The shortest Hoosier on the team, Merritt plays in the back row, getting digs to keep the ball alive for her team.
“I’m lower to the ground,” she said. “I have my arms out ready to go and I’m quicker on my feet than most people.”
Her main objective is to get the ball up to the setter, who then sets the ball to the outside hitters or middle blockers.
Being lower to the ground seems to be an advantage, but IU Coach Sherry Dunbar said the ideal height for a defensive specialist would be much taller than Merritt.
To play volleyball for IU, however, height is far from the first thing considered in recruits, she said.
“We really go after mentalities when we go after defensive players,” Dunbar said. “Players that just are gritty, have some leadership capabilities, get after it on defense and just have that mentality to be aggressive.”
On the flip side of Merritt, there is senior middle blocker Samantha Thrower, one of the tallest girls on the team at 6-foot-2-inches.
Thrower roams the middle of the floor looking for blocks at the net and kills against opponents.
“Ideal height for my
position would not be shorter than me,” Thrower said. “So maybe 6-2 or 6-1, you can be smaller, like Chante (George) is six-foot but she jumps out of the gym.”
Both height and jumping ability are key for middle blockers, and Thrower said she could not chosose which quality is more important between the two.
Freshman setter Katie Gallagher said being taller is always an asset in volleyball. At a 5-foot-8-inches, Gallagher decides which player gets the chance for the kill.
“As a volleyball player everyone always wishes they were a little taller,” she said. “I have to be quicker and have to be able to jump higher as well. But yeah, I’ve just got to fight a little harder.”
Ideally a setter would be taller so she could see the court better, but Dunbar stressed IU does not recruit positions solely on height.
“Some coaches recruit tall setters,” she said. “I want a kid who can set the ball. It’s not about the height so much for me but if they can do their job when we need them to do it and have the personality that we want that fits into our program.”
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