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Winkler gives UCI push

Women's Volleyball

Senior libero, who isn't shy about fielding chances, has a chance to set Big West career digs record.

September 25, 2012|By Barry Faulkner
  • UC Irvine senior Kristin Winkler is the Anteaters’ career digs leader who is now closing in on the Big West Conference career digs record.
UC Irvine senior Kristin Winkler is the Anteaters’… (Courtesy of UC Irvine )

Some might view a libero's role on the volleyball court as unsung. They are, by rule, forbidden from attacking at the net, where the business end of most plays is transacted. And while occasionally heralded for making a spectacular dig, the libero's pass is typically forgotten as quickly as it is subsequently distributed by the setter, then pounded by a high-flying teammate for a kill.

But when it comes right down to it, the best liberos are basically the ultimate ball hogs. And any coach interested in winning consistently is eager to offer their whole-hearted endorsement.

UC Irvine senior Kristen Winkler operates under this dichotomy, seldom getting much of the credit, despite accepting the majority of the workload in the back row.

"I expect every ball to come to me and I expect every ball to be my ball," said Winkler, who became the Anteaters' career digs leader on Sept. 7 and is now closing in on the Big West Conference career mark. "I don't let people take balls in front of me. You just kind of have that mindset that you're the best defender and that you should be getting every ball and making a play on every single ball. Sometimes you have to push people out of your way."

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But while brimming with extreme confidence, the 5-foot-10 Winkler, who played outside hitter most of her prep career at St. Francis High in Mountain View, Calif., is as humble as she is determined.

"Honestly, if I get an amazing dig and we don't get a point out of it, I totally forget it," said Winkler who has 271 digs in 15 matches this season heading into UCI's Big West road clash at No. 8-ranked Hawaii on Thursday. "I'd rather get a dig and we get a point. That's a lot more memorable to me."

Winkler, a four-year starter, has secured her unforgettable status in UCI annals. With 18 regular-season matches remaining, her 1,855 career digs are already better than former UCI career leader Devon Sutherland, who had 1,756 from 2005 to 2008.

Winkler needs 339 more digs to surpass former Cal State Fullerton defensive dynamo Cami Croteau, who amassed a conference-record 2,194 digs from 2007 to 2010.

Until late last season, all these records were news to Winkler, who also owns the school single-match mark of 35 digs, achieved Aug. 31 in a tournament against Arizona State. Her single-season totals of 573 last season, 532 in 2010 and 479 in 2009 also rank No. 2, No. 4 and No. 6, respectively, on the school's all-time single-season list.

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