By Cody Soto
When freshman outside hitter Katie Staiger suffered a torn ACL in her second collegiate volleyball match, it was tough not only for her, but for the whole team, head coach Jim Barnes said.
“She was a star coming in,” Barnes said. “We had built a lot of things around her. It was a brutal injury and extremely tough to have it happen in her second match of the season.”
Staiger’s knee injury posted serious questions about the future of her collegiate career, and she was not used to getting injured while in high school.
“I went through high school never really hurt with no knee problems, nothing like that,” Staiger said. “Everything was going really well. I got used to everything [in college], but when it happened I [thought], ‘How could this happen to me? What do I do now?’ It was really hard for me.”
Staiger was forced to the bench for the rest of the 2013 season. However, she was able to take on a new role that she had not played before.
“I decided that I would have to have a different role during the season, and so I would try to be more encouraging,” Staiger said. “I would be the eyes from the bench for the outside hitters that played my position because I couldn’t be out there.”
Because of her injury, Staiger was awarded a medical redshirt and retained a year of eligibility. She will now be eligible to play for the Bears through the 2017 volleyball season.
“That was a blessing that it did happen early and I was able to get my year back,” Staiger said. “I knew that if I worked hard enough, I knew I was going to be back this season.”
Barnes said that there was never any self-pity in Staiger’s eyes, and in turn she inspired the team by her healing process.
“She’s inspired and impressed a lot of people by the way that she’s handled her injury, so she’s gained a lot from it and it will only help her,” Barnes said. “It’s really focused her and showed how strong her character and faith were to handle it that way.”
Junior outside hitter Andie Malloy joined Staiger on the bench last season after NCAA rules forced her to redshirt after transferring from Iowa State. The two players were able to grow closer, not only mentally but also spiritually.
“We both liked having a bible study together to help push each other because it’s hard to be taken out of the sport you’ve played your entire life,” Malloy said. “We really tried to change our perspective on [the situation] and said it was all a part of God’s plan. We took it in the most positive way we possibly could.”
Staiger is a light who is able to encourage her teammates whether she’s playing or not, Malloy said.
“Katie is definitely one of the most positive players that I’ve played with,” Malloy said. ”She’s adding that encouragement that she did last year to the court and staying positive because you can’t take your time on the court for granted. Her game keeps going up because she’s very aggressive.”
With Staiger and Malloy in the line-up, the Baylor offense will have many options to choose from when going up against Big 12 opponents this season.
“I feel we are a hard team to scout because everyone brings something to the table and you never know,” Staiger said. “Anyone can hit and put the ball down, and we’re able to have so many hits that I feel that’s going to help us.”
After a year of healing and rehabilitation, Staiger has returned to the court and has contributed as one of the top offensive forces for Baylor volleyball this season.
Staiger has posted 117 kills and a .235 attack percentage in 11 matches, putting her as one of the top hitters for the team. While playing in 37 sets, Staiger has also contributed 82 digs and 10 blocks for the Bears.
Staiger was recently named the Most Valuable Player at the Colonials Challenge in Washington D.C. during the team’s 3-0 tournament sweep.
“I’ve been out of it for so long, and just to be back was exciting,” Staiger said. “It’s an honor, but at the end of the day, the team played so good. Everyone did so much to contribute that I felt it was more like a team award.”
Although Staiger is not completely healed, her athleticism and skills are apparent on the court and is helping lead Baylor volleyball to victory.
“[Staiger and Malloy] are such good players that they know how to play through a little bit of injury, and they are learning to be the backbone to what we do for many years,” Barnes said.
Sitting at 9-2 season record, Baylor looks forward to upcoming conference play in hopes of returning to the NCAA tournament with Staiger as one of Baylor’s key offensive weapon.
“Our game puts a lot of stress on that joint, but she’s [playing] like a champ right now,” Barnes said. “For the next four years, the sky is the limit for her. She’s an All-American type player and I expect her to do some great things.”
Baylor volleyball will get back to work during the University of Texas at San Antonio tournament on Friday and Saturday.
The Bears will play LSU on Friday before playing the host school UTSA on Saturday. Baylor will look to finish strong before the start of Big 12 conference play on Sept. 27.