Sunday, November 29, 2015

KSU senior Muff always in control

Alex Muff is an organizer.

There isn’t much that gets past the senior middle blocker for the Kansas State volleyball team, and if anyone knows that better, it’s her roommate Caitlyn Donahue, who also happens to be the Wildcats’ senior setter.

“We kind of joke around,” said Donahue, who has lived with her for two years. “She’s a very organized person. Off the court she always makes sure we are at the right places at the right time and on the court she just makes sure we are all on the same page and that we know what we are going to accomplish that day. She uses that to her advantage and to help our team.

“She’s also kind of fun to mess with.”

K-State head coach Suzie Fritz recalled one of those times the team decided to be a little playful with Muff’s by the book approach, when freshman setter Katie Brand added a miniscule amount of chaos to the system.

“They fold their shirts very nicely and put them in numerical order,” Fritz recalled. “Katie early in the season would try and take them out of order because she knew it would get under Alex’s skin. I think Alex caught her and that was the end of that.

“Alex is the one who brings the snacks in, or the food in, in between games at tournaments and lines them up in a row. I would venture to say her closet is pretty organized. It’s just in her DNA.”

In many ways it’s surreal such an organized mind is playing such a chaotic, unpredictable sport like volleyball, but Muff has without a doubt made it work.

This season the Concordia native has been a blocking machine. She leads the team with 117 blocks and 1.35 per set, which is good for third in the ultra-competitive Big 12. While Muff – a team co-captain for the past two seasons – has always been known for her defensive play, it is her offensive numbers that have been the most improve this year. Her hitting percentage of .320 is good for fifth in the league – just behind fellow middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger, who is leading the Wildcats at .337. She has 190 kills with two matches left, which is just seven short of her career-high posted as a sophomore.

“It’s flown by,” Muff said about her senior season. “We’re super excited about how the year has turned out so far and excited about what’s to come and potentially competing in the (NCAA) tournament. I don’t think I could have asked for a better senior year, and to spend it with a better group of girls.”

Muff said the experience she’s gained and the continuity of the team has helped hone her offensive game.

“Experience is one thing I’ve gained along the way and this has kind of been our team for the last three years, minus a few people here and there,’ she said. “Having the opportunity to work day in and day out with those girls has helped me grow as a player in all areas.

“I give a lot of credit to Caitlyn Donahue. She’s done a great job this year of setting me and it’s an overall team effort.”

Muff said her offensive game truly came around during this past off-season.

“Since my team here I’ve always been told I’m a defensive player and my main objective is to be the defensive head,’ she said. “But they’ve always encouraged me to bring offensive production and to do as much as I can in that area, and it’s something that gradually has been a success for me this season.

“During the spring we get a lot of chances to work individually on our skills with our coaches, so that really helped. It’s all about playing in a flow, and I think I’ve finally handled that this year.”

The struggle of getting into the flow goes back to her sense of perfection, according to Fritz, and the ability to not get too flustered by mistakes.

“She has debilitating perfectionism, actually,” Fritz said. “It’s something she’s had to work on, but it’s also a part of the reason she’s gotten really good. We always say perfectionism well-managed is a great quality, and I would certainly say that epitomizes Alex. She’s tremendously detailed, and she wants to do it perfectly every time. She’s now to the point where I think she manages that pretty well, and is able to celebrate her successes maybe more than she was able to in the past. She would get caught up in all the things that weren’t perfect, and volleyball is very much an imperfect game.

“So for a perfectionist it’s kind of a difficult combination, but she’s learned to manage the match a lot better and manage it’s failure a lot better. Her recovery skills have improved a great deal.”

Fritz said Muff, who is also key in the team’s wardrobe decisions, is someone the program will miss.

“(Her contributions) have been enormous,” Fritz said. “The growth from where she started and where she’s come… she’s a much more skilled player, experienced player and sees the game at a high level. “She’s terrific on both sides of the ball right now. We couldn’t ask her to do anymore. She’ll work until it’s perfect, and I love that about her. She’s a workhorse and has managed it.”


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