Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Kristen Hahn is a name synonymous with the success of Iowa State volleyball over the course of the last three seasons. The two-time All-American, now in her senior season, has taken over a new role for the Cyclones, as she is the leader of a group of talented freshmen and sophomores.
“Things are a lot different this year and I’m still trying to grasp the fact that I’m a senior,” Hahn said. “We’re so heavy in underclassmen that aren’t as vocal. The coaches expect me to encourage my teammates to communicate and be comfortable communicating as well. I love the challenge.”
Hahn, now in her third season as Iowa State’s starting libero, has been accustomed to playing with talented and vocal upperclassmen in the past. She’s worked hard at honing her leadership skills for this season, as they’re now more important than ever to the team’s success.
“Hahn is so driven. I think sometimes she wants to do it all herself,” Iowa State volleyball head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “She’s really learned how to get the best out of someone else when we need it now. The past year, I’ve seen her really grow and lead by making other players great and not just herself.”
As a freshman, Hahn saw limited playing time. Despite her limited action, she was able to learn from one of ISU volleyball’s all-time greats in three-time All-American Ashley Mass.
Mass gave new prominence to the position, as she became the first libero to receive first-team All-America honors in 2009. The pressure was on for Hahn to fill the void left by Mass heading into her sophomore season.
“I felt the most pressure in my freshman year, knowing that I was going to have the opportunity to fill her spot,” Hahn said. “After Mass graduated, it was a blank page for me to come in, do what I do and just play my game. I learned a lot playing under her my freshman season.”
Hahn, a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, exceeded her coaches expectations and more as she developed into one of the nation’s best liberos over the course of one off-season.
“Kristen really did a remarkable job from the middle of her freshman year into her sophomore season,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She really didn’t play that much as a freshman, and statistically wasn’t doing that great early on.”
Johnson-Lynch became skeptical if Hahn would become the team’s libero or not the next season. In the spring of her freshman season, however, Hahn took off and proved to Johnson-Lynch she was deserving of the open libero spot.
“Basically through sheer will and determination, Kristen made herself into a phenomenal player,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Her stats started improving quickly and all of a sudden I knew that she was going to be our libero.”
It’s safe to say that Hahn has filled the shoes of Mass exceptionally well, as her long list of accolades speaks volumes to what she’s been able to do in her career as a Cyclone.
As a sophomore, Hahn received honorable mention AVCA All-America honors and posted 609 digs, good for No. 3 all-time in the ISU record books. As a junior, Hahn set the bar even higher and received AVCA All-America Second Team honors, posting 626 digs (No. 2 all-time in ISU single-season record list). She became just the second player in Iowa State volleyball history to have multiple 600-dig seasons.
Her outstanding sophomore and junior seasons received conference wide recognition, earning the Big 12 Libero of the Year award in both years. One of the more impressive numbers in the Hahn career stat book is her 37 career matches with 20 digs, and seven career 30-dig matches.
Hahn and Mass, who both possess similar resumes filled with gaudy statistical numbers and impressive honors, are polar opposites of each other.
“Both are very different, but are two of the best liberos I’ve ever seen and coached,” said Johnson-Lynch. “Ashley was one of those players who was just calm and even keeled the whole time, whereas Kristen has more fire to her. She’s great at recognizing when the team needs some energy and to get going.”
Hahn has picked up right where she left off last season, as she currently leads the Big 12 in digs per set at 5.44. She is currently riding an impressive 50-match streak with at least 10 digs. In the Cyclones 3-2 win over in-state rival UNI on Sept. 4 in Cedar Falls, Hahn tallied 34 digs, including 10 in the opening set.
On Sept. 2, Hahn earned her 13th Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week award, tying her for second in terms of weekly awards earned in Big 12 history with former Texas and U.S. Olympian Destinee Hooker (2006-09). Mass holds the record for Defensive POW awards at 15.
Hahn as not only exemplified excellence on the volleyball court, but in the classroom as well where she has shown what it means to be a student-athlete. She currently boasts a 3.4 GPA and was an Academic All-Big 12 first team selection in both 2011 and 2012. In August, Hahn was named one of the 30 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award.
Upon graduation this spring, Hahn will look to pursue a career in volleyball.
“I definitely want to play overseas if I‘m given the opportunity,” Hahn said. “I’ve never been outside the U.S., so that’s always something I’ve wanted to do. I definitely want to get into coaching after I’ve expended all my volleyball playing abilities.”
Johnson-Lynch is a firm believer that Hahn possesses the talent to be on the U.S. national team.
“Kristen has national team potential,” Johnson-Lynch said. “It’ll be interesting to see if we can get her out there and get her some time with the team. I don’t what will happen, but I would love to see her get that opportunity. It’s harder for liberos to make it professionally, but she’s so talented and I’m confident that she’ll get that shot.”
No. 25 Iowa State (6-4 overall, 0-0 Big 12) opens Big 12 play Saturday, Sept. 28 at home against Baylor. The Cyclones will look to make a run at a Big 12 title and clinch their sixth-straight trip to the NCAA Volleyball Championship.