Natalie Fiorilli | Asst. Sports Editor
Sammy Kline was a freshman when the Duquesne volleyball team made program history, winning its first-ever Atlantic 10 Championship, as well as debuting in its first NCAA Tournament.
A mere 98 matches and 368 sets since the start of her freshman season, Kline is in the midst of her senior year as the libero for the Dukes. She has started and played in every single match of her career with the Red & Blue, and just recently recorded a milestone of surpassing 1,000 digs.
According to Kline, her starting role for the Dukes has been a rewarding opportunity and she is very appreciative of the consistent playing time she has earned.
“It’s kind of hard to describe, but obviously that’s what every player wants, and they usually don’t all get that,” Kline said. “It’s been a really great experience, being able to try to do everything I can to help the team.”
Leading up to this Friday’s match against Missouri in the Delaware Invitational, the Dukes have won eight matches in a row, seven of those wins coming in straight sets. Their eight consecutive wins tied a program record after their victory over Valparaiso last weekend.
The last time the Dukes accomplished this feat was during the 2013 A-10 Championship season.
According to Kline, there are some similarities between the current team and the 2013 championship squad — specifically regarding their chemistry on the floor.
“We are one big family for sure, this year we are really close, and everyone is really tying in together,” Kline said. “I think that’s a huge thing for us, because that’s how it was my freshman year. This year, we’ve gotten back to that, we’re always together, even outside of volleyball. That’s a big factor, and I think that’s going to help us.”
If the comparisons hold true, the Dukes might just have another shot at an A-10 title along with an NCAA Tournament appearance this season. According to the senior libero, winning the conference championship is a goal to which both Kline and her teammates have their eyes fixed.
Not only is Kline striving toward another berth in the NCAA tournament, she also hopes to surpass the accomplishments of the 2013 Dukes by advancing past the first round.
Guidance from Kline and her fellow seniors, Lacey Levers and Maddie Burnham will be vital to achieving their goals. For Kline, her ability to communicate is what she believes to be her greatest contribution to the team — a team which includes nine underclassmen.
“As you can tell my voice is gone [right now], and it’s like that for the three months of the season,” Kline said. “I think that’s the thing that I really do a good job of — keeping us together on the court with constant communication.”
Along with her successful volleyball career, Kline is a physical therapy major in her fourth year of a six-year program. Kline explained that her career goals provide motivation when it comes to the challenges of being a collegiate student-athlete, considering the rigorous schedule, especially in such a demanding major.
Upon the completion of her senior season, Kline will remain at Duquesne for an extra two years to earn her degree in physical therapy, with which she hopes to work in pediatrics.
Burnham, a senior outside hitter, emphasized Kline’s motivation both on the court and in the classroom.
“Sammy is one of the hardest-working people I’ve been on a team with,” Burnham said. “She always wants to get in extra workouts and reps and is a great leader. She’s just as determined in the classroom as she is on the court, and is always studying and doing extra work to prepare for her classes. Not many people could balance playing a Division I sport and being a physical therapy major.”
Though Kline’s career with the Dukes will conclude this season, she anticipates remaining involved with the team in whatever way she can. Head coach Steve Opperman will surely miss the determination and leadership skills that Kline brings to the team.
“Sam has really developed into a great defender over the past years,” Opperman said. “What stands out the most is her desire to compete, paired with being an outstanding team leader.”