Kristen Luxton used to dish out assists, now she digs up shots.
Luxton’s move pays off
with free school and big dance
Kristen Luxton, Maui-born and Oahu-raised, and her family decided during her junior year at Maryknoll High that she should leave.
They agreed Kristen should move to California and stay with family friends in Los Altos so she could get more exposure of her volleyball skills and, hopefully, a college scholarship.
Luxton is getting a free education at one of the West Coast's top universities and has a date Friday to the NCAA's Big Dance.
She is the starting libero for 13th-ranked Santa Clara, the West Coast Conference runner-up. The Broncos (20-10) play Utah, another team with a libero from Hawaii, Friday at Seattle.
Luxton says the move to California was "probably the best thing, volleyball-wise, I had ever done.
"It was hard at the time, but I really enjoyed the whole experience and I would do it again. My goal was to play for a D-I school."
It has been Luxton's first extended stay on the mainland and although, she says, "I miss surfing, miss my family and the weather sometimes, I really have enjoyed it."
She played for a club team coached by an assistant coach at Santa Clara and was offered a scholarship during her senior year in high school, when she was chosen most valuable player on a team that reached the sectional final.
But that didn't automatically get Luxton on the floor.
Last season she played in five games as a reserve setter and had a total of 23 assists and five digs.
She was still a backup setter this season, seeing more pine-time than playing time, when she approached coach Jon Wallace and asked if she could play more. The coaches decided to try her at libero, the defensive specialty position introduced to the women's collegiate game last year.
"She was really tired of not playing and found a way to get on the court," Wallace said. Kristen is a very competitive, very smart volleyball player. She knows how to be in right spot at right time to get digs."
On Nov. 22, Luxton got 30 digs -- the first time in 10 years that a Santa Clara player got that many in a match.
"She has strong hands and takes advantage of the rule change that allows back row players to make first contact with their hands," Wallace said. "Now they can cover more court and be more aggressive."
"I love playing libero, it's a completely different game from setting, focusing entirely on defense," Luxton says. The best thing about libero is getting to control the defense, always being out there, always being part of everything and getting to touch the ball that much more.
"Being a setter, I never really understood how difficult it was for the passers and defenders."
And the worst thing playing libero? "Not ever getting to spike the ball -- ever," she said. I really like libero, but I'd rather be setting."
Santa Clara's starting setter graduates and Luxton "will get first shot at it next season," Wallace said.
The libero across the net Friday may be Utah senior Taryn Horner, a 2000 Iolani graduate from Waikiki.
Horner, the Utes starter until recently, has played in 87 of 107 games, compared to 49 games last season and seven games in her first two seasons combined.
Utah has won 14 of its last 16 for a 21-8 overall record. Washington (20-8) and Northwestern (18-14) are the other teams in the bracket.