As the Utah State volleyball team is helping spread the word about Breast Cancer Awareness Month during its “Dig for a Cure” campaign in October, that subject hits especially close to home for one Aggie senior.
Kassi Hargrove lost a person close to her less than a month ago to cancer. She missed a match to attend the funeral in her hometown of Reno, Nev.
“One of my best friends from home, her mom has been fighting cancer for the last five years,” Hargrove said. “She had ovarian cancer, then breast cancer, then stomach cancer and then this last round it spread throughout her body. ... I’ve been there with my friend through it all. So, it (campaign) hits home. I hope we can raise a lot of money and help make women aware.”
The “Dig for a Cure” is helping raise money for Logan Regional Hospital Foundation’s Breast Cancer Services. Pledges for every dig the Aggies make during their seven home matches in October is the fundraiser.
Hargrove missed the Sept. 22 match against Idaho to fly home for the funeral. She was glad to be there for her friend, Aubrey Mitchell, who plays volleyball for Portland State.
“It was a good experience and I was really glad (USU head coach) Grayson (DuBose) let me go home for that, because it was really important,” Hargrove said.
Focusing on volleyball and school has been difficult for the setter, but the strength of the Mitchell family has helped.
“I’m just trying to stay focused and get the job done,” she said.
Portland State visits Idaho State on Friday in Pocatello. Hargrove has been given permission to go watch Mitchell play, which is going to be a surprise.
DuBose called Hargrove quiet, but her work ethic speaks volumes.
“She is just going to come in and work hard,” the Aggie coach said. “She is a really good kid, solid family, really good values, just a really neat kid. I think the world of her.”
While dealing with the loss of a lady that meant a lot to her, Hargrove has also had to adjust to a limited role with the Aggies. She is primarily used to come in and serve several times a set.
“I’ve kind of had this role throughout my career here,” Hargrove said. “My sophomore year when we won the WAC, I just went in to serve as well when Chelsea (Fowles) was the setter. I have done this before. I just go in and make the best serve I can, make it tough on the other team and try and get them out of system.”
Last weekend against Denver, she had three aces, a career high for a match. On the season, Hargrove has 12 aces and just two service errors.
“She has done a great job,” DuBose said. She has gotten some critical aces in critical parts of games. I’m really happy for her. She is a great part of what we are trying to do and accomplish here.”
When asked if there is anything special about her serve, Hargrove said it is pretty simple. She follows the scouting report. But there is something about her serve, at least that’s what her teammates have told Hargrove.
“All my teammates say my serve floats and then drops off,” Hargrove said. “I don’t really know. I just hit it over. I’m more of a short server.”
One thing is certain, though, Hargrove does not slack at practice. She drew praise from her coach.
“She is just a wonderful, hard-working, blue-collar kid that comes in every day and puts her nose to the grindstone and makes our team better,” DuBose said.
How does she keep a good attitude when her role on the team is limited?
“It’s been difficult, but I just go out there,” Hargrove said of showing up ready to play hard at practice. “I’m here to make them better and stay in shape, have fun. It’s a limited time and then I won’t have volleyball. I’m just working hard and doing the best I can each day.”
As a senior, the 5-foot-7 Nevada native has also tried to be a leader. She is not real vocal, though, she has worked on that. Her main strengths is leading by example and being their for teammates.”
Hargrove must also be ready should starting setter Paige Neves go down. That did happen early in the season when Neves had a hand injury.
On the season, Hargrove has 40 assists, which is more than she had as a freshman and sophomore. A year ago she had 122 assists. The senior has seen action in 17 of 18 matches this season and 75 during her career.
“It’s pretty simple why we recruited her — she can set,” DuBose said. “I’ve really liked having her around.”
Hargrove was also recruited as a softball player. She was a pitcher and outfielder and actually thought about trying to play both sports at one time.
What does it take to set the ball?
“Setting is hard,” Hargrove answered. “There is a lot that goes into it. What is going on, on the other side, your hitters, the pass, who is going to be your hot hitter and who has been on a roll. It’s difficult. You have to think of everything and everyone, and not just passing it up close to the net. It’s one of the hardest roles on the team, I think.”
When asked for a favorite memory at USU so far, the answer was easy. It happened when she was a sophomore, and the Aggies won the Western Athletic Conference Tournament. They beat WAC powerhouse Hawaii on the islands in three straight in front of a packed arena.
“It was a cool experience to beat Hawaii,” Hargrove said. “... Being able to go to the NCAA Tournament was awesome.”
DuBose called her a “vital part of that WAC Championship.”
The senior would like nothing more than to see this year’s team get to the NCAA Tournament. The competition is a bit different in the WAC this year, and USU is currently atop the standings.
When her playing days come to an end, the Academic All-WAC player plans on attending graduate school. She is majoring in psychology and wants to specialize in adolescent youth. Becoming a therapist or working with troubled youth is on her mind right now.
Before that, she plans on helping the volleyball team keep winning and supporting her roommates, which include USU gymnasts and a tennis player.