Freshman Libero Accepting Big Role With Success

Sept. 30, 2010


Illinois native Brianne Riley has had a great deal of success so far in her young career. Although just a freshman, she is a leader and a key ingredient to the success of the Kansas volleyball team. Though the transition from being a leader in high school to college can be a difficult task for some freshmen, Riley does not use it as an excuse and continues to persevere.

“I think the biggest difference is coming in here and not knowing exactly what to expect or what’s coming at you, especially during those first couple days of practice,” Riley said. “You have to adjust as time goes. You can’t get discouraged and you have to keep going no matter what happens. I just have to remember that I know how to be a leader and I’ve done this before.”

The 5-6 libero has played in 15 matches so far this season, averaging 3.89 digs per set, one statistic that led to Riley being named Big 12 Rookie of the Week on Sept. 20. As the team’s back row leader, it is Riley’s job to organize the defense and communicate important messages to the front row hitters. Riley knows that being a leader is not an easy task but believes she possesses certain characteristics that have aided her in helping the Jayhawks be successful.

“I definitely communicate to my team a lot,” said Riley. “It is one of my stronger points. You can hear me when I’m out on the court. I’d also say I am assertive. I’m not afraid to tell someone that the next ball is their’s or give them encouragement.”

“I am also very competitive. That starts in the gym everyday. I bring that competitive drive into the gym to get everyone hyped up and going and wanting to be better than the person next to them.”

Although there is a lot of pressure on Riley in her libero role, she is used to the stresses of being a leader. Off the court in high school she had to utilize her management skills as a member of Benet Academy’s student government, experience that she feels has helped her in her college career playing volleyball.

“I had a lot of pressures, deadlines and due dates in high school and a lot of people were counting on me to run the show,” Riley said of being on student government. “That’s how it is on the volleyball court, too. I have a lot of people counting on me. My teammates expect me to be there, on and off the court.”

With conference season well underway, Riley says the team’s goal is to make the NCAA Tournament, a destination the Jayhawks have not reached since 2005. She strives every day in practice to help make that a reality.

“Our goal is to hang a banner this year and that’s what we focus on every day in practice,” said Riley. “We know what we have to do to get there. It’s a lot of hard work but every day in practice we need to keep that focus and know we have what it takes.”

“We have to keep that energy and that inner-drive,” Riley added. “I help the team stay positive and motivated and push them on the court at practice and during matches.”

Practicing and playing six days a week can be a grueling schedule, especially when paired with classes, homework and travel. When Riley feels she’s at her limit, she remembers a key phrase that helps her push through. ‘Forever strong’has followed her from high school to college and she uses this motto because it means never letting down and never letting anything get to her, which has alluded to her success this year and will certainly continue to bring the Jayhawks success after the regular season.

— Written by Porsha Weddington, Kansas media relations student assistant