There wasn’t much of a freshman adjustment period for Kylee Baker.

Now a senior, Ball State’s outside hitter was immediately thrown into the game when she was a freshman. In her first collegiate match, Baker threw down 15 kills against The Citadel with just one error and a .609 attacking percentage. The next day, she had 15 more.

Although fans may not have seen it, Baker was nervous on the inside.

Appeared in 101 matches
803 career kills
Career-high 18 kills vs. IPFW and Western Michigan University in 2010

“You go from club matches, which is just your parents, to this huge arena,” Baker said. “Then you go on the road where you’re getting heckled, and it’s intimidating.”

Baker saw action in every match as a freshman and started all but one. She would finish the season with 318 kills, just 30 shy of the team’s leader as the team went 14-2 in the Mid-American Conference.

“When she came in, I saw a lot of potential in her,” head coach Steve Shondell said. “She was mainly an offensive player and now as she’s leaving, she’s a much more complete player.”

As a sophomore, Baker saw herself take more of a backseat to Kara Bates. Her kills dropped to 219 for the season.

Last season, Baker had to deal with a severe setback as she ruptured a disk in her back and was forced to miss the rest of her season.

Although she’s healthy now, she still feels the effects of the injury. She missed a game earlier this season after tweaking her back in practice and often emerges postgame with ice tied to her back.

Despite the lingering effects, Shondell sees her as one of the best all-around players on the team.

“She’s a good blocker, one of the top passers in the conference and one of our leading diggers,” he said. “Her biggest improvements have come in the back count and she’s our best server this year.”

As a senior, Baker has been both a player and a mentor, helping younger players learn while contributing on the court. This season, she’s given Ball State 169 kills, second highest out of the team’s outside hitters.

“When you start out young, you learn those leadership skills quickly,” senior defensive specialist Catie Fredrich said. “Now, we’re the leaders, and it’s our turn.”