Kavran makes run at Oredigger record

Kimmy Kavran is going to make some history Friday night at the Montana Tech HPER Complex.

If you want to see it, make sure you’re there on time.

Kavran is one shy of the Oredigger season dig record. With 607 digs, the true freshman defensive specialist is on the heels of Oredigger great Kaila Minehan, who set the mark a decade ago.

Montana Tech’s volleyball match against MSU-Northern starts at 7 p.m. A 7:02 arrival will likely be too late.

“She’ll crush it on like the third play of the game,” Tech coach Brian Solomon says of the record.

That the record breaker will, in all likelihood, come so early is fitting for the former Missoula Sentinel Spartan. Kavran’s assault on the Oredigger record book has come early in her career and remarkably early in the season.

The Orediggers have five regular-season matches left after the record-breaker comes Friday.

“I had no idea I was getting close,” says Kavran, who credits her competitive nature for the historic season. “When I knew I was getting closer to the goal it made me want to fight that much harder. I really wanted it super bad.”

The record won’t be the first dig mark for Kavran this season. Earlier, she broke the Orediggers’ single-match mark of 40 digs held by Bekah Hudson. Actually, she broke that mark four times this season, posing match totals of 41 twice, 42 and 43.

“This is the first time I’ve had that,” Solomon says. ” I had someone at 40 once, I think. For her to keep doing it is crazy.”

Kavran, who is almost 5-foot-3, isn’t just the best digger in Digger history, she’s the best in the NAIA in 2012. She leads the nation, averaging 7.1 digs per set. That’s nearly one full dig per set better than the second-best digger.

When it comes to Frontier Conference games — when Tech’s competition has been much tougher — Kavran is even better, averaging 7.4 digs per set.

“She’s probably got about the quickest reflexes as anybody I’ve seen,” Solomon says. ” She’d probably be a heck of a ping pong player.”

Actually, Kavran says she’s not very good at ping pong. But she was pretty good at track, basketball and soccer. As a sophomore she was on the Sentinel 1,600-meeter relay team that made it to the state meet. As a freshman and sophomore she was a varsity-junior varsity swing player on the basketball team. She played club volleyball until the volleyball bug bit her.

“You should see her juggle a soccer ball,” Solomon says. “She’s actually a good athlete beside being a little volleyball player.”

“I actually got 100 the other day,” Kavran adds.

Volleyball, though, is Kavran’s love.

“I wanted to pursue my volleyball,” she says. “I always thought that if I played after high school it would be soccer or basketball, but volleyball kind of kicked in.”

She was a three-year starter on a Sentinel team that made three straight trips to the state tournament, finishing fourth in 2009. She earned All-State honors and academic All-State honors the last two years of high school.

Kavran, the Sentinel team MVP, played at the USAV Junior National Championships in Columbus, Ohio, in July. She was nominated for the Gatorade Player of the Year Award.

Still, Solomon, Tech’s first year coach, didn’t realize exactly what he was getting with the gem he landed in late March.

“I had hopes for that,” he says. ” I had some hopes that she could come in and do something like she’s done. I was more concerned on focusing on getting her passing a little better and working on serve receive. I knew defensively she was a really strong player. I’m not sure I imagined she be doing that this year.”

Simply speaking, a “dig” is the act of stopping the ball from hitting your side of the court after the opponent has either spiked or served the ball.

“It has to be an active play,” Kavran says. “You have to actually work for the ball. If it’s a free ball over the net, it shouldn’t be counted as a dig. If you do make an active play on a hard, driven ball it’s a dig.”

Basically, that means getting in the way of a hard-hit ball that most rational people would try to get away from.

“It doesn’t hurt,” Kavran insists. “I think I’m just used to it, I guess. I don’t have much hair left on my arms. You get used to it after a while.”

Quickness, smarts and an understanding of the game are what makes Kavran so good at digging, Solomon says.

“She has a really good vision for the game,” the coach says. “That’s really hard to teach. That’s something that takes a lot of work and a lot of practice. She really picked that up well. She’s a very good athlete. She’s incredibly quick. As much as anything, she has a great vision and a feel for what the other team is doing.”

Somehow, Kavran didn’t have a whole lot of scholarship options coming out of high school. She decided on Tech after meeting with the new coach, who got a late start in the recruiting season. She was sold on the school’s nursing program. She didn’t need to be sold on Butte.

Kavran was born in Butte on April 13, 1994, the daughter of Tom and Shirley (Gross) Kavran. She moved to Spokane when she was a baby and to Missoula when she was about 10. Both her parents are from Butte, and she has lots of family on both sides in the Mining City.

That, she says, was the deciding factor in taking her talents to Montana Tech.

“I knew I’d have support. Everyone was so willing to have me,” she says. “I’ve got a pretty large section (at matches). I get support from not only my teammates and coach, I also get support from family and friends and the community as well.”

That contingent will likely make itself heard early Friday night.

If, by chance, you arrive late and miss the historic dig, you won’t completely miss out. Solomon said the Orediggers will recognize the new record between the second and third sets during Friday’s match.

The coach plans to take full advantage of a moment that he thinks will be key as he rebuilds the Oredigger volleyball program.

“It’s going to be good for us recruiting, too,” Solomon says of Kavran’s record run. “You’ve got to leave it to the little 5-2 and three quarters kid to be the face of Montana Tech volleyball.”