Iowa, had a successful team whose games she would also watch.

These days, the sport is far more than just a hobby for Kuhn; while it’s still only the beginning of her second year, Kuhn has clearly carved a place for herself both with the team culture and in the score sheets. She already serves as one of the team’s three captains and quickly gained the respect of her teammates and coaches.

According to Emma Willhardt ’19, one of the team’s two senior captains, Kuhn is delightful, fun to be around, supportive of her teammates and an incredibly valuable player. When she joined last year, she was “immediately a really dynamic point of the team. She was one of the hardest workers, and honestly one of the most talented players that I’ve ever played with,” Willhardt said.

Kuhn has always led by example, but this year, as a team captain, she is expanding her skills by taking on a more active leadership role. “She’s really had to step up and be a little more vocal in her leadership,” Willhardt said.

The supportive and friendly environment that the team provides is one of Kuhn’s favorite aspects of playing volleyball. Compared to her over-competitive high school experience, “Grinnell is a breath of fresh air. I love it … not because it’s less competitive. It’s just that there’s so much more here than just volleyball. There’s a very different environment surrounding [the sport],” Kuhn said.

The coaches and players all want to win, but value each other’s academics and personal lives first and foremost, which Kuhn appreciates.

In addition to the team culture, Kuhn cherishes the fun, fast pace of the game and how everybody is involved in every play. “You get to be vocal and explosive, things you don’t necessarily get to be in other sports,” Kuhn said.

To get in the zone for matches, Kuhn will observe as the other teams practice. Sometimes she’ll listen to music to pump herself up; other times she’ll discuss what she sees with her teammates.

Kuhn is constantly working outside of practice to improve her skills. She’s currently practicing her attacking and placement of shots and, in the off season, she worked on her blocking. One of her major role models is Mikaela Foecke, who was on Kuhn’s club team in high school and now plays for Nebraska, helping them win the national championship two years in a row. “Watching her grow has really inspired me to push my game, to work as hard as I’ve seen her work, and open my mind to the things that she sees on the court,” Kuhn said.

Outside of volleyball, Kuhn is hoping to major in either math or computer science. She intends to continue playing the game even after she graduates, in a community league as she gets older. She also has always been interested in coaching, and thinks it is something she’d like to pursue, even if it’s “just on the side.”

As a new team captain, Kuhn’s teammates will have a lot to look forward to. Willhardt in particular is excited to watch Kuhn keep growing.

“She’s a second-year now, so she’s got two more years. And already she’s made such strides both in leadership and in actual skill that by fourth year, I think she’ll be unstoppable.”

Kaylin Kuhn 21′ has already been elected team captain as a second year
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