The first year of college can be stressful for any freshman. For student-athletes, in addition to adjusting to their new location and academics, they are also trying to make a name for themselves and a good impression on a new team.
For Stanford freshman Kathryn Plummer, that was her goal for the first year of college. The Aliso Viejo, California, native headed to Palo Alto already with a list of accolades — being named national indoor player of the year and national beach player of the year while in high school. Plummer was the only high school player in history to do so.
It’s fair to say her first season playing indoor went well, as the Cardinal captured the national title after defeating Texas 3-1. She also won AVCA national freshman of the year.
“I think everyone comes in wanting to make an impact, and I kind of made that the expectation for myself. I made that my goal coming into Stanford,” Plummer said. “I knew I was going to be surrounded by amazing freshman and athletes. I think this year has gone above and beyond what I’ve expected.”
With all her success so far, Plummer would find herself with a new challenge to conquer, as she would once again be a freshman on another team, suiting up for the beach volleyball squad at Stanford.
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Plummer is one of nine freshmen on the team and serves as one of the freshmen who came into this season with prior beach experience. Plummer started playing beach when she was 11 years old. Growing up in sunny southern California, the freshman had plenty of competitive beach experience before, which she has worked to her advantage in her first collegiate season. As she jokes she has “touched sand more than the Kansas and Kentucky girls on the team.”
One of those midwesterners she is referring to is Jenna Gray, a Kansas native, who is her beach partner, roommate and who Plummer also calls her best friend.
Plummer said she has tried to give Gray insight about the beach game through her past experiences, while also enjoying trying to get better as a pair throughout the season so far.
“It’s been a transition for me, just because the beach game has been pretty different compared to indoors,” Gray said. “So [Kathryn] has just been huge in my development, being so willing and patient to talk to me about different techniques and strategies. She is such a great partner.”
They pair first met at USA national competitions for indoor in high school, later hanging out on their official visit at Stanford during senior year of high school. Gray said they could tell their relationship "could be good, strong duo.”
Gray said they are able to have fun together, while being goofy and often accidently wearing the same outfit. Plummer added that their strong friendship has been vital in their season because of the trust they have in the sand.
Along with helping her teammates, head coach Andrew Fuller is quick to point out that Plummer’s attitude toward new challenges is just another successful component of her game. A player who, as Fuller says, “lives within the program.”
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“There’s a trickle-down effect when someone like Kathryn has played and understands concepts — because it rubs off on the people around her and the program,” Fuller said.
For example, Fuller shared about how not a lot of players hand set compared to bump set. The coach pointed out that it’s even more impressive she is able to do it at 6-foot-5. Fuller said he believes that Plummer’s skill has set a precedent as she continues to lead by example.
In a year the Cardinal knew would have some growing pains at times, Stanford sits at 12-5 with three Pac-12 opponents left before the conference championships during the last weekend of April. Plummer and Gray have gone 10-7 this season as a pair.
Despite being just a freshman who has already accomplish a lot in her short time on campus, Plummer does hope that her future comes with more success at Stanford and a shot at being the second person ever to medal in beach and indoor volleyball at the Olympics after graduation.
“If the Olympics are KP’s goal, then we want to do everything we can to help that happen. I think she is at the right place to make that happen. When you are at Stanford you are surrounded by current and former Olympians,” Fuller said. “She is so well spoken, magnetic, kind and thoughtful. She’s a special kid. We feel very fortunate to have her as part of our program.”