Freshman Kendall Beerman jokes she started playing volleyball the moment she emerged from the womb.
Beerman has been bumping volleyballs around since she was 2 years old, playing for club teams since she was 10 and then playing on the Tates Creek High School varsity team in Kentucky as a seventh grader.
Then, as a 17-year-old high school senior in a regional final match, everything stopped. A normal jump to attack a ball, which earned her a kill, ended with excruciating pain and a torn ACL.
A four-year First Team All-State according to the Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association and 2014 Under Armour Third Team All-American was sidelined.
“I was full-throttle my whole life and then I tore my ACL and it was devastating,” Beerman said. “It was really hard work to get back, and at the time I thought it was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. But looking back it was probably the best thing because I had to learn a whole new work ethic and I had to get stronger and faster, which really helped me for my college career.”
A lengthy and grueling recovery process forced her to redshirt her first year in Bloomington. But, since she’s been back, Beerman’s collected the third-most kills with 85, the 10th-best hitting percentage among qualified players and the best hitting percentage among freshmen in the Big Ten.
“Kendall leaned out, got stronger, got faster and is probably playing her best volleyball,” IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan said. “You never want someone to get injured, but if they take it the right way and have the right attitude then it could be a real benefit to their performance.”
The playmaker has served a crucial role in the Hoosiers’ 7-0 start this season. Although, the success hasn’t come without growing pains.
Beerman said she felt nervous all of last year because she couldn’t fall to her left or jump the same and didn’t feel confident moving around. But, she was able to work through it.
“I know what I’m capable of now,” Beerman said. “I thought I was fast and strong in high school, but then after a whole year (of rehab), I’m better. I’m proud of myself for how hard I worked to get back after sitting out a year when I had played volleyball for almost 18 years straight.”
The freshman quickly made her presence known in IU’s opening weekend, her first game action since her injury, as she dominated her opponents and earned Most Valuable Player honors at the Indiana Invitational.
“Honestly I can’t say I (had nerves) about playing in my first college game,” Beerman said following her first tournament just a week and a half ago. “After watching a whole year of how it works, you have those little moments when you get a little nervous, but I just push it away the second I feel it and I just try to combat it with playing aggressive.”
Beerman said she believes redshirting last season made her grow as a person, a player and a teammate.
“I had to learn my role and be a good person on the bench,” Beerman said. “I learned what it takes to play in the Big Ten. Redshirting was the best decision I’ve made. Last season, I was on the outside looking in, so I had nothing to do but be a good practice player and be my teammates’ biggest supporter.”
Dunbar-Kruzan said the freshman’s mentality has improved as she learned how hard one has to work at this level.
“Kendall has a great attitude about life,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “She’s not a defensive person and she wants to be good. If you tell her to do something she’s going to do it. She understands the game really well and she is able to do things with the ball that other players physically can’t do.”
The coach continuously praises Beerman’s confidence and knowledge on the court, which feeds into the outside hitter’s new mantra: “Always be aggressive, always be confident, always be positive and have a short memory with anything that happens in a game and in life.”