Danielle Smith doesn’t let her size bother her while playing middle blocker.
The Elon University senior stands at 5 feet, 9 inches tall, but she remains effective going up against players who are typically 6 feet tall or bigger.
“I’m used to being the small one in the middle,” Smith said. “I’m quick, which helps me against blockers who are taller than me.”
Smith’s attack in the middle helped power Elon’s five-set victory against High Point University Sept. 10, when she recorded eight kills at an .333 efficiency. She had a season-high 13 kills against the University of North Carolina at Asheville Sept. 6.
Smith plays multiple positions for Elon, rotating from the middle to both outside positions. She has 77 kills and 20 blocks so far the year.
“She’s one of the most versatile players I’ve ever seen in my life,” said junior outside hitter Megan Gravley. “Last week, she played outside in one set, middle in one set and right side in one set. People who can do that, I have so much respect for.”
KLEIN CLIMBING: Elon freshman middle blocker Michelle Klein is seeing the floor more after not playing at all in the team’s first three games.
In six games, Klein has amassed 28 kills while hitting .262 and 11 blocks.
“I think I’ve definitely improved a lot,” she said of the transition from high school to college. “At first, I was really timid and I couldn’t hit down to save my life. Now, I’m getting a little more used to the intensity and the pace of the college game.”
Elon head coach Mary Tendler said Klein has taken some lumps, as any freshman does, early on. But overall, she likes where Klein is headed with her improvements.
“The middle blocker position is tough because you need to do a great job of reading the ball coming off the hands of a setter,” Tendler said. “If you guess wrong or move in the wrong direction, you’re going to leave an opening for the defense. She’s a very confident player.”
LET'S PLAY FIVE: Elon has seen its fair share of five-set matches, even this early in the season. The Phoenix has played four matches — including a stretch of three straight — that went the distance.
In those four, Elon went 2-2, beating Kennesaw State University and High Point University while falling to the University of North Carolina at Asheville and the University of North Florida.
“We’re getting some good experience,” Tendler said.
INJURY UPDATE: Gravley and junior middle blocker Catherine Head have each missed games recently because of injury.
Head got hurt during Elon’s trip to Kennesaw State the weekend of Sept. 6-7. She did not play against High Point but saw action in three sets against North Florida before sitting out both Saturday games at Campbell University. Gravley wore a boot on her left foot during the second day of the Campbell tournament and didn’t see the floor.
SEEKING CONSISTENCY: If there’s one thing that’s bothering Tendler through Elon’s first 10 matches, it’s consistency.
Tendler singled that out as a definite need for improvement, particularly starting off sets on a good note.
Elon is currently 3-7 overall. After two of Elon’s three victories, the Phoenix was swept in its next contest.
“We’ll play a really great match, then the next match we struggle,” Tendler said. “The key to our team right now is starting out each set in a positive way, not making errors right off the bat. What we’re finding is we make a few errors right off the bat and we struggle coming back from that.”