U is a solid fit for native Nebraskan Roehrig

Roehrig’s 122 blocks on the year is just one reason opponents have her on their radar.

Mark Heise

At 6 feet, 4 inches tall and able to touch 10 feet, 4 inches, junior outside hitter Kyla Roehrig is an imposing force on the volleyball court.

Her height, combined with the abilities shown on the court, has given the Minnesota volleyball team quite an advantage on the left side.

“She can do some dramatic things on the court,” coach Mike Hebert said. “I don’t know of anybody in the country that sets a bigger block than she does. When she’s on, there aren’t a whole lot of people that can stop her.”

But what might be even rarer than the Nebraskan’s talents is the fact that she, well, isn’t at Nebraska.

“Ever since Nebraska rose to prominence in the 1980s, that program has locked up every major Nebraska player. Very few of them ever leave the state,” Hebert said. “We managed to get lucky with Kyla; I’m not sure how that happened.”

Roehrig attributed it to the atmosphere Minnesota’s campus provided, along with a coaching staff that seemed like, in her words, “the right fit.”

It could even be described as a perfect fit, as Roehrig’s game has elevated, allowing her to already collect 122 kills this season, along with a career-best .280 hit percentage.

Roehrig’s steady improvement could be attributed to her parents, who Roehrig said taught her early on never to quit.

“They let us try any sport we wanted, but we had to finish through with it,” she said. “I played soccer for a year. Hated that sport, but I finished through it and it was all right.”

Roehrig’s quiet, polite demeanor accentuates the Midwestern lifestyle, but as such a big presence on the court, eventual teammate Rachel Hartmann said at first Roehrig came off as scary.

“I met her playing at club tournaments, and she’s a taller girl. I’m pretty little compared to her,” the junior setter said. “So when you see her on the court you’re kind of like, ‘Oh, I’m scared to talk to her,’ but then I got to know her and found out that she’s actually really nice.”

Nice, with one exception: Hartmann took some razzing from Roehrig during club volleyball.

“Our team would have these hair ties, these pink poofy hair ties and she made fun of me,” Hartmann recalled.

“This is probably the reason I maybe thought she was a little mean, because she made fun of me.

“I will never wear a big pink hair tie again. She always asks me, ‘where’s your hair tie, where’s your pink thing?’ “

Roehrig laughed when hearing the story.

“They were a blue team, and they’d always wear these pink ribbons, it’s just not something that you do,” she explained. “So I’d just make fun of her and be like, ‘Why are you wearing that?’ and just teasing her because she’s not the type of person who would wear a pink ribbon.”

Despite an obvious difference of opinion in hair styling, the two now room together, and Hartmann says they are quite close.

“She’s a great roommate,” she said. “We can just sit and talk, or watch movies, or go to Target. We love Target. We’ll go there, and we won’t even really need anything; it’s just something to do.”

But when Roehrig isn’t wandering the aisles of Target or critiquing hair styles, the outside hitter can become fairly serious.

When Roehrig felt that being a captain this year was impeding her ability to perform on the court, she resigned the post and posted huge numbers on the court the very next weekend.

Roehrig has shown the ability to lead through her actions on the court, and with so much talent, the junior has set a lofty goal, although it’s not for herself.

“One goal of course is to win a National Championship for Mike,” she said. “He’s a great coach, and he really deserves it.”