Former UMD volleyball standout goes pro in France
Minnesota Duluth volleyball coach Jim Boos approached Bulldogs standout senior Kate Lange last fall to talk about her post-UMD future, but Lange brushed him off, saying we’ll talk about that later.
“That was just Kate being Kate,” Boos said. “Kate is that kind of player where she was going to give everything to her team and the season at hand. She was so focused she didn’t want to talk about anything else.”
Lange plans on applying the same level of dedication to her next endeavor: playing professional volleyball in France.
Lange, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter from Hibbing, committed last week to a one-year contract with the Terville Florange Olympique Club, part of France’s top professional league. She expects to leave for Terville next month, when it is believed she will become the first former Bulldog to play professional volleyball.
“I’m going into it with an open mind,” Lange said. “I’m getting paid to play the sport I love, while at the same time experiencing another culture. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Lange left UMD as the school’s all-time leader with 2,078 kills. Last fall, she was named the NCAA Division II player of the year after guiding the Bulldogs to a 33-3 record. She led the nation with 5.41 kills and 6.14 points per set.
Lange, 22, signed an agent after the season. She graduated in May with a degree in psychology and a minor in coaching, but held off on the job search and possible grad school. She stayed in shape by playing in leagues and had done some coaching, but she isn’t ready to be a coach full-time just yet.
“I wasn’t ready to be done,” Lange said of her volleyball career. “Playing professionally wasn’t something I ever really thought of before, but after we finished last fall, I started looking into every opportunity to continue my career. That’s the biggest thing to me. Volleyball is what I love to do. The passion. The energy. It’s a big part of who I am. After the season, I missed it. I missed it every single day.”
Opportunities to play professional volleyball in the U.S. are extremely limited, with the AVP beach volleyball tour being about it. In Europe, however, the sport has flourished.
“Volleyball is the second most popular sport in the world (after soccer), and now Kate is getting paid to play. It’s her job now to train,” Boos said. “It’s a neat opportunity, and we certainly encouraged her to pursue it while she’s young and not tied down to anything. It’s exciting.”
Lange’s contract with the team covers her room and board in addition to her salary. Whatever she makes she can save or use for traveling around Europe. She is the only American on the team. She said the team plays once or twice per week. The season goes from late August to about mid-April.
“You still have practice and you still have workouts, but I hope I will have enough down time to travel,” Lange said. “It’s kind of like a college schedule, except you don’t have to go to school and you don’t have to study during your free time.”
Canada is the only foreign country Lange has visited. She joked that the two years of Spanish she took in high school probably won’t do her much good in northeastern France. After committing, she began a crash course on the French language.
“I’m starting to do my homework,” Lange said. “I know either way it’s going to be a little bit of a culture shock, but I figure the more work I do here and the more I can learn, the easier my transition.”
Lange added that volleyball, like other sports, is an international language.
“You’re like minded,” Lange said. “You all have the same goals, you’re all driven, and that can build friendships really quick.”
Lange said the hardest part will be being away from her family and friends for the first time, but she hopes this gives them an excuse to travel abroad. With Skype and Facebook, she added it is now easier to stay in touch than ever.
“When I was going back and forth, do I do this, or do I not do this, I realized this is an opportunity not everyone gets to have, so I better take it,” Lange said. “If I turned it down, what would I think in 10 years? I might regret it completely, and by then, it’d be too late. I’m lucky, to have this chance, and I’m determined to make it the best possible experience it can be.”