It’s interesting to look back at where alumna Kayla Bastian was just a year ago. The Kewaskum, Wisconsin, native led the Truman State University volleyball team in kills as an outside hitter in her four years as a Bulldog, but instead of returning Pershing Arena for another season, Bastian began a journey overseas to Newcastle, England.
Bastian was a redshirt her first year as a Bulldog but eventually became one of the most influential outside hitters to ever go through the program, a success story that can be largely attributed to her strong character, dedication and hard work.
During her four years of play, she helped lead the team to two conference championships, was a two-time second-team All-GLVC player, and a four-time All-Academic GLVC player. As an upperclassman, Bastian started every match. In her senior year, she served as a team captain and was Truman’s female recipient of the “James R. Spalding Sportsmanship Award.”
Bulldog Career Record Holder
- 20+ dig matches
- 30+ dig matches
- 20+ kill and dig matches
- Total attempts
- 10+ dig matches
- Digs per set
Bulldog Single Season Record Holder
- 20+ kill and dig
- Total attacks
Head coach Ben Briney said he could always expect Bastian to give all she had every day in practice and improve on whatever skill they were working on that day. He said after being a redshirt her first year, Bastian worked relentlessly to improve her arm speed and earn a role serving. Briney said her limited playing time eventually turned into a starting spot on the squad. He said she was a very coachable athlete applying all the advice the coaches gave her each year.
During Bastian’s senior year, Briney helped her continue her volleyball career after graduating. Bastian came in contact with Katie Story from Northumbria University in Newcastle, England. She decided to look further into the university’s athletic and master’s programs to continue both her education and volleyball career.
Having been overseas himself with Athletes in Action, Briney said he learned lessons from his experiences in Nigeria, and he said he shared them with Bastian.
“The biggest thing I kept telling her was to go for it,” Briney said. “It’s a step out on faith thing. Just go and enjoy your time there and see where it leads you. You’ve been given an opportunity and see what plan God has for you.”
Briney said the opportunity to go outside your comfort zone is valuable and everyone should take it. He emphasized being overseas gives people a greater appreciation for different people and cultures.
The school year at Northumbria began in August and will stretch into three semesters for Bastian. By the end of summer 2018, she will have her master’s degree in clinical exercise physiology. So far, Bastian said she has been adjusting well, despite the differences in academics, athletics, culture and demographics. She said her greatest struggle was dealing with jet lag, which took about four days for her sleep cycle to regulate. As far as location goes, Bastian said Newcastle is much larger than Kirksville but also more convenient. Bastian said she goes to school on Mondays and Tuesdays and sits in the classroom from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Academically, it is much less structured, with more independent study time,” Bastian said.
The Northumbria team lifts three times a week, has daily practices and hosts two-a-days every Thursday. Bastian said because Europe doesn’t have as many regulations as the United States, Northumbria competes in three separate leagues. On Wednesdays, they play in the Bucks League, and on weekends they participate in the National League and Super Eight division.
Because of the lack of eligibility rules, not only are the matchups different in Europe than they are in the United States, but the entire team dynamic is different as well.
“We have four girls who have played professionally in places like Russia, Spain and Hungary,” Bastian said.
She said volleyball is a pretty popular sport, especially in the Newcastle area. There are a lot of different divisions and even beach leagues during outdoor season.
Bastian said the opportunity to travel in Europe is very inviting. During her first weekend, she and a few friends took a train to Alnwick, England, which also happens to be the site of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Castle. She said she got to see the Northshore Sea, travel south to Durham, England — home to beautiful cobblestone streets and many cathedrals and castles — and visit the coast where there are cliffs and lighthouses to explore. These areas are all relatively close to where she is staying, but she said she has big plans to travel to places like Amsterdam, Paris, London, Madrid and beyond.
Bastian said she continues to play volleyball because she does not know how long she will be able to play the sport she loves.
While she said she is happy with her decision to keep playing, there are things she does miss about Truman volleyball. She said will always miss her lifelong friends, long bus rides and supportive families and fans. Bastian said she has so much pride for her former institution and team accomplishments.
“Individual honors are cool, but the conference championships mean a lot more because it’s much bigger than myself,” Bastian said. “We accomplished far more together than I ever could individually.”
According to her Truman teammates, Bastian’s time at Truman not only left a lasting impression on the volleyball program, but everyone she came into contact with.
Junior setter Savvy Hughes said Bastian was more of a quiet leader, leading by example and being a positive role model for her teammates opposed to being more vocal, which was inspiring to the entire team. Now a year later, Hughes has stepped into that same leadership role Bastian had a year ago as team captain and still looks to her former teammate for inspiration.
“[Junior middle hitter] Natalie Brimeyer and I were struggling a little at the beginning of the year as leaders, so we messaged her,” Hughes said. “She offered us all the advice in the world about how to be more of an example and gain respect of teammates while still being ourselves.”
Hughes said they have similar personalities and leadership styles, so it was nice to get some insight from Bastian.
Bastian said she’s unsure what her plans are post-Northumbria University. She said a lot of athletes use their athletic eligibility during master’s programs as an opportunity to play professionally.
“I kind of like to live my life where I don’t box myself into any constraints,” Bastian said. “Eventually, I want to go to medical school and become an oncologist — however, I am only 23 years old and want to get the full life experience as well.”