Ellie Kinn had never played libero before her junior season with the Rochelle Township High School volleyball program. But after the Lady Hubs lost their entire back row to graduation earlier this year, Kinn was called upon to help anchor the defense on the varsity team.
Kinn was an outside hitter during her fresh-soph years before Rochelle head varsity coach Molly Sly moved Kinn to the back row this fall. While the initial transition wasn’t easy, Kinn has since found her role captaining the defense, and she said the position change has given her a new perspective on the sport she’s played since fourth grade.
“I’ve learned so much about the game,” Kinn said. “I really enjoy this position and I think I’ve learned so much more this year than I have overall. It’s been a really fun year. It was a hard adjustment in the beginning because I always liked hitting and being the player to put the ball away and score the point. But when I think about it now… I see so much more and I’m able to help the hitters more. It was a hard adjustment, but it was a better adjustment in the end.”
Kinn’s position change has allowed the Lady Hubs to record one of their best seasons in roughly three decades. Rochelle defeated Plano on Thursday to reach the 20-win mark for the first time in school history, and the Lady Hubs will have a chance to make more history when they host the IHSA Class 3A Regional at RTHS this coming week.
“We play really well together and we come together after every point,” Kinn said. “Our goal has always been to win… We’ve had a very successful season and I’m really proud of how we’ve performed overall. I’m excited that we’re playing the regional here, and winning the regional championship would mean exceeding our goals, which would be really great for the team.”
Kinn certainly hasn’t looked like a first-year varsity player, as she currently ranks second on the squad in both aces (26) and digs (194). She said her favorite moment from this season was defeating Dixon in two sets at the Sterling Invitational after the Lady Hubs fell to the Duchesses during their second match of the season.
“The pace is faster at the varsity level and everything is more intense,” Kinn said. “Everyone on the team is so positive and I like being around my friends. I like the competition and I like how every point matters… I knew after we lost against Dixon that our team had a lot of potential. When we played Dixon in the Sterling tournament, we beat them in two sets, and I think that win showed how our hard work has paid off.”
The Lady Hubs will graduate another talented senior class after this season, meaning Kinn will soon step into a greater leadership role with the Rochelle volleyball program. She said she’s aiming to continue improving on defense, and she credited both Sly and her family for helping her become the player she is today.
“My grandparents have supported me through every match and every volleyball team I’ve played for,” Kinn said. “My grandfather always helped me and he was always very involved with everything I did. My mom has always supported me. She’s been there for every match and she’s sat through every tournament I’ve played in.”