Lester makes transition from basketball to volleyball

Susan Lester walked off the basketball court at the end of Butler’s first-round loss in last year’s Women’s National Invitation Tournament as one of the most accomplished players in Bulldog history.

She had just been named the 2010 Horizon League Sixth Player of the Year and was named to the 2010 Horizon League All-Tournament Team.

Over her four-year playing career she amassed 1,275 points, 781 rebounds and 139 three-pointers.

To go along with all her athletic accolades, Lester also completed her degree to graduate with the class of 2010 last spring.

But Lester knew there was one thing that she had not yet accomplished.

So, this fall she headed back onto Hinkle’s court—but this time, she was not wearing her Nike high-tops and basketball uniform. Instead she was clad in knee pads and a Butler volleyball jersey.

By enrolling in Butler’s Effective Teaching and Leadership Masters Program, Lester took advantage of an NCAA rule that allows athletes an extra year of eligibility in a different sport than they played for their first four years, as long as they are still enrolled in school.

So after playing four years of basketball at Butler, the 6-foot-2-inch Lester decided to suit up with the volleyball squad for a season.

“Since my freshman year, I had hoped that there was a chance I could play volleyball for a fifth year,” Lester said. “I can remember [head coach Sharon Clark] saying she wanted to talk to me about playing and I was so excited.

“After basketball season, I went in and she told me we had a spring scrimmage in three days.”

While Lester did not play volleyball competitively during her four years on the basketball team, the Anderson, Ind., native played both sports for four years in high school.

Clark showed interest in recruiting Lester to come to Butler to play volleyball, but after Lester committed to the Bulldogs on a basketball scholarship, Clark understood she had to wait to get Lester on her squad.

“Early on I wanted to see if [Lester] had any interest in playing volleyball,” Clark said, “but I waited to approach her until she was ready.”

Clark said Lester had to make some adjustments to transition from basketball to volleyball.

“Physically, the demands of the sport are different,” she said. “Volleyball’s so explosive and there’s so much jumping.

“There’s jumping in basketball, but it’s a different type of jumping.”

Since getting into shape and starting up practices with the volleyball squad, Lester has been an integral part of the team’s success this season.

She has been one of the team’s most versatile players, averaging 1.63 kills and 2.23 digs per set at outside hitter. Her ability to defend and attack has helped the team during their current winning streak of six games.

Lester credits her success on defense to good coaching throughout her career.

“I have had great coaches who, even though I’m one of the taller girls, have always included me in the passing and defensive drills,” Lester said. “They have also put extra time into helping me develop those skills to become more accurate.”

Clark sees Lester as one of her most stable players that can always be counted on to stay level-headed in tough matches.

“She’s very calm, very steady and consistent on the court,” Clark said. “Sometimes you might notice the flashy player more, but what you really want as a coach is that solid play night in and night out.”

Now only one question remains for Lester: Is she a better basketball or volleyball player?

“I think this is a question that some of the fans could probably answer better,” Lester said, laughing. “I think my competitiveness takes me a long way in both of the sports.”

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