One would think it would be pretty fun and exciting to be Kathryn Plummer the last year.
Well, not even a year.
Because all she’s done since late December is:
— Lead Stanford to a third NCAA Division I volleyball championship in four years;
— Get named the VolleyballMag.com national player of the year for the second straight season;
– Graduate from Stanford;
— Go to Italy to play an abbreviated pro season in Monza before scrambling home as Europe was shutting down;
— And now the 6-foot-6 outside hitter is headed to Japan, where she signed a lucrative contract with the Denso Airybees in Nishio City.
That’s a pretty full nine months. And she doesn’t even turn 22 until next month.
“It’s definitely pretty cool,” she said. “Being a professional volleyball player you get to travel the world and be in lots of places every year. And just being out of college. I was talking to my parents and telling them how fortunate I feel that I graduated early (last December).
“For one, I can’t imagine being in school with the virus. That would suck so bad. But also because I got to go to Italy for at least a little bit and experience that, and that helped me be way more prepared for this upcoming season.”
Plummer is still with her family in Southern California waiting for her paperwork to be finalized before she leaves for Japan. Interestingly, she’s going to a place, where her father Kevin spent time in the late 1970s. Nishio City is southwest of Nagoya on the coast.
It’s a far cry — figuratively and literally — from being in Italy. When she got there last winter, it was pre-pandemic.
“It was cool and very different,” she said. “It was hard to adjust, I got there on the 17th and we had a game on the 19th. I played in that game (she had nine kills in 10 swings), but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
Right after that, the team headed to matches in Russia, but she couldn’t get a visa in time, so Plummer stayed behind.
“So my first week I was there kind of by myself training with different coaches and trying to get some reps in. The team came back and then COVID happened.”
“Things came to a very abrupt halt.”
She played in, as best as she could recall, seven or eight matches.
“I was expecting to play in a lot more. Things happen for a reason, I guess.”
So now she’s headed to Japan.
“I’m very excited for a lot of reasons. One, because it’s very structured. The season is very structured to where you know when and where you’re going to play at least once a weekend and every week you have a game, so it’s kind of like college. You play Saturday-Sunday.
“You can prepare for that. Saturday-Sunday, then an off day or a half day on Monday, then hard practices on Tuesday-Wednesday, tapering off Thursday and travel Friday. So it’s lot like college.”
Plummer said she was looking forward to going to a new place with a new culture. And from a volleyball standpoint, “I want to improve on my receive and my defense, and there’s no better place to work on that than Japan.”
And, she added, “the money’s good in Japan. The money’s good in all the Asian countries and they treat you well. So I’m looking forward to a different experience to decide what I like best.
“I think it’s better that I try new things early on and see what I like.”
Plummer, who will be the only American on the team, said she knows “thank you” in Japanese, but is working on it. The Airybees provide her with a translator, the team trainer speaks English. So does setting coach and offensive coordinator Chris Gonzales, who’s also American.
“Going to a country for a long period of time that’s not like the U.S. is going to be kind scary, just because it’s a different way of life, you have to learn new things and figure out how to live and communicate with other people. That’s always scary and nerve-wracking, but you just figure it out.
“That’s kind of what makes being a pro volleyball player unique, you have to figure things out and you make good money.”
Plummer has been training in the USA national-team gym in Anaheim. With the Olympics delayed a year, do her chances of making the team increase?
“Being able to be in the gym with very veteran players and getting another year under my belt in Japan, working on receive and defense — those are the two things I’ve got to work on — I’ll definitely feel more prepared and more ready to compete at a high level and try to make the team.
“But I think the four outsides who are going to go (to the Olympics) are very good players. Two of them are probably going to end their careers after the Olympics. So I think the outsides are pretty set, but you never know. Things can happen. I’m just gonna keep working my ass off.”
And truth be known, it was pointed out, Plummer would make a pretty good right side. When she ended up on that side for Stanford, she put up quite an impressive block and could hit with the best of them.
“We’re working on things,” she said.
While the Japan pro league has a foreigner quotient, the German pro Bundesliga does not.
When Stanford won the NCAA title, it did so with the four seniors who came in together, Plummer, setter Jenna Gray, libero Morgan Hentz, and right-side Audriana Fitzmorris. They were joined last year by UCLA transfer Madeleine Gates.
Now, Gray, Hentz, and Gates are all playing for Dresden in Germany. Fitzmorris was also signed with Dresden, but she opted out to recover from an injury. Former Oregon and Illinois player Naya Crittenden has since joined the team.
Dresden opens its season October 3 against Potsdam, a squad that includes Lindsey Ruddins, an outside hitter who played at UC Santa Barbara, LSU setter Lindsay Flory, former Georgetown middle Symone Speech, and Brittany Abercrombie, an opposite from USC.