It’s not often in any sport that a player achieves 1,000 of something, but that’s exactly what Kelly Ferrero ’23.5 did. Ferrero, a senior captain and starting libero on the Middlebury women's volleyball team, surpassed 1,000-career digs on Sept. 9 in a game against Gettysburg College.
“It was a really exciting moment,” Ferrero said of the milestone. “Individual goals and achievements like that do feel a little bit strange to celebrate in a team sport, but it’s really a reflection of how the team is doing in general that we’re able to reach that.”
A "dig" in volleyball refers to a defensive maneuver known as a pass, skillfully executed to prevent the ball from making contact with the ground following an opponent's offensive assault. The move helps a team's defense, allowing the players to successfully return an attack shot and maintain possession of the ball.
“It’s cool that there’s an opportunity for those of us that aren’t getting kills, that there’s something we can celebrate too as defense players,” Ferrero told The Campus.
Ferrero started playing volleyball in fifth grade, after unsuccessful experiences with other sports. “I was never good at sports, I’m not very athletic, and nothing clicked for me ever. My school in fifth grade started to have a volleyball team and my mom actually forced me to do it,” she recalled. "I've loved volleyball so much that I've stayed with it for 12 years."
Ferrero began her progression towards 1,000 digs in the fall of 2019 as a hopeful first-year. She spent her debut season eagerly awaiting the opportunity to ascend to the starter role. As a defensive specialist, assuming the role of libero means more than just sporting a different colored jersey. As the “quarterback” of the defense, liberos seldom leave the floor and account for a significant portion of a team’s defensive stockpile. Well-positioned to compete for the coveted libero position entering her sophomore year, Ferrero was forced to wait another year when the Covid-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 season.
During this time, Ferrero made the decision to take a leave of absence in the spring of 2021. Reflecting on her return to the team in the fall of 2021, Ferrero said she faced stiff competition in trying to secure the libero position, but she persevered and has held on to the role ever since.
Originally intended to graduate in May of 2023, Ferrero’s leave in the spring of 2021 shifted her academic timeline back a semester. Now, she embarks on her fourth season as a Super Senior Feb.
“I feel really lucky to have come back for a fourth season. Mostly because I can be with the team for an extra year and finish up my eligibility, but also it allowed that opportunity for me to hit that individual milestone that I wouldn’t have been able to do in just three seasons,” Ferrero said.
Looking ahead to the rest of her final season with the team, Ferrero said she doesn’t have any individual goals for herself other than to support her teammates as much as she can defensively.
“I’m not the one scoring points, so it’s my job to help make everyone else’s job easier,” she said. “All of my teammates are doing so many different things and have so many things to worry about, and essentially I have one job and that’s pass the ball and do that well. Whatever I can do to make everyone else’s game a little easier is what I will do.”
After her last season, Ferrero will miss the supportive culture on her team. Together with her teammates, Ferrero said she has worked hard to cultivate a competitive practice culture as well as mutual respect and trust during games.
“Having that big group of people that I trust no matter what, that I know always has my back — even if we’re competing hard with each other in practice — it’s a really special thing and not something I’m probably going to experience again in my life,” Ferrero added.
Editor’s note: Lexi Linafelter ’24 is a sports editor and a captain of the women’s volleyball team.