Vandal freshman DeVonne Ryter experienced her first major time on the volleyball court last August during Idahoâ€™s final game of the Rainbow Wahine Invitational in Hawaii.
Ryter said she entered the matchup with a sense of urgency to showcase her abilities on the court for the Vandals.
Although the team fell to Wichita State 3-0, the Arizona native left Honolulu with a newfound reputation after leading the team with nine kills and a .429 hitting percentage.
â€œI was trying to prove myself because there were three middles at the time, so I was competing for my spot on the court,â€ Ryter said. â€œI wanted to work and play hard for my spot because my goal was to play. Thatâ€™s all I wanted.â€
Ryter continued to face challenges her first year with the program. Most middle hitters consist of tall players, but at 6 feet,Â Ryter is one of the shortest middle hitters in the Big Sky Conference.
Ryter said she is not fazed by the height differential and has pushed herself to achieve hits and block opposing balls.
â€œItâ€™s hard to compete with middles that are above 6-foot-2,â€ Ryter said. â€œI have to push myself harder to jump higher and be faster, but thereâ€™s always challenges in volleyball. By fall, I should be able to overcome this challenge.â€
The freshman quickly became one of the programâ€™s top blockers last year, ending the season with 67 blocks. Ryter also totaled 86 kills, recorded six aces and managed 22 digs for the Vandals over the course of the season.
Ryterâ€™s highlight performance came against Weber State Oct. 22, as the middle hitter had a season-high 10 kills and went 10-10 on the attack. Nine of those kills came in the final two sets of play, helping the Vandals secure a 3-1 win in Ogden, Utah.
â€œMy old setter, (Meredith) Coba kept me pumped up and excited for the game,â€ Ryter said. â€œI just remember going into the match knowing that I was going to do good. I didnâ€™t really think about my performance, I just kind of did it and it turned out to be an awesome result.â€
Ryter said she has benefited greatly under the guidance of the teamâ€™s senior members.
â€œCoba was just pushing me and pumping me up and saying, â€˜Hey you got this, just be a big blocker and be ready for my sets,â€™â€ Ryter said. â€œJenna (Ellis) was always there to give me any comfort and motivate me. Tineke (Bierma) would always pump me up as well, we blocked so many balls together and it was great.â€
Ryter said senior Katelyn Peterson played an instrumental role in helping her adjust to the environment of collegiate volleyball.
â€œKatelyn is just a phenomenal athlete and Iâ€™m still aspiring to be like her,â€ Ryter said. â€œI want to be super athletic, fast and motivated in that sense.â€
Although the Vandal volleyball team has experienced a plethora of roster changes this spring, Ryter said the team has gained chemistry on the floor.
â€œWeâ€™ve been working a lot better together and became more matured in our personalities,â€ Ryter said. â€œWeâ€™re growing into our own personalities on the court. Itâ€™s great to see it translate and push each other so our chemistry continues to be there in the fall.â€
Ryter said she hopes to provide the team with an alternative option at offense next season.
â€œThey saw me more of an offensive player because of my arm strength,â€ Ryter said. â€œI have a pretty fast arm in the front sets. But not all of my kills were front sets, so the coaches are trying to have me work on more of the back sets where I can have more of a broad range on offense.â€
When she is not on the court, Ryter said she spends her time pursuing an organizational science major with minors in communications and interior design. She said her professional goal is to become a dental hygienist and part-time interior designer.
Luis TorresÂ can be reached atÂ email@example.comÂ or on Twitter @TheLTFiles