Colleen King hits a ball earlier this season for the University of Denver. King, a 2010 Steamboat graduate, recently was named First Team All Western Athletic Conference in volleyball. King led the Pioneers in kills this season as a junior.

Rich Clarkson and Associates/courtesy

Colleen King hits a ball earlier this season for the University of Denver. King, a 2010 Steamboat graduate, recently was named First Team All Western Athletic Conference in volleyball. King led the Pioneers in kills this season as a junior.

Steamboat Springs' King shines on the DU volleyball court

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— Colleen King grew up as a setter.

“In high school, the best feeling was setting up (former teammate) Devin (Wilkinson) and her getting a kill,” King said. “I loved that.”

She considered herself a setter, and some of her favorite moments came as a setter. But King's athletic gifts have positioned her well for the right side.

King, a 2010 Steamboat Springs High School graduate, finally focused on hitting this past season at the University of Denver and turned in a breakout year.

The Pioneers junior led the team in kills and was a first-team All Western Athletic Conference selection.

“She was one of the top athletes on the team,” said first-year Pioneers coach Jesse Mahoney. “I said regardless of whatever issues she might have, we need to get this kid on the floor and put her in this situation. I’m not saying putting her on the right side was a genius move. It’s where she was meant to be all along.”

King certainly impressed. She was recruited to DU by the former coaching staff as a right-side hitter and setter.

After battling injuries early, King found playing time but never could get comfortable in her role.

When Mahoney was hired away from Colorado State University, the transition was easy for King. Mahoney had recruited her in high school.

Initially, King was told to continue working on both aspects of her game. But by spring, the Pioneers had picked up a setter as a transfer, and King focused just on hitting.

“I was told I would be blocking and point scoring for us,” King said. “Before, I was stuck and wasn’t sure if I was a hitter or a setter. It really helped my confidence.”

King’s newfound confidence immediately paid off. Her kills per game increased from 1.5 her sophomore year to 3.5 this past season.

She became a focal point of the offense and started to see more double blocks.

“Those numbers are a huge amount of growth,” Mahoney said. “They will get incrementally better from here. If we can get her to be a little more efficient, she’ll take more swings for us.”

The focus now is to continue to work on King’s swing. Mahoney also said he would like to see King become a better defensive player. Last year, she was taken out when she rotated to the back line. This year, Mahoney said he hopes King can become a six rotation player.

King is now getting into winter workouts and said she can’t wait to start playing again. Although the move from setter wasn’t easy, she said the support from her family — especially her parents Buddy and Joanie — was instrumental in her breakout year.

With the Pioneers moving to the Summit League this season, King said the goal is to win the conference and make the NCAA tournament.

“That’s what gets me through workouts now,” she said.

King said she isn’t looking past this year. Instead, she's trying to enjoy her last season. But when it’s over, she said she would love to play professionally overseas like her sister Tara. Considering the growth she has shown, she should be able to do it.

“She has a really high ceiling and is not close to it,” Mahoney said. “I know she aspires to play after college, and she will. She’s a really special player.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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