When freshman outside hitter Samantha Kruse decided to come to Webster University to play volleyball, she had her mind set on making an immediate impact for the team. She is in the top five on the team in attacks, kills and blocks.
Kruse said her teammates support has been the backbone of her success.
“It really comes down to all of my teammates, when it comes to practice they’re always there being very supportive and constructive when it comes to criticism,” Kruse said. “We help each other out with the little things, it makes it very easy to jell with the people on the court just because everyone is so nice that it’s kind of like a second family.”
After losing their first three games, the team went on a 10 game winning streak which is the longest streak that the team has ever had.
Kruse said the slow start was good for them in a way because it gave them the motivation for their historical winning streak and it will prepare them for tough competition in the future.
“We kind of got off to a slow start, but we also played a lot of tough competition right off the bat which I think got us ready for conference play,” Kruse said. “Every team is coming out to get us so the competition is going to be tough throughout, but I think if we keep doing what we’re doing like being smart and working great as a team on and off the court, I think we’ll keep having success.”
After the first three games, Kruse said she knew she had to work harder in practice to improve her performance in the back row.
“I haven’t been playing back row a lot, so this has been new to me these past few years,” Kruse said. “I knew every practice I needed to work hard on my serve/receive and digging, and also becoming a stronger player at the net.”
Kruse said she saw signs that the team had the potential to do something special before the winning streak. In a losing effort in the first game of the season, Kruse said she was impressed by the team’s passion and resolve.
“The very first game that we played against Hope College, we went in knowing that this team is ranked 15th in the nation and it’s going to be a tough match, but let’s give them a run for their money,” Kruse said. “We took them to five sets and only lost by two points in the fifth set and I think that kind of showed that we were going to have a really good season because that showed our potential and how hard we could fight.”
Kruse moved to Webster Groves in August and said she loves the school and the community.
“I honestly love Webster, the community is great, it’s very calm, everyone is extremely nice, I don’t think I’ve meet one rude person,” Kruse said. “Everyone says ‘hi’, they’re smiling to each other, it’s a very nice environment and I love my classes too.”
Senior middle hitter Emi Beining said she felt it was important to her as a senior to offer the advice and guidance that freshmen sometimes need. She said the extra push that Beining and some of the other seniors gave Kruse is what helped fuel her confidence and success.
“I think a lot of us seniors are really good at setting an example for the freshmen or any transfers,” Beining said. “We all had good role models when we came here as freshmen so we took example from them on how to treat the incoming freshmen and transfers. We’re all out there helping [Kruse] and giving her advice when needed.”
Head coach Merry Graf said her confidence in Kruse began when she saw how well she performed in high school.
“Samantha’s a great player, she competed very hard for her high school team,” Graf said. “She played all six rotations and was their [Most Valuable Player] at Waterloo high school. I’d seen her play multiple times, she actually lived close enough that when some of my players would do open gyms, she would ride over and do open gyms with the girls. So she felt very comfortable with the players that were returning to our team.”
Graf said when she met Kruse she had all the makings of what she was looking for in a player. Her personality convinced her she would excel on and off the court.
“I thought from the get go that she would be a great student here at Webster,” Graf said. “She’s a very strong student, she’s serious about her academics, she’s got an upbeat personality, she works hard and she is very coachable which is ideal for our staff.”
Kruse said she hopes her college experience can enlighten her about the majority of things that she did not know before coming here. With that enlightenment, she hopes to decide what her purpose will be in life after college.
“I want to come out as a better citizen and a more knowledgeable person about the world and what I want to go in to,” Kruse said. “I feel like Webster has already brought that out of me, how to be a good citizen, caring about others and being knowledgeable about what’s going on.”