Victoria Henson has gone through a transformation since becoming a member of the Iowa State volleyball team in 2006.
Henson spent her entire high school career playing middle blocker, a position that requires quick reactions to the ball when going for kills. At Iowa State, Henson moved to outside hitter. Out with reaction, in with patience. Outside hitters must wait until the last second to attack after the set is made.
"It was hard, really hard," said Henson, who was named the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 14. "I was always really early (attacking at the net) and I still am. I have a lot of work to still do."
It's a humble statement from someone who has impressive accomplishments.
The 5-11 Henson earned All-Big 12 First Team and honorable mention All-America honors as a sophomore last season after leading the Cyclones to the Elite Eight, the best postseason finish in school history. She led the Big 12 in kills with 540, the third-best season in school history.
Her stellar play has continued this season as she is the only player in the Big 12 to rank in the top 10 in both kills and digs. The Cyclones are 8-1 in nonconference play. A victory over Colorado to start Big 12 play would mean the best 10-match start in school history. Iowa State's No. 10 national ranking is also its highest.
"She has come further than I think any other athlete I've ever coached," ISU head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. "Not just changing positions, but now she's excelling at this position. She's become a primary passer and hits very efficiently. I think she's developing into one of the best outside hitters in the country. When she started she struggled to even get on the court and now she's an All-American. That shows huge progress."
Her ascent has come at a quicker pace then anyone thought when Henson arrived in Ames from Leavenworth (Kan.) High School. She was a medical redshirt in 2006 and first took the court in 2007. Overcoming her impatience to attack has been and continues to be her main focus.
"For a middle you have to be up early so you can get a fast attack, but as an outside you have to wait as long as possible," Henson said. "(Assistant coach) Dawn (Sullivan) told me to count to three before starting my approach. When you are a middle you are up even before the setter sets the ball."
Sullivan, an All-America outside hitter at Kansas State, has spent hours working with Henson.
"Dawn has a really nice system for outsides," Johnson-Lynch said. "Victoria is very coachable and she is really a sponge in terms of learning things. Certainly her first year she was a great athlete with no timing and experience. Even though she was one of our best athletes she wasn't on the court because she was so uncomfortable in the position. She's been very coachable and has taken to heart everything we've tried to teach her."
Johnson-Lynch said she knew Henson would be a good player, but the speed with which she has adjusted to the new position was a surprise.
"She's a lot better then we thought she would be, to be honest," Johnson-Lynch said. "We knew she would be good but we didn't know she would be this good, this early in her career."
The transition has even surprised Henson herself.
"My athletic ability has a lot to do with it, but the coaching staff is great," Henson said. "We have an elite outside hitter on the staff and Dawn helps a lot. She's a big reason why I've gotten this good."