LORETTO, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Korrin Burns had rarely felt anything like this before.
(Photos courtesy of Saint Francis University.)
For four years at Clarion High School, the 5-foot-11 outside hitter was one of the best volleyball players in the state.
She piled up a staggering 1,630 kills, 207 aces, 709 digs and 74 blocks in her stellar career with the Bobcats, which included three all-state selections and two PIAA Class A championships.
Burns thought she was ready for anything.
Then she stepped onto the NCAA Division I volleyball court at Saint Francis University for the first time in August and discovered everything was different.
“It was very humbling going from really being able to crush anything to that first week of preseason where I was questioning if I was even worthy of being here,” Burns said. “It was very difficult adjusting.”
Burns thought Clarion played at a high tempo. Then she saw the speed with which her Saint Francis teammates played.
At first, Burns was finding it difficult to keep up.
“They’re so fast,” Burns said. “The speed of the game is so much faster than high school. It’s a whole new level. I thought I knew speed and tempo in high school, but it’s nothing like this.”
Burns’ teammates rallied around her. Reassured her that she belonged and that soon, the feeling that she didn’t belong would pass. It happened to them, too, they told her. They reassured her that she did belong.
With that support, Burns began to acclimate to the college game and shined in the Red Flash’s first scrimmage.
By the time the regular season began, Burns found herself in the starting lineup, shuttling between right-side and outside hitter.
She had nine kills in her debut against Gardner-Webb. The next day, she had 11 kills against Bucknell and a week later 13 kills against IUPUI.
Then, last week in a five-set thriller against Duquesne, Burns had her first signature collegiate match.
Burns had 24 kills, the first time a Red Flash freshman had reached that amount since 2001. Saint Francis also notched its first victory of the season.
“I just felt like we were in a groove,” Burns said. “I’m just stepping in at any position right now that I’m needed in and it feels good.”
She had 18 more kills Friday against Eastern Kentucky.
Burns had no expectations coming into her first season at Saint Francis.
Sure, she hoped to start — any player would — but she also realized nothing was guaranteed.
“I kind of went in with the mentality of I am a freshman,” Burns said. “I’m the bottom of the totem pole and I need to come and work hard for my position.”
Burns did what she could control.
She dedicated herself to the weight room in the offseason, adding strength and increasing her already stellar jumping ability.
Burns said she feels like she is hitting harder than ever before.
“I trained every day of the summer,” Burns said. “I lifted heavy for a solid hour and a half. Then I ran two miles after and then did 10 sprints up a hill. I think I was prepared coming in, and thankfully I did prepare because, boy, I would have really struggled if I didn’t.”
Some of the motivation behind her intense training was to pass the Saint Francis volleyball grueling preseason fitness test.
It’s become the stuff of legend.
“It’s not the hardest thing physically, but mentally,” Burns said. “I won’t go into detail about what the run test entailed because it’s pretty complicated and I don’t think I could describe it well enough.
“Every day when I woke up, I was like, ‘You can’t speak negatively. You can speak that into existence,’” Burns said. “Every day I was like, ‘Yep. I’m passing this test. I’m passing this test.’ And in the morning, I put on my shoes and went to work.”
Burns passed the test, as did the rest of her teammates.
It was certainly a relief.
“We bonded over it,” Burns said. “It was probably the best feeling I’ve ever felt because it was hanging over my head for three months straight. Whenever I finished, I was like, ‘Wow. OK. I can do this.’”
Now Burns wants to keep doing it better.
Even at Clarion, Burns was never satisfied. At Saint Francis, she admits she never will be, either.
“I will never be there because there’s always ways to improve,” Burns said. “I’m still adjusting and I can’t wait for conference play to start because I think we’re all growing as a team. Every match we’re just getting better, every practice and every game. I’m feeling very confident in our team. I’m so excited for the future of this team because I think we can do some great things.”
Burns often recalls all the great things she and her Clarion teammates did over the years.
Especially her last two seasons there when the Bobcats stormed to back-to-back state titles.
“As time passes it’s just more and more special,” Burns said. “Remembering the summer days we’d spend together. Our pregame dances. I actually reached out to some of the girls who are still on the team last week and I was like, ‘Hey, I want you guys to know if you have any problems, come to me, but I really want you guys to enjoy the season.’ It was just making me think that I really took that for granted when I was in high school. Now that I look back, I would love to have the chance to play just one more game.”