You would think wearing a different color jersey than all the other players on your team would make you stand out – like the quarterback on the football practice field. But volleyball liberos rarely receive the sort of recognition and accolades that quarterbacks do. So when members of the Augustana College volleyball team recently voted sophomore Kylie Siebert of Sugar Grove their MVP for the past season, it came as a surprise to the Kaneland graduate.
“For me, it was definitely an honor, especially being a libero,” Siebert said. “A lot of times I think we’re overlooked. A lot of the awards go to the big hitters.”
It was hard to overlook Siebert’s contributions to the Vikings during the 2013 season. The sophomore led the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin with 5.95 digs a set in league play. She also ranked third on the team in assists with 109. Her strong play in the back row earned her a spot on the CCIW all-conference tram and helped Augustana finish with a winning record (16-15) for the second straight season, something that had not happened since 2008.
“It’s really exciting, actually,” Siebert said. “This year, we had a lot harder competition. For us to come out with the record we did was awesome. We had a lot of close games that went five [sets]. … Just to see that [improvement] in one year was really cool.”
There was only one senior on the Vikings’ roster, so Siebert is excited about the team’s future under new head coach Kelly Bethke, who took over the position in November. Bethke spent the previous seven years as an assistant coach at Edgewood College.
“I’m very excited to work with her,” Siebert said. “She’s awesome and I think she’s going to do great things for our team and push us to that next level because we’re right there.”
Siebert has been pushing the Vikings toward that next level since her arrival in Rock Island, moving into the starting lineup as a freshman. It took some time for Siebert and her teammates to get to know one another.
“At first, it was a big transition,” she said. “Playing libero, being in charge of the defense – I think it was a hard adjustment with my team. They were just supportive of everything. As the year went on, I felt a lot more comfortable with the position.”
Siebert also had to get used to the differences between the high school and college game.
“The workload I found was a lot harder. For practices and games and everything you have to be mentally prepared for each day,” she said. “The games are longer – five sets instead of three. It was a lot more physically demanding than high school.”
And instead of traveling, say, 14 miles to DeKalb or Sycamore from Kaneland, the bus rides were a lot longer.
“Most of our games are like three hours away at least,” Siebert notes. “Most of our games are played in towards Chicago.”
Kaneland did make one long trip each year that played a pivotal role in Siebert’s decision on where to go to college.
“We always went for a trip out to Augustana and we would play in the Bettendorf (Iowa) volleyball tournament,” she recalled. “I just loved it instantly. I just knew it was where I wanted to go. … I loved the campus. That was like the first thing that stuck out to me. Academically, I knew it was a great school.”
Augustana also was willing to let Siebert continue her athletic career.
“It came down to volleyball reasons,” she said of her college search process. “I was looking at Valparaiso and just some smaller schools. I knew I wanted to play volleyball, so that was a huge priority.”
Siebert is majoring in marketing management, but she’s not sure what she wants to do after graduation.
“I know I want to coach,” she says. “I have such a high passion for volleyball.”
• Dennis D. Jacobs has covered sports for newspapers in five different decades. To suggest local college athletes deserving recognition in the On Campus column, email him at email@example.com.