Oct. 1, 2002
NEW ORLEANS, La. - During her first two seasons with the Green Wave volleyball team, it was easy for Karlyn Daly to go unnoticed by the fans. On the stat sheet, she has just 20 career kills and only 115 attacks entering the 2002 season.
But with the NCAA adopting the new "libero" position, a defensive position that is designated by wearing a different color jersey than the rest of the team, Daly now stands out for more than one reason.
"People will look on the court and say, 'What's that girl doing out there and why does she have the wrong jersey on?' Daly said. "But I love it. (The rule change) not only gives me a chance to focus on passing and defense, which is the part of the game that I enjoy the most, but it also gives me a chance to play the whole time and not have to sit out."
The libero, which has been a part of the international game for years, is in its first year of implementation by NCAA institutions. Where teams used to have 18 team substitutions and the old "defensive specialist" roll counted against the team's sub count, the libero can simply run on and off the court between plays as the team sees fit and does not count as a substitution. Limited to almost only a passing role, the libero is not allowed to overhand attack a ball that is above the net, cannot overhand set a ball in front of the three-meter line, and cannot serve.
"Every team in America has a designated setter to set balls for the offense, and Karlyn's our designated passer," head coach Betsy Becker said. "We try and get her (passing) platform on every ball that we can, and we have her as a voice on our defense so she deciphers the information to our other wing defenders to help them out and tell them who the other team's primary hitters are. She's not only solid in her skills as a player, but also in our scouting. She's like a scout/player on the court."
The libero position fits Daly to a tee, and the junior from Aurora, Colo., has thrived in the role during the Green Wave's first eight matches. After averaging 224 digs per season as a freshman and sophomore, Daly already has 216 digs in 2002 and averages a team-best 3.54 digs per game. She also has 11 double-digit dig outings already, including a career-high 26 digs vs. Bowling Green.
"Hitting and blocking gets most of the glory, and serving was never my favorite part of the game anyway" Daly said. "(Middle blockers) Kim Swafford and Deva Fowler both have really tough aggressive serves so I would rather have them serve for me. And this position also allows them to focus only on playing in the front row. It puts more an emphasis on the defensive side of the game. It allows me to do what I love best, all of the time. I played left side in high school, but I never enjoyed hitting as much as defense. It allows me to stay in the back row all of the time."
Becker added, "Some teams had the foresight to recruit libero's and we were lucky enough to get Karlyn. We first saw her at a tournament in Las Vegas, and she wasn't really getting recruited a lot, but we felt that there wasn't a girl in the gym who could pass better than Karlyn. That's how good she is, and she has textbook technique."
Another aspect of the libero position that benefits Daly and the Green Wave is that she can play back row just about all the time. As a defensive specialist, Daly could only play in three of the team's six rotations. Now, with the free substitution that comes with her position, Daly is a constant presence in the back row and a stabilizing passer that helps set up the Tulane attack.
"In the past, we had three really strong rotations with Karlyn in there, and we'd drop off a little bit when she wasn't in there," Becker said. "We had to piece-meal the other three together. Now we have six strong rotations and we can revolve everything around that core with Karlyn."
As the team's defensive specialist in her previous two seasons, Daly not only dwelled in obscurity because of her role, but also because of a pair of knee injuries. As a freshman, Daly suffered a subluxed patella in her left knee and had surgery in January 2001. After a successful recovery, Daly suffered a similar injury to her right knee one-week into preseason drills last season. Injury free for the first time in her collegiate career, Daly has been a difference maker for the Green Wave.
"It's good to be able to get to ball and run a lot of stuff down that I didn't use to be able to," Daly said. "It was frustrating to read where a ball is going and not be able to get to it. I feel a lot faster, and our team looks a lot quicker this year. We're getting to a lot of balls that would have been kills last year, and now we're digging them up."
While Daly's previous position as the defensive specialist was similar to her current role, both player and coach feel that the role as the libero will allow more attention to come to the defensive side of the game.
"(Defensive specialist) used to be looked at as someone who could go in, but only do so much," Daly said. "The reason it took college so long to adapt the libero was because most coaches looked at the DS as a walk-on position. Even though defense isn't the most glamorous parts of the game, it's one of the most important."
Becker agreed, saying, "The DS used to be a walk-on or the shortest player who could get in there and hit the floor a lot. I think coaches mistake the role of the libero as the person who hits the floor the most, but it's not. It's the person that reads the game the best, it's the person who knows the opponent the most, and it's the person you want to be able to execute the passing and the defense.
"I can't say enough good things about her because she does all the dirty work for the team and those type of players don't usually get a lot of recognition, but she takes so much ownership in the role of the primary passer and the primary defender, and she takes it to the next level in that she deciphers that information to the other defenders and passers. We anchor everything around her."