Throughout the summer, Kirsten Overton traveled two hours in her Mazda 6 with her former Spring-Ford Senior High school teammate Christine Irrera to Seaside Heights, New Jersey to play beach volleyball.
On other days, the Owls’ junior middle blocker and Irrera, a junior libero at the University of the Sciences, stayed home, playing on the grass court in Irrera’s backyard in Royersford, Pennsylvania to prepare for their upcoming seasons.
Now in season, Overton and Irrera watch one another on their team’s live streams or through live stats, giving critique and advice.
“We couldn’t be more of an opposite position, but she has definitely taught me many different aspects of the game,” Overton said. “She turned me over to beach which changed my game because it is so much harder. The first text I get when I come off the court is from Christine. She will say, ‘You did great and here is what you need to improve on.’”
Overton’s 43.6 hitting percentage ranks No.7 in Division I.
Overton credits her success this season to a new mentality.
“I am holding myself to a higher standard now,” Overton said. “I am not a freshman or a sophomore. I am an upperclassman. I really have to show that. It’s a mental shift.”
Overton considers herself to be the toughest critic of her own game and said her parents, Joe Overton and Jill Kuhns, keep her level-headed on the court.
“They help me see things I can’t see, like when I come off the court,” Overton said. “My dad is real big into stats, and my mom is big into mental.”
When Overton comes off the floor and into the stands, her father usually greets her with her recent stats.
“He is so big on stats, but you gotta love him,” Overton said. “Lately, if I have a bad game I will say ‘I don’t want to hear it.’ As the season goes on, I don’t want to hear it more and more.”
Overton’s support system stems further than her parents and Irrera. Senior middle blocker Halle McCullough helps Overton see mistakes she may miss while on the court.
“Volleyball is very fast paced, and if you are on the court, you can’t always see everything that is going on,” McCullough said. “Whenever she comes off I’ll tell her she is leading early on you, so you’ll have this shot.”
After being teammates with Overton for three seasons, senior defensive specialist/libero Alyssa Drachslin noticed an improvement in Overton’s work ethic. As a freshman, Overton hit 19 percent.
“We knew coming in she had a lot of potential,” Drachslin said. “It’s been great watching her develop and grow on the team and on the court and getting better every year she is with us.”
The senior captain has also helped Overton improve her leadership skills in preparation for a role with more accountability next season. The Owls will lose four players to graduation after the season.
“I am a big person of practice what you preach,” Overton said. “I am not going to tell someone else I want them to do something if I can’t do it. I have to establish myself first.”
Connor Northrup can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.