Spielbauer earns athlete of the year honors

Morley Stanwood graduate becomes first libero

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — When Katie Spielbauer first attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she wanted to be a hitter for the volleyball team.

But there was a slight problem.

DIG: Katie Spielbauer digs a ball during volleyball action for MIT. (Courtesy photo/David Silverman/DSPics.com)

Though she could jump as high as her 6-foot, 3-inch teammates, she had trouble hitting over the blocks.

So she made the transition to libero — a defensive specialist whose primary job is not letting the ball hit the floor.

The Morley Stanwood graduate made the most of the transition, being named New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference’s Athlete of the Year, the first in the history of the conference.

“The roster says I’m 5-7, but that’s stretching a bit,” Spielbauer said. “We have girls who are 6-3, 6-4 and I can jump as high, but I can’t hit over blocks. I excepted the position, yes. I’d like to be a hitter, but I was happy to be playing.”

Spielbauer earned honors after leading the NEWMAC in digs with 647, translating to more than five per set. She also was second in aces with 64.

For her career, Spielbauer is second in digs with 1,966 and seventh in aces at 185.

“This isn’t anything that cross my mind,” Spielbauer said. “I was kind of in shock (when told). We were in the middle of practice.”

Spielbauer made the transition to libero with only one thing on her mind — to not let any ball hit the floor.

The key to being a good libero is reading keys of the hitter before the hitter knows where they are going to hit the ball.

“(The key) is being able to read and predict the other team’s offense,” she said. “You have to read the approach and know where they are going to put it before they do.

“(The biggest difference between hitter and libero) is as libero, you can’t terminate points,” Spielbauer said.

“You lose that offensive ability because you don’t have control over the outcome of points.”

Her play helped the Engineers go 30-6 this season and reach the Division III NCAA tournament before falling in the first round.

Spielbauer used volleyball as a type of stress release from the every day studies. The senior will graduate with a degree in electrical engineering and hopes to go to medical school.

Spielbauer also has been successful in the classroom earning all-district academic honors.

“It’s tough to balance academics and volleyball, you have to manage your time well,” she said. “But for me, I don’t know if I could have done (just academics) without an outlet.”

Spielbauer will find out if she makes academic all-American in a couple of weeks.


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