Saluki senior outside hitter breaks 10-year-old mark
Kristie Kemner may not have been at home when she set the all-time Saluki kills record Friday at Bradley, but it was close enough.
Kemner’s parents, all four of her grandparents and her aunt and uncle were part of an estimated 15 Saluki fans in Peoria cheering on Kemner and the Dawgs as they defeated the Braves.
“It’s always nice to do it at home,” Kemner said. “You have your fan support behind you and it would have been nice to celebrate with everybody. But if there was any other place beside home, I’m glad it was there, and I’m glad it was that game.”
Kemner said she was thrilled not only because of her family support, but because it came as the team dismantled a supposedly stronger opponent on the road and clinched its first Missouri Valley Conference tournament berth since she was in high school.
The record was earned in one big, well-deserved cluster as well, which Kemner said made it even sweeter. She played a complete game, recording 26 digs on top of her 28 kills and hitting at a .344 clip.
She could only think of one way to describe the atmosphere.
“It was perfect,” Kemner said. “Everything just turned out perfect. I had all my family there, and I just could not have asked for a better game to do that at.”
Kemner was not even aware she had beaten the 10-year-old record until after the game.
Shortly after the match ended, assistant coach Matt Affolder yelled, “Hey Kemner, you broke it by four.”
She did not have a clue.
“I didn’t realize that. I figured maybe 19 or 20, But I didn’t realize I had 28 kills.”
And neither did her team. Senior outside hitter Tara Cains, who is also Kemner’s roommate, said she was quick to congratulate Kemner on the record once she figured it out.
“I gave her a big hug and said congratulations,” Cains said. “She deserves it.”
Head coach Sonya Locke was proud of the moment as well. She said Kemner breaking the record was inevitable, but it did not take away from her star outside hitter’s moment.
“We’re happy for her,” Locke said. “It’s nice to coach players that can do things like that.”
For Kemner’s parents, the moment was quiet, mostly because it was on the road. Kemner’s mother, Diane Kemner, brought flowers to Peoria but was not able to give them to her daughter because she, like everyone else in Bradley’s Robertson Field House, did not even know Kristie had broken the record.
Kemner’s great aunt, Rita Sandschaffer, finally worked up the courage to go down to the scorer’s table to find out Kemner’s kill count. She relayed the information to Diane, and at that point she knew.
Diane said she was proud of Kristie’s record, but was more relieved than anything to see her daughter at the top of the kills list.
“That was a big milestone in her career, but it also was a trying time too,” Diane said. “I think now some of the pressure will be off and they can keep on going.”
Reporter Michael Brenner can be reached at [email protected]