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Kennedy Stanford etches her name into record books

Colorado+State+University+Outside+Hitter+Kennedy+Stanford+%2817%29+spikes+the+ball+during+the+volleyball+game+against+Stanford+University+Aug.+26.
Collegian | Kaden Porter
Colorado State University outside hitter Kennedy Stanford (17) spikes the ball during a volleyball game against Stanford University Aug. 26. Stanford won 3-1.

What separates a star from a legend?

Stars have outstanding talent, work hard on their game and help lift their team up to new heights. Legends have all that and one other key trait: an overwhelming dedication that manifests over time.

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Kennedy Stanford has just cemented herself as a legend. In a season that saw her play her 100th career match, she spiked down her 1,000th career kill, becoming the fifth Colorado State player in the modern scoring era to record 1,000 career kills. Every single kill over the past four years has come at the green and gold.

Fellow teammate Naeemah Weathers didn’t mince her words when describing the pride she felt on Stanford’s behalf.

“(Getting 1,000 kills) is an absolutely insane milestone,” Weathers said. “I think it’s something that a lot of people who aren’t necessarily in the volleyball world maybe don’t understand the gravity of. That is a huge milestone, and playing in 100 career matches is also huge. So seeing her do that in her time here has been super special, and I’m glad that I was able to witness it because she deserves it.”

Weathers is just one of the teammates who has benefited from Stanford’s presence on the court. In her four seasons as a Ram, Stanford’s .201 hitting percentage, 2.84 kills per set, 634 digs and 153 total blocks have all helped lead the Rams to a 63-39 record during Stanford’s time on the squad. 

After being asked about how she felt reaching the milestone, Stanford took a moment to reflect on her season as a whole. She said she appreciates the accolade, but there are many more aspects of her game she takes pride in.

“I think we’ve had a lot more balance this year,” Stanford said. “That’s kind of changed the way that I view the game and has given me an opportunity to work on a lot of other parts of my game besides just attacking. Getting the 1,000th kill (and) the 100th game, that was very exciting, but I’m also most proud of how I’ve played the other side of the game this season as far as my defense and my passing and all that.”

That kind of mentality not only propels athletes forward and allows them to constantly improve but also earns them something deeply valuable: the unending trust of their coach. 

The star outside hitter has played in every match since the beginning of the 2021 season, and coach Emily Kohan praised Stanford for being a player she can count on day in and day out.

“There’s nothing that replaces the maturity that comes with the experience of playing matches, and she’s played 100 matches obviously, so there’s a lot of data points there of knowing what it feels like and how to compose yourself in those tight situations,” Kohan said. “So the trust of having an upperclassman who’s been in a lot of those situations and performed well in them is pretty irreplaceable.”

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Stanford’s now 101 matches played cement her as one of CSU’s most seasoned players, second only to Karina Leber, who has played 102 matches for the green and gold. She has played under two separate coaches, the first being coach Tom Hilbert, who led the team until 2022, and now under Kohan.

“It’s been kind of cool to see the growth every year,” Stanford said. “I think both Tom and Emily have played a big role in that. They’ve done a great job of helping me grow different parts of my game and … growing leaps and bounds kind of on different sides of the ball. That’s something that I really appreciate about my time here at CSU.”

Learning to play under two separate coaches can certainly be a challenge for many players, and learning new systems and new dynamics can be a difficult adjustment for a team to go through.

Weathers, however, said Stanford’s veteran mentality is something the whole team is able to depend on to get them through complicated situations.

“(Stanford) is honestly kind of like my blanket, and I feel that the whole team can say something similar,” Weathers said. “When she’s on the court, we know that she’s going to get her job done. Her being out there for so long and having all that experience is something that all of us can learn from, and we sort of look to her in those times when we’re like, ‘OK, we need some leadership, and we need someone who’s a little bit older and a little bit more experienced to sort of lead us to the finish line.'”

Stanford’s four years of consistent dedication to the Rams’ program has earned her the trust of coaches, teammates and fans, which has now cemented her name as a legend in CSU history.

Legend status in the record books isn’t stopping Stanford just yet, though.

“I’m coming back for next year,” Stanford said. “I have one more semester of eligibility, and then I will probably go play (professional volleyball). That’s kind of the goal, and (I’m) interested to kind of test the waters with that.”

Will Engle can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @willengle44.

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