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Middle Blocker embraces expanded role on volleyball team

Fallon Stutheit transferred from UNL in the 2020 offseason. Photo provided by Kolton Maturey / UNK Staff

UNK redshirt junior Fallon Stutheit found her love of volleyball at a young age.

After taking a redshirt year at UNL in the fall of 2019, she transferred to UNK and joined the Lopers. Even after a serious foot surgery in 2020 and various ailments in 2021, her love of the game never wavered. 

“I started playing when I was in about third grade and fell in love with it,” Stutheit said. “I remember passing the ball up against my parent’s house when I was little. They would always get mad at me because I was being annoying with the volleyball and always asking them to play.”

Following Anna Squiers’ graduation, Stutheit has now taken center stage as middle blocker for the Lopers.

“We got a little glimpse of it right at the end of last year,” said UNK volleyball coach Rick Squiers. “Anna was out with an injury and Fallon played really well in the conference tournament, so we were hopeful that we would have an experienced player to plug in there. So far this year with her being able to play a lot of games in succession and get a lot of court time. She’s been a big part of our offense.”

In the 3-2 loss against Central Missouri in the MIAA Tournament last season, she had a career-high 12 kills

Stutheit has accumulated 80 kills in the 2022 season as the Lopers started on a 10-game winning streak. She has the second-most on the team behind outside hitter Emersen Cyza. 

“She’s got a huge arm and she hits the ball as hard as anybody we have on the team,” Squiers said. “You get to put somebody out there in the middle who’s scary for the other team. It’s hard to defend the middle attack anyways, but when you hit it as hard as Fallon people are a little jumpy when she gets one through that gets past the block.”

While Stutheit had a big role to fill, she has embraced the pressure. Joining a UNK team that has consistently been near the top of the MIAA and NCAA Division II rankings for over a decade, she knew this is what she was signing up for.

“I think there’s always a little bit of pressure just playing here because there’s always going to be shoes to fill,” Stutheit said. “We always just want to uphold the Loper volleyball standard of being really successful and making it far into the tournament.”

Even after her confidence-building finish to the 2021 season, Stutheit had to earn her increased role this year. Now consistently in the starting lineup for the Lopers, she still has more room to grow and improve. 

“I don’t know that she even really won the job until probably three or four matches in,” Squiers said. “So, I think the next step for her now is to feel comfortable knowing she has the job and continue to expand her role. There’s still little parts of her game that are coming along, but I think she keeps getting more and more confidence every time she steps out there.”

Because of Stutheit’s redshirt season and COVID-19, she still has two more years of eligibility remaining. Still unsure of what her near future holds, she’s making the most of her time on the Lopers no matter what decision she makes.

“I don’t know if this is my last year or if I’ll play some more,” Stutheit said. “I’m just trying to take it day by day and see what happens. Whether it’s my last season or not, I’m just trying to enjoy the experience because I know it’ll be over sooner rather than later either way. I know these are definitely things I’m going to miss and memories that I’ll cherish forever.”

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KEVIN BURD, Sports Edior
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