Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Knopps turns into major hitter for team

September 13, 2001
Sophomore outside hitter Stephanie Knopp bumps the ball during the volleyball team —

Surprises have surrounded sophomore outside hitter-turned-defensive specialist Stephanie Knopp all year.

A pre-season chat with MSU head coach Chuck Erbe left Knopp thinking she had to improve if she wanted to play, she said.

“When I talked to Chuck at the beginning of the year, I still had a lot of work to do,” Knopp said.

But some of the work Knopp has done in the Spartans’ seven matches this season has been crucial to the teams’ undefeated record.

She stepped in for senior defensive specialist and co-captain Lisa Ashton, who has been bothered with a nagging back injury.

And Ashton said Knopp’s play has been a big reason for the team’s success.

“I’m really proud of her and how she’s been playing and stepping up for us,” Ashton said. “It’s just been huge for us.”

After competing in only one game last season, Knopp saw her first action on Sept. 1 in the third match of the season against Denver.

Right away, Knopp boosted the Spartans with three aces and two digs. She finished the four-game match with five aces and nine digs.

Playing in every game since that breakout performance, Knopp’s serving has become her strong point. She has recorded at least one ace in every game she’s played in this season - 12 aces total.

“My serve, I really don’t think, is that tough at all,” Knopp said. “It’s a pretty normal float serve. The coaches tell me where to serve and I serve it there.

“They’re the ones who pick out the open areas and the players who’ll have a tough time handling a serve.”

Erbe said Knopp’s serving has been one of the nicest surprises so far this season. She ranks seventh in the conference for aces per game.

“I certainly didn’t expect her to serve aces and put as much pressure on our opponents when she serves as she has (in the past),” Erbe said.

Now Knopp is in the main rotation and has been playing a bigger role in every game as her confidence grows, she said.

“I definitely feel more comfortable just from getting the experience and a feel on the court,” she said. “I’m not as scared anymore when games start, and I feel like I can play with the people on the other side of the net now.”

Knopp said she’s trying to share her volleyball experience to the Spartan team and its seven freshmen.

“I just think I bring some experience,” Knopp said. “I know some of the girls on the team have been playing a lot of volleyball, but being from a different state (California), I play a different kind of game.”

Erbe said Knopp’s volleyball history and attitude have never been questionable.

“She’s got a ton of volleyball experience,” Erbe said. “It’s just been a matter of her adjusting to the things that we want and having a commitment to wanting to be in the main rotation.”

Staying composed is also one of Knopp’s specialties.

“She’s really had a calming impact on the other players,” Erbe said. “They love playing with her because she’s so comfortable on the court.”

That’s because she really does have fun playing, she said.

“I’ve been told I’m a lot of fun to play with on the court,” she said. “I try to have a good balance of cheering at the right times and being serious at other times.”

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