Piedra Vista product a valuable player for Mustangs
FARMINGTON — Katie Hegarty initially was apprehensive about switching from middle hitter to right-side hitter for the Southern Methodist University Mustangs volleyball team.
"At first, I was just totally out of my zone," the 2013 Piedra Vista volleyball graduate said.
That's why she redshirted for the Dallas-based NCAA Division I program during her first year in the fall of 2013, giving her time to adjust to her new role.
It paid off, big time.
Now, Hegarty gives SMU's offense a towering presence with her 6-foot-2 frame, and she neutralizes opposing hitters up front because of her size.
"(SMU) really wanted me to focus on retaining the speed of a middle blocker," Hegarty said. "My middle (blocker) upbringing has kind of helped (me) maintain some of that dynamic play. It definitely throws people off. I'm very grateful that I made the move."
As the Mustangs' top hitter, Hegarty had 807 career kills through Aug. 26. She also has 204 career blocks.
"Katie is a very powerful attacker. She has learned to hit a variety of play sets well and can score from almost any position on the court," SMU coach Lisa Seifert said. "She's invaluable. It's very difficult to block a slide attacker, and she does that incredibly well."
In retrospect, Hegarty's high school experience as a middle helped her defense playing on the right side today because of the repeated lateral movement involved. It also has helped her get more slanted kills on offense.
Hegarty said much of that "middle training" involves turning left and right, making the transition to right-side hitter easier as opposed to switching over to or from an outside hitter.
"I can still make those cuts, make those plays and bring that experience with me," Hegarty said.
Since the 2015 NCAA Division I volleyball championships, Hegarty has improved on seeing blocks well and recognizing when to strike. Seifert said that was Hegarty's "light bulb moment" that she can produce on the right side.
Hegarty has been nursing a torn abdominal muscle since Aug. 26. But she started practicing again last week and aims to return for either the first or second weekend of American Athletic Conference play at the end of this month.
Now, Hegarty looks build on the strong start she had before getting hurt. She has 44 kills and five blocks in three matches this season.
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.