Redshirt freshman Kayla Bivins of the USF volleyball team was excited to play Division I college volleyball last season.
“All college players have big accomplishments from high school, that’s why you’re going D1,” she said. “I came in having high expectations of myself.”
But unlike most college freshmen, Bivins suffered an injury before she played a single set for USF. The injury caused her to redshirt, therefore missing the entire season.
“One day in practice, someone landed on my foot and I fractured it,” Bivins said. “I didn’t think it was that bad at first. It was just hurting and I thought it was a little tweak or something. But I took an MRI and they told me I was going to be out for a few months.”
Bivins was distraught. Her built-up anticipation and yearning to play for the Bulls had been taken from her.
She was left with the job of cheering on teammates and learning the team strategy. Per NCAA rules, redshirted volleyball players are not allowed to travel with the team and Bivins said this strongly affected her attitude.
“I sat in my room depressed,” she said. “I wanted to be there supporting my team. I watched them on the computer, but it’s different not being there.”
Bivins wasn’t alone in her rehabilitation efforts though.
Her brother Chris Bivins is a sophomore defensive back on the USF football team.
Chris tore his ACL for the second time while his sister was going through her injury.
Together, the two siblings encouraged each other and went through rehab side by side.
“We would text each other, call each other and hang out,” Kayla said. “We encouraged each other to get on the bike, lift weights and do ropes. We pushed each other with that and helped each other stay mentally tough. I feel like it really helped me with everything.”
While the injury was certainly a setback for Bivins in terms of playing matches, she turned her redshirt season into preparation for the upcoming year. She spent her unexpected free time learning the plays, rehabilitating her body and altering her mindset to one of positivity and determination.
“I felt like when I was sitting out, everyone else was getting better,” she said. “So it just pushed me to do everything 10 times harder than the next person. That’s why I am where I am today. I didn’t let the injury stop me from being better, I didn’t dwell on it.”
Coach Courtney Draper said she thinks that while it was unfortunate for Bivins to suffer the fractured foot, sitting out was beneficial to her.
“That probably helped her to become a better player in all honesty,” Draper said. “I do think that being out made her more of a student of the game and we see that today.”
Bivins has since transformed from being the saddened individual unable to play with her team, into a motivated, focused teammate on the court and a funny, bright person off of it.
Junior Jennica Mullins said Bivins has a good personality, and while she is relaxed and loose off the court, she easily becomes serious and concentrated during matches.
“She’s pretty funny,” Mullins said. “She’s always cracking jokes and making us laugh. She’s good comic relief, but during matches, she has a game face, you can definitely see it. She’s observant and notices a lot of stuff going on.”
This season, Bivins has emerged as a starter and offensive weapon for the Bulls. She has played in 21 matches and recorded 168 kills so far.
Draper said Bivins has transformed into a completely different player.
“She’s a totally different person this year,” she said. “Not just her playing ability, but her attitude too. She’s clearly a major contributor for us this year. I’m just really excited for her.”
Currently, the team sits at 11-10 overall and 5-2 in conference play. The Bulls are riding a three-game winning streak in which Bivins has a combined 30 kills.
This weekend, Bivins and the Bulls will see if their hot streak can continue when they host Memphis and Temple in the USF Corral. USF takes on Memphis on Friday at