Next up in the weekly At The Net volleyball feature is freshman setter/defensive specialist Ann Monsen. Monsen is averaging 1.6 digs per game, which is fifth on the squad despite the fact that she only plays in about half of the possessions.
Any time you bring together a large number of new faces its common to have a few personalities stand out from the crowd.
During the volleyball season fans will quickly notice the speedy Anna Monsen who comes to Oklahoma from Stoughton, Wis. The day Monsen stepped on the McCasland Field House she was one of the fastest players to ever play for the Sooners. Her speed is not restricted to the sporting surface. Everything she does is fast. Monsen walks, talks, and even studies fast.
"I have to be doing something at all times," said Monsen.
Typical of a sprinter, Monsen is so used to moving quickly that her stamina is a bit short of the typical college kid.
"The recent Washington State tourney proved how important sleep is to me," said Monsen. "The freshmen decided to stay up one night and talk until around two in the morning. It was good because we bonded and talked about things like where we want to take this team. The downside was the next day I was dragging. I need ten hours of sleep, I have to be in bed by 10 p.m."
The derivative of Monsen sleep patterns and speed makes her one of the most unique stories on the team.
"When I think about my speed, I would have to say a lot of it comes from my dad who ran track at University of Wisconsin-Madison and who worked on a farm when he was young," said Monsen.
Tremendous speed and working on a farm are two attributes Monsen shares with her father. The attributes also will help her stand out from the rest of her teammates.
"This summer I worked as an organic gardener, which is really hard," said Monsen. "I had to wake up at 6:30 every morning to go to work. I've gotten use to waking up early."
Monsen has Wisconsin farming in her blood. She has worked on farms with her family all her life. Along with organic gardening, Monsen has also worked on her brother's tobacco farm back home. Monsen says when she's all done with volleyball and her education, she is excited to go back and spend the rest of her life farming.
The fast paced Monsen seems to always be in motion and has always been very successful in competition. Back in high school, she was a renowned three sport athlete competing in volleyball, track, and basketball.
"I originally took up track because in junior high I couldn't stand the down time after basketball season," stated Monsen.
While participating in track Monsen was a decorated seven time individual champion. She was a state champion in the 100-meter dash all four years of high school. All the pride in her track accomplishments, pales in comparison to her success in the yearling competition at the state fair, where her pig won best in show.
"Back home presenting cows and pigs is just another summer job," explained Monsen. "Some people get really into a zone like volleyball over it, while I just go out there to have lot of fun. The reason I was late to Norman this August (she arrived the day before training camp) was that I had to present my cow Bernice at the fair."
Besides working with organic gardens, cows, and tobacco Monsen has also spent a lot of time baling hay, which came in a little handy when the preseason started.
"Baling hay was probably all the weight lifting I'd had before this preseason," said Monsen. "I was really surprised at how much we weight trained, but I think it has helped me out a lot."
Before the end of her senior year in high school, Monsen tore her hamstring and had to spend most of the summer in physical therapy. Monsen believes she never lost her speed but the weight training has helped her gain back flexibility lost due to the injury.
"All the weight lifting we have done has really helped me get more flexible, which helps make me faster," states Monsen.
Regaining her speed has keyed Monsen's work as a defender. Coach Kalani Mahi has moved Monsen to defensive specialist, so he can get the talented rookie on the court as much as possible. Defense is a lot different for Monsen who in high school was known for her hitting.
"I was recruited by a few schools as a hitter," said Monsen. "I actually played club with Joanna Schmitt as a sophomore and we were the primary hitters."
Since coming to OU, Coach Mahi has also been training her to be the future setter.
"I've never trained specifically as a setter in my life," said Monsen. "The training Coach Mahi has been giving me has really helped me become more consistent and deceptive."
The learning process as a setter and defensive specialist has been well rounded for the self-proclaimed Cheesehead (ie" Green Bay Packers fan). She is learning the importance of passing to offensive flow and the vital role a setter plays in offensive success.
Training to be versatile on the court wasn't something Monsen expected to be doing. Although she only sees it helping the Sooner volleyball team in the future. .
"I couldn't have imagined a better way to start my career," said Monsen.