Kristen Hahn leaves impactful legacy for ISU volleyball, Big 12


Senior libero Kristen Hahn celebrates after Iowa State scores a point against Oklahoma during Iowa State’s 3-0 sweep of the Sooners on Nov. 9 at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones extend their winning streak to six games.

Clint Cole

Senior Kristen Hahn dreams of playing professional volleyball, representing her country in the Olympics and leading a team of her own as a coach. But before those lofty dreams had taken shape, she started her Iowa State career just like everyone else, as a freshman.

Hahn finished her career as one of the most decorated ISU volleyball players of all time with 17 Big 12 weekly awards — a Big 12 record — and three consecutive Libero of the Year awards. She was also selected to the All-Big 12 First Team twice and made four NCAA tournament appearances including a Sweet 16 run and a berth in the Elite Eight.

Despite all of the accolades, the awards and the successes, she played out her freshman year in 2010 like many other college athletes — in a limited role. She saw action in just 17 matches that season, starting two. She was sixth on the team with 81 digs for an average of 2.13 digs per set.

Hahn said she initially didn’t think she could have the kind of impact on her team and on the conference that she did.

“I was very scared like all freshmen. I wasn’t sure where this program was going to take me,” Hahn said. “I struggled my freshman fall, but then in the spring with the opportunity, with the position being open, I just kind of had to have the mindset that this was going to be me and this was who I am. This is what I do, and it’s something I’ve always done; it’s just at a different level.”

When she was being recruited out of Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School, where she was a three-year letter winner, and going into her freshman year, ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch knew she would be a good player. She didn’t know Hahn would be as good of a player as she has been in the three years that followed her freshman season.

“I knew she would be a great player, but I don’t know if anyone could’ve predicted how well she would’ve played here and the impact she had here,” Johnson-Lynch said.

In 2010, Ashley Mass was the Cyclones’ libero and finished third in the Big 12 in digs with 5.04 per set. In 2011 Mass graduated, and Hahn took over the position and soon led the Big 12 in digs with 5.44 per set.

That season, she won her first Libero of the Year award and helped the Cyclones advance all the way to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament in Minneapolis. Johnson-Lynch said Hahn demonstrated a “ton of perseverance” being able to perform the way she did after playing a limited role her freshman season.

“She could’ve given up after that first year, or she could’ve continued to play the same role, but I really thought she really came back in the spring of her freshman year; she just showed … a renewed determination to win the spot, because there was competition for the spot, and I thought she just won it outright,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She took a huge leap starting in the spring of her freshman year.”

Hahn gave a lot of credit to her coaches when talking about the successes she’s had in her career and moving out of her freshman year and into the starting libero role.

“They told me that I could be an All-American and that I could be the Big 12 Libero of the Year, and I think that their belief in me really helped me actually become that,” Hahn said.

During her junior year in 2012, she led the Big 12 again in digs with 5.44 per set en route to winning her second consecutive Libero of the Year award and was named to the All-Big 12 First Team. She helped the Cyclones make a run to the Sweet 16 in Berkeley, Calif.

This past season, Hahn’s senior year, she led the Big 12 in digs once again, this time increasing her total from the past two seasons to 5.71 digs per set and won her third-consecutive Libero of the Year award while being named to the All-Big 12 First Team.

When Hahn was being recruited, playing in the Big 12 was the most attractive thing about playing for Iowa State.

“I loved coming and seeing them play Nebraska and Texas and Missouri and Texas A&M and all of those schools when they were a part of the conference … versus the other conferences I was recruited by,” Hahn said. “At first I thought it was almost too far away because I love being at home, but after my freshman year, I got past that.”

When Nebraska, Texas A&M, Missouri and Colorado left the Big 12, Hahn said it only changed things “a little” for her.

“I knew that our preseason was always going to be tough and with Texas and Oklahoma, [Kansas] and K-State,” Hahn said. “Those teams have progressively gotten better since those teams left, and I think it’s just added a new aspect to this conference with those other teams being able to shine.”

After graduation, Hahn intends to try out for the U.S. National Team in February and wants to play professionally in Europe.

In the summer, Hahn was selected to participate in the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Senior A2 program, which took place from June 25 to July 4. The roster had 47 players, representing 29 universities. The program is available to players who still have collegiate eligibility like Hahn did this summer.

Hahn said it would be “more than a dream come true” to be able to play for the U.S. National Team.

“It’s just not anything that I ever thought was possible in high school, and I didn’t even know starting volleyball that there was such a thing in college,” Hahn said. “I didn’t find out until everyone was ahead of me, and just that that’s even a possibility is just unbelievable, and I’m so thankful for the opportunities these coaches have given me.”

Another goal of Hahn’s is to be a coach, and she is already gaining experience.

“Right now I’m coaching a club volleyball team, 13s and 14s, and so I’m really excited to start my coaching career,” Hahn said. “After volleyball, that’s something I’d love to get into.”

This season the Cyclones exited the NCAA tournament in the first round with a loss to Colorado in Minneapolis, marking the end of Hahn’s career. Whatever the future holds for her, she has left her mark on Iowa State volleyball and the Big 12.