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Inside the head; Newlon explains hitting, blocking and “dougie”

September 17, 2010

Imagine playing front row middle in volleyball and your team is serving. The other team receives the serve and passes it to their setter. Then three players run up to the net to spike the ball, but you can only pick one to block, who do you block?

Well, there isn’t a perfect answer to the question but there are clues that help. Junior middle hitter Kendra Newlon talks us through life as a middle blocker.

“I try to read the setter because they sometimes have tells like tilting their head back if they set behind them, or jump if it’s going to be hit in the middle. But most of times I rely on the help from my back row players who can see the play at a different angle.”

To get the most out of their volleyball skills Newlon and the women’s volleyball team prepares for every game by doing a dance they call “dougie.” “The girls and I get warmed up in the locker room and get our iPods playing, and we do our “dougie.”

Once the game starts though, the dancing is over and the Newlon gets pumped differently.

“We have cheers for when I get a kill and when you hear the crowd getting into it, you really get pumped up.”

Newlon added, “All the girls supporting me is really what keeps me motivated for the rest of the game. Knowing I’m making it easier for them by putting it on the floor so they get a break from the other team’s offense.

To get those cheers though Newlon has to get her kill and she has a favorite way to get it. “When the other team has a bad pass, and gives an over pass to us and I get an unblocked hit that I hit the 10 foot line with, it is the best feeling.”

To get the most out of her hits, Newlon has a few keys to remember. “I try not to get too excited, so I don’t over hit the ball. Sometimes I go way too quick and lose my hitting mechanics.”

She also said, “Remembering to stay levelheaded and not let other things affect your hitting so you stay focused is very important.

Even though Newlon loves getting kills she enjoys blocking even more. “I like blocking more than getting kills. Preventing the other team from getting excited it is a big shift in momentum.  Shutting down the other team feels so good.”

When the team as a whole gets on a big run they sometimes get too carried away. “We try to stay level headed, but our energy and excitement gets us off focus, and we just play and don’t think about what we are doing, and just play by talent and not as a team.”

Though teams always want to play well, every team gets on negative streaks at times and get affected by them. “I notice we get a lot quieter and we don’t do our cheers. I personally don’t get as amped and as a result I don’t hit as hard or play as fast.”

Playing the middle in volleyball is a complex position, because it demands so many things, Newlon explains that, “Everyone expects you to be a good hitter and good blocker, but primarily our main focus is to block, so when you don’t get as hard of kills people don’t get that. And physically, besides the setter, we always have to be moving and jumping for every play so it can be pretty exhausting.

Teammates can ease a lot of this pressure, especially the passers. “Not only do they help with hitting by getting us easy sets, but if they don’t pass it over the net we don’t get an over hit against us and it makes our job much easier.”

Newlon has many reasons for how she got to where she is now but thanks one person in particular. “Coming into college, I had good coaches but was never on a great team or had a great coach. Coach Shimmin helped out my footwork and conditioning. Being able to get everywhere has helped my game a lot.”

Co-Sports Editor

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