Lines makes immediate impact in starting lineup

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Lines makes immediate impact in starting lineup

Kaitlyn Lines attempts a serve against Baylor Sept. 8 at the Al McGuire Center.

Kaitlyn Lines attempts a serve against Baylor Sept. 8 at the Al McGuire Center.

Photo by John Steppe

Kaitlyn Lines attempts a serve against Baylor Sept. 8 at the Al McGuire Center.

Photo by John Steppe

Photo by John Steppe

Kaitlyn Lines attempts a serve against Baylor Sept. 8 at the Al McGuire Center.

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A few months ago, then-junior transfer Kaitlyn Lines had never heard of Marquette University.

“When they emailed me, I had to look them up,” Lines said. “I had never heard of them before.”

Fast forward to September 2019, and she’s now a starting outside hitter for the No. 7 Golden Eagles volleyball team.

“I came on my visit and really fell in love with the team, the coaches, the culture and the campus,” Lines said.

Lines, who teammates and coaches call K.J., hails from Gilbert, Arizona, and spent her first two years of college eligibility at University of the Pacific in California.

With the Tigers, Lines was incredibly successful, being named a First Team All-West Coast Conference honoree and posting 437 kills last season.

But following her sophomore year, she needed a switch.

Lines said there was  a lot of changes at her former program, Pacific.

“Five girls transferred out after my freshman year,” Lines said. “I just wanted something better that had more potential of winning and for my personal career.”

She found a perfect fit on Wisconsin Avenue.

“She was looking for an environment where she could win and play at a high level, (and) a team that needed an outside hitter,” head coach Ryan Theis said. “We crossed off all those checks.”

Lines joined the squad in late May, two weeks before the team’s foreign tour. She said the tour was quite helpful in acclimating to the team despite challenges in learning all of the squad’s offensive and defensive systems in two weeks.

Even though Lines was joining a team with a surplus of returning outside hitters, she quickly worked her way into a spot in the starting lineup.

“I worked really hard all spring to get a starting spot. I definitely had to prove myself, and it was hard at first,” Lines said. “But I worked hard, and the girls were super welcoming helping me fit into the systems.”

Theis compared her to now-graduated outside hitter Anna Haak. He said it was one of the main reasons why she seamlessly cracked the rotation.

“Her skillset is very similar to Haak,” Theis said. “That piece of it was pretty valuable because she’s somebody who plays all six (rotations), likes to swing on the left side and allows us to keep our 6-2 (formation).”

Lines has made an instant impact. In her first three matches, she combined for 37 kills at a 0.413 clip, adding six service aces and four total blocks. Her performance was enough to earn MVP of the BYU Nike Invitational at the end of August. 

“It was very rewarding. I didn’t have low expectations, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that successful of a weekend for me,” Lines said. “It was awesome.”

A few days later against No. 4 Wisconsin, Lines put up 17 kills, nine digs and two service aces to take down the Badgers in a five-set thriller.

“That firepower and ability to score is pretty typical of K.J.,” Theis said.

She’s also made a quick adjustment to the team off the court.

“Even though I’m super far from home, the team makes it feel like I’m not,” Lines said. “I don’t feel like I’m new, either. It’s been really great.”

“We love having her, and she’s a great kid,” Theis said. “She fits right in.”

Experience has been one of Marquette’s biggest advantages this season, which Lines said will help carry the team through the postseason.

“If we go down a couple points or down in the match like (against Wisconsin), we don’t stop fighting,” Lines said. “We’re very mature, and we don’t get in our heads too much.”

Theis said there are still a few spots where Lines can improve.

“She’ll continue to get better at middle back defense. She’s learning and improving block setup,” Theis said. “She had one or two blocks (against Wisconsin) that I don’t think she would have made in her first week here.”

When she was looking at potential transfer locations, one of Lines’ main priorities was a team that could win. With the Golden Eagles, she thinks she has found that.

“I think we’ll go farther than we did last year,” Lines said. “We have all that it takes to go super far. As long as we just keep at it, we can do it.”

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