Sept. 17, 2009
By Spencer Drolette
1992. Debut of "A League of Their Own" and the Super Soaker 100, Bill Clinton elected President of the United States, Christian Laettner's shot and Washington State University volleyball star Keri "Killer" Killebrew's standout senior season.
Killebrew made national headlines with her teammates and as an individual in 1992. After receiving the disappointing news that their 27-10 record fell just short of a bid to the NCAA Tournament, the captain led WSU to sweep all six matches in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship, earning Championship MVP honors for herself.
"I think not going to the tourney is what gave us the drive to win the NIVC," Killebrew recalled. "We all felt we had something to prove."
WSU volleyball coach Cindy Fredrick (1989-2003) remembers the poise her team displayed in the 1992 postseason.
"This was one of the defining moments in our program," Fredrick said. "We all agreed that if we chose to play in the NIVC we would go there to win it. Keri was a leader in that effort. She had the ability to raise everyone's level of play, and she led her team to an undefeated tournament championship. Her performance, and her team's, was absolutely stellar. Their performance was their response to being "left out" - and it was a very loud response."
Highlighted by the NIVC victory in 1992, Killebrew's three-season career as setter for the Cougars was a critical part of the volleyball program's quick progression under the direction of Fredrick.
"She is one of the biggest reasons the program turned around," Fredrick said. The 1992 Cougar volleyball season helped to cement Killebrew's legacy at WSU. "Killer," as her teammates and friends called her, ranks eighth all-time on the NCAA career assist list with 5,848, and is one of three All-Americans (second team, 1992) in the history of WSU volleyball. Killebrew's induction into the WSU Athletics Hall of Fame serves as the culmination of her collegiate athletic achievements.
"[I felt] surprise and excitement," Killebrew said. "I know how few people get this recognition and I'm very proud to be one of them."
Though few people qualify for the Hall of Fame, Fredrick identifies Killebrew as the unique and influential type of individual who reaches the mark.
"Keri was one of the best volleyball players to go through our program," Fredrick said. "Her work ethic was top notch, as was her competitive spirit. Keri was like a member of our family. Her dedication to be the best, and help her team to be the best, was unmatched. Keri was a strong, independent thinker who worked tirelessly and represented all of the good things about a student-athlete."
These qualities developed while "Killer" rescued a floundering volleyball program nearly 20 years ago. Killebrew takes no personal credit for the things she learned or for her achievements at WSU.
"[I learned] to always give 100 percent of myself," Killebrew said. "I had the pleasure of knowing some of the best people WSU had to offer, from my teammates, coaches, professors, and volleyball fans. They all contributed to who I am today. My time there was the best."
After receiving Big Sky Freshman of the Year honors at Weber State University, Killebrew followed the newly hired Fredrick from Ogden, Utah to the Palouse to salvage a Cougar volleyball program that had experienced one winning season in the 10 years prior. Killebrew redshirted during the 1989 season, then competed as a redshirt sophomore in 1990 as WSU improved to a 13-18 season. Killebrew led the Cougars to a 23-12 record in 1991 and Washington State's first trip to the NCAA Championship tournament. The Cougs lost to New Mexico 3-1 in the first round but the experience left the team wanting more. The following year, the NIVC Championship season of 1992, propelled the program into the upper half of the Pacific-10 and helping the program turn the corner for years to come.
"I give most of my credit to my coaches, Cindy Fredrick and Mashallah Farokhmanesh," Killebrew said. "They really taught me how to be my best both on and off the court."
After exhausting her eligibility on the court Killebrew didn't let her leadership abilities go to waste, as she joined the 1993 Cougar volleyball coaching staff as second assistant to Fredrick. Four years later in 1998, Killebrew took the first assistant coach position at Fresno State University, where she coached for two years before moving her life in a new direction.
A native of Las Vegas, Nev., Killebrew has been a resident of Milwaukee, Wis. for the past 10 years, living near her twin sister and enjoying a career in real estate sales.
In the succeeding 11 years under Fredrick, WSU competed in the NCAA Championship seven times, making it to Regionals three times. The Cougars also finished in the top three of the Pac-10 three times and notched eight winning seasons. Fredrick attributes much of the long-term success of the program to Killebrew.
"When you look at players who made a difference, she stands out as one of those at the top," Fredrick said.