Senior Sit Down: Kyle Gilbert, women’s volleyball

Oct. 15, 2014, 10:12 p.m.

Last weekend in the win over Arizona State, Stanford women’s volleyball’s Kyle Gilbert recorded a season-high 25 digs. It was the third straight game in which the senior libero hit the 20-dig mark. Gilbert currently sits in second place on the Cardinal’s all-time career digs list. The Stanford Daily sat down with the Management Science and Engineering major to discuss her time on the Farm and the team’s prospects for the rest of the season.

 The Stanford Daily (TSD): As a team and individually, you have been consistently competing at a high level this season. How do you maintain that drive and focus every week in practice and at every game?

(ROGER CHEN/The Stanford Daily)
Senior libero Kyle Gilbert (above) recorded a season-high 25 digs in last weekend’s win over Arizona State and is finishing up her MS&E degree this year. (ROGER CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

Kyle Gilbert (KG): I feel like I prepare for every game and every weekend the same. Being in the Pac-12 for four years now, you know that every team is not a joke. You have to come prepared for every single match because any day anybody can beat anybody. So looking at it with that aspect of every team is really good, I have to be on my game at all times. If I come unfocused one day that could break our passing down, which would ruin our offense. Just coming prepared every week and knowing that you have to perform at the top [is important].

TSD: What do you think makes the libero position unique compared to the other positions?

KG: In my opinion, I think that for the libero position you have to be very athletic, you have to have a very quick twitch and your reactions have to be very fast. It doesn’t require height, which is really nice, so you’re low to the ground at all times. I’d say it’s the most fun [position]. It takes an aggressive person to be libero, diving all over the place and going after balls. It’s very specialized but I feel like it’s less specialized than our hitters. You don’t have to have a lot of height but you do have to have that athleticism. In my opinion, there are two types of athletes: there are natural athletes who can play a lot of sports and pick up a game quickly and I feel like that’s the kind of athlete that I am. And then there are freak athletes like Inky Ajanaku who get really, really, really good at one sport. I think being a libero you can kind of get away with being more of the natural athlete. Obviously, you have to work on technique all the time, but you don’t have to focus as much on the technique as other players because you have to rely a lot on your quick twitch and just reacting.

TSD: How does your role on the team feel different this year now that you’re a captain and one of only two seniors?

KG: Being here for three years under Rachel Williams [‘14] made life easy because she was a very big personality and a great leader and it was easy to follow whatever she said and go with the flow, but now being a leader or captain you have a lot more responsibility on your shoulders. How the team acts or performs is a reflection on your leadership so it’s an added pressure but at the same time, the team that we have right now, the chemistry is great and everyone has the same goal so it makes life a lot easier for us.

TSD: Since you’ve held the No. 1 ranking in the nation for six weeks straight now, what kind of pressures come with that distinction?

KG: Being number one has its advantages and disadvantages. The bad thing is you always have a target on your back. People always want to beat you and every team you play comes out as hard as they can and plays the best that it can against you, so it makes our job a little tougher, but at the same time it makes us better. On the other side of that…I remember playing Penn State last year and they were number one, and it was a little intimidating because they’re on top and you think that they’re the best and that they’re unbreakable, so there’s that factor also. I think right now we aren’t really thinking that we are undefeated or [worried about] ruining that, we’re just going through every match and wanting to win that match and not really thinking about the long term and just being present in the moment and I think that helps us in each match.

TSD: Which team are you looking forward to playing most once you get to NCAA Tournament play and as you continue through Pac-12 play?

KG: Always Penn State, even though they fell in the rankings. I don’t think that reflects how good of a team that they are. And then there’s that rivalry that we both have six national championships and whoever wins the next one takes the lead. The Pac-12 is always really fun. Being from Southern California, I have friends on probably every single team. A team that I’m really looking forward to playing is UCLA with Karsta Lowe. She’s averaging like seven kills per game, which is crazy, and had like a 30-kill match last weekend and she’s one of my really good friends from home. She has just gotten so much better in the past four years and so playing against her will be really fun and she’ll challenge us.

TSD: What are your plans post-graduation?

KG: I think I’m going to go back to school. I want to be a physician’s assistant so I have to take all of my prereqs like chemistry and stuff so probably part-time work and part-time go to classes before I can apply for a physician’s assistant school and then do that. That’s the goal.

TSD: What’s one piece of academic and athletic advice that you would give to the freshmen on your team?

KG: Athletic advice would be to just try to get as strong as you can and to focus on the little things; whether it’s in the weight room or on the court, paying attention to details really reflects in all aspects of your athletic career. Academically, do your homework, go to office hours if and when you can and get tutoring if you need and just stay on top of it. I think as student-athletes you’ve been doing it for years, so once you’re here it’s just a little heavier and a little harder.

Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’

Ashley Westhem was Editor in Chief of Vol. 248 after serving as Executive Editor and Managing Editor of Sports. She is the voice of Stanford women’s basketball for KZSU as well as The Daily’s beat writer for the team and aids in KZSU’s coverage of football. She graduated in 2016 and is currently a Communications masters student. Ashley is from Lake Tahoe, California.

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