BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Samford Athletics is continuing the Student-Athlete Spotlight series, presented by Coca-Cola, which, this week, will highlight Kenya McQuirter, a sophomore outside hitter on the volleyball team.
McQuirter came to Samford from Mobile and McGill-Toolen Catholic High School. McQuirter talked a little about the recruiting process that brought her to Samford.
“I was looking at Tulane for the longest, they would come to my club matches, they were in constant contact with my high school coach and my club coach,” McQuirter said. “But it wasn’t until (Samford head coach) Keylor (Chan) and some of his coaches, it was actually Ben (Sabin) and Sabel (Sabin), they actually came down with him to my high school, McGill, and they did a coaches clinic with us and practiced with us for a couple of days. And I loved the campus, loved everything about Samford and so, it checked the most boxes for what I was looking for in a school that I wanted to go to. It’s the perfect distance away from home, academics, athletics and so I just felt like it was the right fit for me.”
McQuirter came to Samford as a highly recruited student-athlete. Before her first season in 2019, however, she suffered a season-ending injury. She talked about the injury and the recovery process.
“I got hurt the first day of preseason during our conditioning test,” McQuirter said. “So, I didn’t even make it to the first day of practice. But, I think that kind of helped just knowing mentally that I wasn’t already in something. I kind of just had to get to a point where there’s nothing I can do about it now except just recover and support my teammates and just move on from there.”
When McQuirter did get to play in the spring season, she had an outstanding debut season, earning SoCon Freshman of the Year honors. She has had an even better season this fall. She has earned the SoCon Offensive Player of the Week the last two weeks.
“As far as mentally, I would say I’m definitely seeing the game better,” McQuirter said. “Seeing what’s in front of me as far as if I’m going up to hit, being able to see the blocker’s hands, see the defense on the court and just really being able to have better court vision. Keylor talks with the hitters about bringing out the right tool at the right time. They’re also telling me that I have a gifted jumping ability and to really use that to my benefit. I think that being able to use my elevation and, overall, piecing together the court awareness has really helped.”
McQuirter also talked about the individual honors she’s received and what they meant to her.
“They mean a lot to me, especially because I definitely can’t do it on my own, especially Kayla (Keshock), she’s back-to-back Setter of the Week, Setter of the Month,” McQuirter said. “And so, huge credit to my teammates, they’re the ones that are putting me in these good positions to be able to succeed and do what I’m able to do.”
McQuirter had a specifically impressive performance in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Chattanooga. In just three sets she tallied a career-high 24 kills.
“That whole game was kind of like one big blur,” McQuirter said. “Especially since we played ETSU the day before, that was a very physical, emotional match. So, I think coming into that next game playing against Chat, I think we were all feeling the drainage of the previous game and we were really just wanting to get it done in three sets. So there was maybe a little bit more motivation for the way that I performed. I was seeing things and I was just going for it.”
The Samford volleyball team has had several injuries throughout the season. McQuirter said, however, now that the team is fully healthy, they are moving in the right direction.
“I definitely feel like we’ve turned the corner, especially these past couple of weekends,” McQuirter said. “Because we’ve talked a lot throughout the season of building that team chemistry and that was something that had been lacking especially because all of the injuries, we were not in the gym practicing together, we were not on the court playing together. So, we were not able to build that chemistry on the court. I think we take a lot of pride in defending our home court. Right now, we’re gaining momentum constantly, so I think we’re in a really good position heading into the SoCon Tournament.”
The Bulldogs host Mercer tonight in the Pete Hanna Center. The Bears are in first place in the SoCon standings right now. McQuirter said this is a match she and her teammates are looking forward to playing.
“Mercer is definitely one of those teams that we are really looking forward to playing,” McQuirter said. “I think, as a team, we are all ready to play. Mercer is a good team. I think one of the things that really sets them apart is they play such a fast-paced game that isn’t really our style. When we do play them, I think that is what makes it intense is that it is two different styles of volleyball going at it. I think it will be real good competition, fun and we’re all excited to play.”
Tonight’s home match against Mercer is set for a 7 p.m. start from the Pete Hanna Center. The match can also be seen live on ESPN+ at the following link: WATCH LIVE. Live stats will also be available at the following link: FOLLOW LIVE STATS.
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