No one who plays volleyball at the University of Washington will ever wear Krista Vansant’s No. 16 ever again.
“It’s a pretty cool honor,” Vansant said.
Indeed. When Washington plays host to Stanford next Wednesday (November 8), Huskies fans will have even more to cheer about than a big-time Pac-12 match.
“I feel very humbled,” Vansant said. “I haven’t been graduated for that long, so the fact that they would think of me this soon is pretty cool. I feel pretty blessed and excited and am excited to share that moment with my family, my former teammates and my former coaches.”
Vansant, 24, is a member of the UW coaching staff, listed as a program assistant.
“She’s someone you want in your organization,” Washington coach Keegan Cook said. “I don’t care what it is. As a player, as an assistant. She’s just an outstanding person with great character.
“We’ve had the chance to have her on our staff these last two years. We didn’t have a role for her, but I knew that you’ve got to have someone like that.”
Vansant’s illustrious UW career ended in 2014 with two Honda Awards and Pac-12 player-of-the-year honors to her credit.
“Talent, skill and humility are the three things I think about with her,” Cook said.
Vansant left school in April of of her senior year to play with the USA national team in Anaheim.
“I had a good summer with them and then went to play in Switzerland for a year,” said Vansant, who played for Volero in Zurich with former Pac-12 rivals Natalie Hagglund of USC and Foluke Akinradewo of Stanford.
Vansant played with the national team again leading into the 2016 Rio Olympics and was chosen as an alternate.
“And then I just decided I wanted to get my masters and pursue something else,” Vansant said.
She got her masters in sports management this past August from Washington.
Playing volleyball was in her rear-view mirror.
“I could physically do it,” Vansant said. “I could still probably do it. But living overseas wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted. I’m a homebody. I’m very much a family person and I missed my family way too much, so it was just too hard for me to make myself do that again.
“But it was definitely a great thing and I’m really happy I did it. But I couldn’t do it again.”
So she talked to USA national-team coach Karch Kiraly “and he was very understanding and knew why I was doing what I was doing.
“It was definitely a difficult decision and difficult conversation to have. I know I’m young and I could try to make another Olympic roster, but I’d be 28 with no job experience.”
And she wants to coach, so being in the spot she’s in is perfect.
“I’ve been helping with operations the past year. I want to stay around this team and this program. I thoroughly enjoy it and love this place and love Keegan.”
Vansant, who was recruited by and played for Jim McLaughlin, now the coach at Notre Dame, is from Redlands, Calif. The lanky, 6-foot-2 outside hitter left Washington as its all-time kills leader with 1,893.
“I played from the age of 8 and played multiple positions but then stuck with outside hitter from about 14 on. I was very fortunate not to have any shoulder problems and didn’t have any health issues with anything.”
Vansant is not allowed to offer input during matches and that drives her crazy, she said.
“That’s the frustrating part because I see things I could help with,” she said.
The opportunity to be a full-time coach will certainly arise.
“I would love for it to be at Washington, but this staff is so great I’m not sure they’re going to be going anywhere anytime soon, so if something appealing to me opened up, I would for sure be interested in where it would end up.”
For now, it’s in Seattle, where the only other time UW has retired a volleyball number was the No. 3 of the legendary Courtney Thompson.
“Krista Vansant represents excellence,” UW director of athletics Jennifer Cohen said when the honor was announced. “As a two-time national player of the year, her on-court career is nearly unmatched and she has served as a terrific ambassador for our university since the day she arrived here in Seattle.
“We are extremely proud of Krista and thrilled that her name will hang in the rafters of Alaska Airlines Arena.”
In Vansant’s mind, it couldn’t come at a better time.
In the most recent AVCA poll, Stanford is No. 2 and unbeaten in the Pac-12, while Washington is ranked No. 1.
“We actually beat them my senior night in front of a sold-out crowd and they were undefeated and No. 1 in the nation,” Vansant recalled with a smile.
“That was one of the best nights of my life.”
Next Wednesday will likely be right up there.