AMHERST, MA - Amherst College sophomore Kristin Quinn (Los Angeles, CA/Harvard-Westlake) is no stranger to volleyball fame. She's trained with Olympic-level coaches whose names have an almost mythical ring in volleyball circles, and after a stellar start to her career at Amherst, the name "Quinn" is beginning to have a ring of its own.
Her name is appearing on countless lists, often at the top. As a first-year in 2003, she earned both New England Women's Volleyball Association (NEWVA) and the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Rookie of the Year honors and was a NEWVA Second-Team All-New England selection. She also claimed All-Tournament honors at both the Western New England College and Wesleyan University Invitationals and finished 10th in the nation in hitting percentage (.420) and 13th in blocks per game (1.52) - stats that landed her in first and second in the NESCAC, respectively.
This season, while the Jeffs jumped out to a 20-5 start, Quinn sits among the conference and national leaders in a bevy of statistical categories, including hitting percentage (.428), kills (3.71/gm) and blocks (1.51 gm). She also earned NESCAC Volleyball Player of the Week honors with a combined 42 kills and 11 blocks in a trio of conference wins over Bowdoin, Bates and Colby Colleges.
Quinn hails from a family of swimmers and took to the water early on, twice earning NISCA (National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association) All-America honors, and she fully intended to swim at the collegiate level. Starting in seventh grade, though, volleyball nudged its way into her life. Quinn's middle school required its students to play volleyball for at least one season, and she quickly adapted to her new sport. It was "more fun than swimming," she says, and she enjoyed being more a part of a team effort - one of the few aspects of swimming with which Quinn found herself at odds.
She played club volleyball while attending Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles and was coached by two very prominent figures in the sport - Pepperdine men's volleyball coach Marv Dunphy and beach volleyball legend Gene Selznick.
A burgeoning talent in the water and on the court, Quinn yearned for a college that could cater to both of her athletic strengths as well as her academic interests. She enrolled at Amherst expecting to play both sports, joined the volleyball team in the fall, and it was love at first spike. Quinn's teammates quickly became her best friends, helping ease the transition to college life. It wasn't an unfamiliar environment, either; teammates Nikki Davidson and Annie Hoeksma, now seniors, were fellow graduates of Harvard-Westlake and close friends of Quinn's older sister.
Volleyball wasn't the all-consuming sport it had been in high school. Quinn gives a thankful nod to her Amherst coach, Sue Everden, for doing "such a good job allowing [for a] life outside of volleyball." The team was a comfortable fit too, often gathering for milk and cookies the night before a match.
Quinn would have you know, though, that volleyball is not a milk-and-cookies game. She worries that not enough people take her sport seriously, overlooking the fact that it is, in fact, a "really aggressive and competitive sport." "Not enough people give it that credit or see its 'wow factor,' " she says.
Quiet by nature with quiet beginnings in volleyball, it's sometimes difficult to see her as aggressive, until she steps onto the court. "I love watching you play," a friend told her. "I've never seen you scream so loud and get that look on your face."
Although she's only a sophomore, Quinn is a well-recognized threat to anyone on the other side of the net. "She's the player other teams key on, but Kristin handles the pressure tremendously," Hoeksma says. "I know that if I set Kristin, the ball will more than likely hit the floor."
Quinn sees volleyball as a mostly mental game. During last year's NESCAC Tournament quarterfinal against Tufts (Amherst's 11th straight postseason appearance), the Jeffs were slipping toward a loss. Quinn "looked around at the seniors and said 'this is not how they should have to lose their final match at Amherst.' " She set her mind to attack, and Amherst won the match, 3-2, behind Quinn's 18 kills, 11 blocks and three aces.
"Off-season" doesn't mean much for Quinn. She spends her time training, and between teaching swim lessons during her summer breaks, she returns to clinics led by one of her former coaches. Fine arts and psychology have also taken a firm hold on Quinn, and she hopes to major in some combination of the two, along with a new interest - law, jurisprudence and social thought (LJST). Amherst's art club has also drawn her in, and Quinn intends to become more involved in the college's fine arts scene.
Quinn's aggressive streak won't go unnoticed much longer; plowing her way through matches and into national honors, plenty of people are taking note of the Hyde inside the quiet Jekyl, and all of them are hoping not to fall on the wrong side of the net.