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Stealthy Baum makes presence felt on court

Josh Fields/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Junior middle blocker Kristina Baum has stepped up her role on the women's volleyball team to earn a starting position this season. Head coach Dave Rubio said, 'She's become a very integral part of what's happening for us.'
By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 6, 2005
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Junior's commitment earns team's praise, cements starting spot

While she won't be mentioned in the same breath as Arizona volleyball power hitters Kim Glass and Jennifer Abernathy, junior opposite hitter-middle blocker Kristina Baum has become an equally important component of the Wildcat squad this season.

Baum acknowledged that although she does not spend time in the spotlight, she embraces her position on the team.

"I know my role on the team, and I know I play a supporting cast," Baum said. "I just try to remain consistent and steady for my team."

Last season, Baum saw significant playing time, appearing in 28 matches and starting 13. In 2005, the Whittier, Calif., native has played in 41 games, starting every match.

Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said Baum rededicated herself to the game after the 2004 season, which earned her a starting spot.

"Kristina really committed herself to an exercise program from the spring to the summer, and as a result, she's playing much more physical volleyball," Rubio said. "She's jumping higher and moving faster. (She is) much more aggressive from an attacking standpoint, and her back-row skills have developed.

"We finally have some offense behind the setter, which makes a big difference for us," he said. "I love her presence on the floor. She's really become a very integral part of what's happening for us."

Baum's teammates have also taken notice of her dramatic improvement. Senior outside hitter Kim Glass said Baum has set a standard on the team for work ethic and drive.

Kristina Baum
No. 23 - opposite hitter-middle blocker
6-foot-2 - junior
2005 stats (through 41 games):
2.27 kills per game, 1.56 digs per game
.320 hitting percentage

"I think everyone in here just respects Kristina and just really appreciates the effort that she's given," Glass said. "She has worked her butt off to make sure that she's gotten stronger and quicker and just a better example for everyone.

"I've never seen anyone make such a drastic transformation like that," she said. "It's definitely commendable and respectable."

Baum said that she does not take her starting position for granted, given the depth on the 19-player Arizona roster.

"I think I put more pressure on myself just because I know I'm starting and we have so many good players on the sidelines that can easily start over me," she said. "I just try to be the steady, consistent player on the court. I know what I have to do and I know that in order for us to win, I need to play at a certain level and be there for my teammates."

Baum's hard work is evident in her statistics. In 2004, she averaged 1.6 kills per game and 0.54 digs per game, compared to 2.27 and 1.56, respectively, this year.

Baum collected six kills, two assists and four digs against No. 2 Washington Saturday and tallied 14 kills on 23 attempts for a .478 hitting percentage against Washington State the day before.

With the departure of seniors Glass, Abernathy and middle blocker Bre Ladd at the end of the season, Baum and junior setter Stephanie Butkus are expected to pace the Arizona offense and lead the team.

"They're going to have to carry a little bit more of the load next year," Rubio said. "They can't do it all by themselves. But Kristina and Stephanie being in the program for as long as they will have been, it's going to be very important for us to have them produce some higher numbers."

Baum said she's aware that next season will require a bigger commitment than ever.

"I know that I'll be taking more swings than this year because I'll need to step up," she said. "We'll be a younger team next year. As you get older, you take more swings."

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