Micayla Speidel, whose powerful arm earned her nickname, has had wrist surgery and rehabilitation since her record-setting freshman volleyball season at Indiana University Kokomo.
"I had a lot of pain in my wrist before the surgery," she said. "The surgery is going to help me, and I should come back stronger and better than before."
It will be hard to top her first season — She won Freshman of the Year honors from both the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the American Volleyball Coaches Association Northeast Region, was first team all conference, and led the KIAC in kills per set and kills. She also was KIAC Player of the Week in October.
Speidel, 19, hadn't expected this level of success when she decided to play for the IU Kokomo team, which was only in its third season. The Lady Cougars posted the team's first winning season, with a 28-11 record, and earned the fourth seed in the KIAC tournament.
"I wanted to help build the program, but I didn't expect to go as far as we did, and win all of these awards," she said. "I credit most of it to my teammates and my coaches. They push me really hard to work on weaknesses and to get better."
Coach Heather Hayes said the team relied heavily on Speidel in her first season of play.
"There is no question that Micayla carried much of our offensive load," she said. "We relied on her to terminate for us all season, and she did not disappoint. I am extremely proud of Micayla, and excited for her."
Hayes noted that when Speidel is asked about her success, she is quick to give credit and praise to her teammates.
"Micayla is a very humble young lady, and knows that it is also with the help of her teammates she has been able to receive recognition," Hayes said. "She and the entire team have worked hard and improved our program."
Speidel called her two Freshmen of the Year awards a great honor, given the level of competition in the conference.
"With all the games we played, I saw there were a lot of outstanding players on these teams," Speidel said. "To be singled out for this award, from all of those players, is amazing to me."
Fans took notice of Speidel in her very first game, when a member of the men's basketball team dubbed her "The Cannon," after seeing her strong serves and kills. She likes the nickname, which she's heard many times on campus.
"It's something cool," she said, with a laugh. "Some of the teachers around school call me that too. I love it."
Speidel thinks her years of travel volleyball, along with playing for a successful Columbus East High School program, prepared her for a successful transition to college volleyball.
"On a travel team, you play with the best players from all over the country," she said. "That prepared me a lot, especially playing in the big travel tournaments. It made me a lot better. I also came from a pretty big high school, and a tough, competitive program there. Coach Hayes is a tough coach, and that helped too."
Not one to be satisfied with past success, she and her teammates are preparing for next season, conditioning, weight training, and setting goals
"My goal is to get back to the conference tournament," she said. "We have a chance to go really far next year, and maybe even win the tournament. That would be awesome. I think next year will be a good year for us."
The women's volleyball team will kick off the 2014 season with a scrimmage against Indiana Tech of Fort Wayne on August 16, and will host the first official game vs. Judson University at the Cougar Gym on Saturday, August 19, at 7 p.m.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.