Boise State sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn Oliver has been a big boost to the Bronco volleyball team.
The Helena, Montana native can be seen skying high above the net at Bronco matches for a timely block or a game-winning hit delivered with precise accuracy. After redshirting in 2013, Oliver started all 30 matches last season on the way to earning Mountain West Conference Newcomer of the Year. After the conclusion of the season, Kaitlyn had the privilege of playing on the Mountain West All-Stars that competed at the European Global Challenge in Pula, Croatia last July. The team finished third out of 16 teams.
Oliver has already proven to be part of a winning formula, helping Helena High School to the 2011 Montana State AA Championship as a junior. Now, she is a key component of a Bronco team that is aiming for history. No Boise State team has ever beaten a Top 25 team, no Bronco team has ever won a conference championship and no Bronco team has ever advanced to the NCAA Volleyball Championships. All of those are possible, beginning Thursday night when Boise State goes after #20 Colorado State in Bronco Gym.
Oliver is second in the conference in hitting percentage at a 42.2% rate. Hitting percentage is calculated by taking the kills (or shots for winners) minus hitting errors divided by the total attacks. While most players struggle with hitting the ball out of bounds, Oliver excels at her shots.
"I just try to focus a lot on going up high and over the block," Oliver said. Knocking it out of bounds is just like practice, getting a lot of reps and just knowing exactly where to place it on the floor. I try to find seams between the blocks and outside of the blocks; I try to hit it over the top of the block--anywhere that's going to score."
Boise State coach Shawn Garus says that his team has always been good at offense, and has been stressing defense this year, trying to get his team to take away opponents' shots with blocks at the net. The 6'4" Kaitlyn has responded to lead the Lady Broncos with 64 blocks.
The match with Colorado State gets underway Thursday night at 7, with the Broncos hosting Wyoming Saturday afternoon at 2. Thursday's showdown will be a "blackout", with fans requested to wear black. Free sunglasses will be given to the first fans through the door. Both matches are in Bronco Gym.
Oliver and her Bronco teammates want to win over new fans, and talked about having a big crowd this week. "It's super important. The games that we've had huge crowds have been so much fun and just so much energy. And it helps all of us just be so pumped up for every single play, and we just want to perform for them and show them how we play."