GameDay Xtra: Washington Part of Volleyball's 'New Era'

by LSUsports.net (@LSUsports)
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GameDay Xtra: Washington Part of Volleyball's 'New Era'

By: Curtis Akey
LSU Sports Information

BATON ROUGE — Kyna Washington never thought about coming to LSU.

As one of the top 35 volleyball players in the country throughout her high school playing days, she was heavily recruited by the likes of UCLA, Oklahoma, Florida and other volleyball powerhouses. Playing for a team that has won conference and national championships is a plus, but Washington wanted something different.

“I thought that if all of the top-ranked athletes go to schools like Florida, Stanford or Penn State, I wasn’t going to make those teams any better,” explained Washington. “Why not go and help another program?”

And so Washington’s journey began. She visited Pepperdine and USC, before deciding that California was too far from home. She went on a recruiting trip to the University of Texas, but things just didn’t work out.

It just so happened that LSU was right smack in between Houston, where Washington’s family resides, and Biloxi, Miss., where her mother’s family is from. The trips back and forth over the years left an impression on her.

“We always passed by Baton Rouge and I always saw the football stadium from the (Horace Wilkinson) bridge that crosses the Mississippi River,” said Washington. “I looked up the university on the internet, and I thought it looked great.”

Another interesting factor that aided in her decision was the 2004 Sugar Bowl when LSU routed No. 3 Oklahoma for the 2003 National Championship.

“I wasn’t really into football,” said Washington. “But I watched the 2003 National Championship, and it made me think ?there is something about those Tigers.’”

After that, Washington made phone calls and sent e-mails to volleyball head coach Fran Flory. They talked about Washington playing here at LSU, and Flory had Washington come down for a visit.

“Coach Flory was great in that she consistently wrote me about playing here once I had e-mailed her,” recounted Washington. “When I came to visit, I decided that no one could compare with what LSU has to offer the athletes.”

Flory’s persistence with Washington paid off.

She enrolled at LSU for the 2005 season and made an instant impact; ranking second on the team in kills and kills per game. She was also named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team. She repeated her success during her sophomore campaign with the second most kills, kills per game and service aces on the squad, as well as ranking fourth on the team in blocks.

This year, however, she has taken her game to a whole new level.

Through five weeks of the 2007 season, Washington has been named the SEC Player of the Week twice and leads LSU with 204 kills and 32 service aces, both of which rank in the top three in the SEC, while ranking third on the team with 100 digs. Her play has been one of the main reasons the team has started off strong, with an 11-2 record. They are also nationally ranked, coming in at No. 22. But, the recognition isn’t something that she lets get to her.

“I’m not really big on the whole ranking thing,” said Washington. “I know our team just thinks about getting better each match.

“We just take it one match at a time. We break each game into little pieces. If we do everything right in each piece, and if everyone does their role, we get it done.”

Washington has had success at every level, something she attributes to working hard and taking each match one by one. This philosophy is one that she has carried from her high school days while playing with the Texas Tornadoes, a nationally recognized club team.

“Part of her success has to do with the training and care she received from the coaching staff that works with the Texas Tornados,” said Tara Cross-Battle, a four-time Olympic volleyball player and Tornado coach. “But a lot of that success has to do with Kyna herself.

“She was the one who wanted to listen and accept what her coaches were teaching her. Her work ethic has put her where she is today.”

Her current coaches feel the same way about the outside hitter.

“Kyna’s leadership and her work ethic in the gym, and the understanding of her role this year has really come around,” said Flory. “She is certainly one of the reasons we have been able to step into the top-tier of the conference and become a nationally recognized program.”

Assistant coach Jill Lytle-Wilson, a former LSU outside hitter, echoed Flory’s comments.

“She means a lot on and off the court,” said Lytle Wilson. “She has brought a whole different level of intensity to not only the matches, but to practice.

“She is a big part of a whole new era of LSU volleyball that plays a faster, more athletic offense.”

LSU volleyball fans shouldn’t be content with the way Washington plays however. Apparently, she’s only tapped a fraction of her potential.

“She’s really going to take off,” shared assistant volleyball coach Steve Loeswick. “I don’t think she’s close to being as good as she can be, and she’s already one of the best in the league.”

“Kyna becoming an All-American is well within her grasp, ”added Flory.

The LSU volleyball program is very grateful for all of those trips the Washington family made from Houston to Biloxi over the years. If she didn’t have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the university from the Horace Wilkinson Bridge during vacations, Kyna Washington might not be an LSU Tiger today.