EXCLUSIVE: Faust Relishing New Role after Surprise Return
CLEMSON, SC — After starting every match for the Clemson volleyball team as a sophomore last season, Kristin Faust was devastated when she tore her ACL during practice in February and was told she would miss the entire 2013 campaign.
But Faust was determined to see the court this year and went to work this summer rehabbing the knee.
Now, not only has she recovered to the point she won’t miss the season, Faust hasn’t even missed a set yet.
The junior from Orlando, Fla., played all five sets in the Tigers’ 3-2 loss to Alabama in the Clemson Classic on Friday night — meaning she has played in all 37 sets the team has played this season — and recorded 26 digs in the process, one shy of her career high.
“She was cleared in preseason, and we took it easy,” Tigers head coach Jolene Hoover said. “She probably isn’t jumping as high yet as she was before the ACL, but everything about her game other than that has been fantastic. She worked extremely hard this summer in rehab to get back where she is. She’s the best passer we have, and if we didn’t have her we’d be in trouble.”
But Faust hasn’t only been recovering from an injury, which has left her sporting a bulky orange-and-black brace on her left knee, she’s also been adjusting to a new position.
She had worked as a defensive specialist in the right back position during preseason practice, but one set into the season, Hoover opted to try her out at libero, a spot she had never played in her life.
Turns out, Faust has had little trouble adjusting to the new role, as she recorded her third straight match with at least 22 digs Friday night.
“It’s been good, actually,” Faust said. “At first I had a hard time remembering that I was in that position and that I had to play a different role, but it’s gotten a lot easier, and I’m having a lot of fun with it.”
The libero wears a different color jersey than her teammates because she is the only player that can freely substitute for any player without counting against a team’s 15 subs per set limit.
The libero can only play on the back row, however, which made Faust a perfect fit because she could use her strong all-around game while she worked to regain the leaping ability that allowed her to finish third on the team in kills as an outside hitter last season.
For Faust, playing any position that allowed her to get back on the court as soon as possible is just fine with her. She had her surgery in mid-March, so being ready for the first match of the season meant she returned in less than six months.
“They told me at first that I wasn’t going to play this season at all, so it was really devastating,” Faust said. “So I worked really hard all summer. I stayed here all summer and did rehab every day, every morning.”
As for Friday’s match, it looked as if the Crimson Tide would roll past Clemson, as they won the first two sets rather comfortably, 25-19 and 25-15.
But much like Faust fought back from her injury, the Tigers fought back too.
Sparked by senior Hannah Brenner’s face-first dive into the press table to save a ball and allow her team to win a point early in the set, Clemson won the third set 25-20.
The fourth set turned out to be the longest in Clemson volleyball history, and the Tigers finally won it on their 11th set point by a score of 38-36 — thanks in large part to 10 digs from Faust in that set alone.
“That was crazy,” Faust said of the fourth set. “I’ve never been a part of anything like that.”
The Tigers ultimately fell 15-13 in the fifth set to drop to 5-4 on the season, but their head coach could hardly have been prouder of the resolve her team showed to get to that point.
“Alabama is a very good team and they put a lot of pace on the ball, and I think in those first two sets we were maybe a little shell-shocked or maybe not anticipating they were going to be that strong,” Hoover said. “The nice part was we made some adjustments and we kept fighting, and we gave
ourselves an opportunity when we won that third set to get in a fourth and a fifth.”
Faust still hopes to return to her preferred position of outside hitter one day, but for now she’s happy simply to help the team any way possible.
“That’s what I’m expecting and that’s what I’m working toward, but if not, then I’m playing a big role at libero,” Faust said.
Pretty impressive for a player who thought she wouldn’t be playing any role at all less than six months ago.