Giles jumps at opportunity

Colfax grad stepping up as a sophomore at Troy after impressive freshman season
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Correspondent
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Kayla Giles ranks among the Troy University volleyball team’s leaders in most major statistical categories. However, the Colfax High graduate’s coach at the central Alabama school believes she has only provided glimpses of how well she can perform at the NCAA Division I level. “There are times when she shows flashes of brilliance and times when she shows flashes of being a young player,” Troy coach Sonny Kirkpatrick said. “We want the flashes of brilliance to outweigh the other moments.” Now a sophomore outside hitter for the Trojans (6-9), Giles has started in 33 of the 42 matches she has appeared in since last season. The 5-foot-10 Giles is second on the team this fall in several categories, including kills per game (2.29), service aces (11), serving percentage (.943) and digs (114). She’s also third in total kills with 94. Giles appears to be picking up where she left off last season, when she was third on the Trojans in kills with 172 and also had 19 service aces and 151 digs. She has also bettered her assist total from last season, going from nine to 13, and is just one block shy of her total from a year ago (10). “The biggest change (for a college athlete) is from a freshman to a sophomore,” Kirkpatrick said. “You can definitely see that in her case. “In the second year, the game slows down a little bit for players because they understand what’s happening and what shots they have. There are points this year where the light switch has gone on with her.” Giles admitted her game needed some refinement last fall as she adjusted to the high level of play in Division I. “I had to learn to be smarter with the ball,” Giles said. “I had to deal with some pretty big blockers, and hitting the ball straight down didn’t seem to work a whole lot. I also had to improve my defense a lot, passing and digging the ball.” “She was trying to overpower everyone,” Kirkpatrick said. “She realized that she can’t hit the ball as hard as she can at everyone and expect it to go down. “She was facing older, stronger girls that had a lot more experience than she did. Now she’s getting to be one of those older girls, and it’s helping her out a lot.” Giles credits her success this season to the work she put in during the offseason and her willingness to be coached. “I really worked hard all year to be in good physical shape,” she said. “I really listened to what the coaches had to teach me and applied it to every aspect of my game.” The biggest challenge now, Kirkpatrick said, is to keep Giles’ confidence at a high level. “When things aren’t a going as well as she’d like, she has a tendency to be hard on herself, and that brings her confidence down a little bit,” the coach said. “But as long as she’s doing what she’s asked to do and remains confident in her abilities, she’s as good as anybody.” Currently a graphic design major, Giles is “still choosing the direction I want to go in.” Still, she believes whatever major she ultimately decides on will involve art or design. On the court, Giles hopes to help Troy return to the Sun Belt Conference Tournament after a three-year absence. The Trojans open conference play Friday against Louisiana-Lafayette. “She’s a great kid, and I’m glad she’s here playing for us,” Kirkpatrick said. “I look forward to her (continued) development as a player and her progress helping us to go forward.”