WINCHESTER — On the volleyball court, Kyrie Keffer is a talented, intense competitor.
But there’s a lighter side to the 20-year-old Umpqua Community College sophomore libero away from the sporting world.
“I’m outgoing, loud and funny,” she revealed with a smile during an interview on campus Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m really outgoing because I’m not that scared to try new things. I’m really loud because of being in the position I’m in. I’m trained to be loud all the time and I come from a loud family, so that doesn’t help. I think I’m funny because I make people laugh a lot.”
“(I’m a jokester), all the time,” the blonde added. “You’ve got to do that. You have to be serious, but you have to give people a little laugh here and there. It’s important.”
Keffer — who’s listed at 5-foot-5 on the UCC roster (“maybe 5-4 with shoes on,” she cracked) — is one of four returning sophomores on this year’s team and a captain. She came here from Klamath Falls, where she graduated from Henley High School in 2017.
The other sophomores are Emma Lind, a South Umpqua High product; Brook West, from Roseburg; and Madison Becker, from Flagstaff, Arizona.
Lacy Pinard’s sixth Umpqua team is hoping to qualify for the Northwest Athletic Conference championship tournament after falling short in 2017. The Riverhawks tied for fifth in the Southern Region with a 4-10 record and went 13-24 overall.
Keffer was a bright spot as a freshman, leading the team with 311 digs. She received multiple region defensive player of the week honors.
“Honestly, I was really upset,” Keffer said. “Even though I did well individually, I’m still really competitive and hate losing. It was really hard to go from being on a really good high school team that won a lot to a team that didn’t win as much.
“But it taught me a lot as a player — how to sacrifice everything for your team and always be a good sport. I learned a lot. I think it’ll help us grow and be more successful this year.”
The Riverhawks are 4-2 this season and don’t begin league play until Sept. 21, when they travel to Vancouver, Washington, to meet Clark.
The top four teams in each region at the end of the regular season advance to the NWACs.
“Comparing the two seasons, this is like a whole new team,” said Keffer. “We only have four returners, which was scary at first. But the girls (freshmen) they brought in are really good athletes. We have really good talent at all different positions. It’s really just working on chemistry so we can put it all together.
“Without a doubt, I think we can make it to the NWACs. As long as we stay mentally in the game, we have the talent and great attitudes.”
Kyrie Eleison Mercy Keffer — yes, that’s her full name — is the youngest of Brad and Jodi Keffer’s three children. Her sister Shelbi, 31, and brother Ethann, 25, are also Henley High graduates.
Kyrie is very close to her family. A tattoo on her left forearm proves that. Thirty-eight in Roman numerals is inscribed, adding up the birthday dates of the other four. It also reads:
All that I am
I owe to my family
“They’re so supportive,” Kyrie said. “My parents have always pushed me to do my best and have supported me in any way I’ve needed. They’re pretty much here every home match, and come to some of the road matches.”
Keffer was introduced to volleyball when she was in the fifth grade. She was a setter for Henley before becoming a libero during her senior year in 2016. Keffer helped the Hornets finish sixth in the Class 4A tournament, receiving first-team All-Skyline Conference and second-team all-state honors.
“I always said I wanted to play college volleyball, but didn’t know for sure until my senior year,” she said. “At the state tournament (in Forest Grove), we were playing our last match and I realized when I was on the court I didn’t want this to be the last time I ever play.
“I love volleyball because it’s competitive and I’m a really competitive person. I love it because it’s fun and very goal-oriented. My mom and sister played volleyball, so I grew up around it and have loved it ever since.”
It didn’t take long to convince Keffer that UCC was the ideal place to begin the college phase of her life.
“I met Lacy (Pinard) through a player (Viviana Rodriguez) who went to Henley (and played for UCC) and she had nothing but great stuff to say about the program and actually talked to Lacy about me,” said Keffer. “When I came to UCC, I really connected with Lacy. I liked how she was intense. I wanted someone who was going to push me and make me better.”
And the campus was another plus.
“I loved the campus. I thought it was so beautiful,” Keffer said. “I love how you come up on the hill and can see the (North Umpqua) river. I’m very outdoorsy and from somewhere similar, and it was very comforting because it was kind of like home.”
Keffer has upped her game since joining the Riverhawks and enjoys being a defensive player.
“Being a libero, you’re in the far back and can see everything,” she said. “You have an important role because you have to be the loudest, you’re talking all the time. You have to be fast. And you have to be selfish because you want to touch everything. When it comes to volleyball, I’m a little selfish and want to touch every ball.
“I want to be able go give everything to my team and always think I can do it. It’s a lot of reaction and competitiveness, and always challenging the ball. It’s a good position for me.”
Keffer, an honor student, is studying criminal justice and and wants to become a lawyer. She isn’t fully committed to continuing her volleyball career after this season.
“Mostly I’m just waiting to see how the season goes and how I’m feeling,” Keffer said. “Who knows? Time will only tell.”