Nov. 24, 2010
Roehrig transitions from coach to player
By David Boyce
In her first season as the graduate assistant for the Northwest Missouri State volleyball team, Kyla Roehrig did more than make hotel arrangements and order food for the team.
She broke down game film, scouted opposing teams and during matches, Roehrig routinely leaped from her chair and yelled encouragement or instruction to players.
She definitely had the background to do it. In her four-year career at the University of Minnesota, Roehrig led the Gophers to four NCAA tournament appearances and finished with 1,246 kills, ranking 14th in the program's history.
The coaching part was intriguing to her.
"I love seeing how everything works," Roehrig said. "You play the sport and you go out and play the game. Being a coach there is so much more involved. You don't really realize it until you are behind the scene. I got a lot of experience.
"Jessica gave me so much to do. It was great to find out if I ever want to be a coach."
But Roehrig hasn't quite shaken the playing bug. She had one year of eligibility left for basketball and decided to return to the sport she hasn't played since her senior year at Papillion High School in Nebraska in 2005.
Coach Gene Steinmeyer definitely welcomed the imposing frame of Roehrig, who stands 6-feet-4.
He could deal with Roehrig being available 60 percent of the time for practice while volleyball season was going on.
Her dedication was very evident last Thursday. During the early to late afternoon, Roehrig was in Warrensburg, Mo. The volleyball team was making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA South Central Regional.
Despite a strong effort by the Bearcats, they fell 3-0 to Washburn. The team returned to Maryville Thursday evening and Roehrig headed straight to basketball practice.
"It is kind of cool," she said. "I'm coaching and then I get to play. It's the best of both worlds."
On Friday, she played in her second game and scored 20 points, making 9-of-10 shots from the field against Southwestern.
"I was a little nervous, trying to remember a drop step, the little things," Roehrig said. "After the first minute everything started flowing and I didn't think as much."
She followed that with another 20-point performance against William Jewell, going 9-for-13 from the field on Saturday. The Bearcats won both games.
"She looked great," Steinmeyer said. "It's funny because she was struggling to find her spot in practice and really wasn't shooting all that well in practice.
"She got in the game and didn't miss. You could tell she is really a game-time player."
Watching Roehrig on the volleyball bench, it is easy to tell a competitive fire burns inside her.
Her dad knew what buttons to push. When Roehrig told him of her plans to play competitive basketball for the first time in nearly half a decade, he asked her if she could get up and down the court. It was all Roehrig needed to hear.
"Once I decided I was going to play basketball I started running," Roehrig said.
It helps that Roehrig is familiar with a couple of players on the team. She played against forward Gentry Dietz and guard Abby Henry in high school.
Last year Henry led the Bearcats in scoring and Dietz was second on the team from the post position.
Because Dietz has just one semester of eligibility left she won't play until Dec. 18.
Given the strong guard play of Henry, Gabby Curtis and Shelly Martin, the Bearcats now have the inside depth with Roehrig to give opponents all kinds of match-up problems.
"Our three starting guards are pretty good," Steinmeyer said. "If teams are concentrating on stopping our three guards, it is a heck of a lot easier to do it if you don't have that inside force.
"When Dietz can play on Dec. 18, she's going to find herself not doubled as much, having a lot more room to maneuver than she did before."
It all means it could be a fun season for the Bearcats and Roehrig.
"Like volleyball, I think we have a good chance to advance past the regular season," Roehrig said. "We have a good balance with an inside game and an outside game. If we get double teamed on the inside, we have guards who can score on the outside."
Roehrig and the Bearcats host Peru State at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Bearcat Arena. It's the final non-conference contest for Northwest, which opens MIAA play Wednesday at defending national-champion Emporia State.
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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