Volleyball senior setter Kayla Armer has been an unassuming star at HBU, letting her play do the talking and happily letting her teammates’ accomplishments speak more for her success than her own. Just as she quietly slipped under the radar of other NCAA Division I programs, Armer has quietly compiled one of the greatest careers of any Husky setter.
Armer leads the Southland Conference with 10.34 assists per set, averages 2.42 digs per set and has recorded 115 kills, 60 blocks and 18 aces. In a road match against Lamar on Nov. 1, she recorded the first triple-double in HBU volleyball history with 62 assists, 11 kills and 11 digs. In the next match at Abilene Christian on Nov. 3, Armer set the school’s all-time assists record with 4,960 with at least three matches remaining. She passed the mark of 4,924 set by 2016 HBU Sports Hall of Honor inductee Natalie Magat (2006-09).
“It feels good to achieve what I have on the court, because I was overlooked coming into college,” Armer said. “When I started the recruiting process, I started late, so I was not as developed as other setters. [HBU head coach] Trent [Herman] was willing to take a chance on me, teach me and completely changed the way I set.”
“Kayla was part of our first recruiting class as a staff at HBU. We got started late and were looking for a setter,” Herman said. “We looked at her, and a lot of people we talked to said she was new to the position. She was the kind of player we were looking for to start our program going in the right directions, someone we could work with, and say ‘this is your team, so let’s go.’”
Armer has had to reach her milestones without a mainstay over her three-year career and without All-Southland Conference First Team outside hitter Jessica Wooten, another member of Herman’s first recruiting class. Wooten was injured prior to the season opener, will miss the entire year, and will hope to return at full strength in 2017.
“It’s been hard, because we came in together as freshmen and were the only two freshmen to get starting spots,” Armer said. “We’re best friends and roommates. We had high expectations for this season, but I had to make the adjustment to realize she wasn’t going to be on the court with me. We joked that we had telepathy, that we knew what the other was going to be doing before we did it. We’re still winning, even without our ‘star,’ because everyone else came in with those same expectations, too, and we just had to adjust and get on the same page, which we’ve worked hard to do.”
Coming out of Manatee High School in Bradenton, Florida, Armer was not heavily recruited due to the late start in her volleyball career. She hadn’t really planned on being a setter, either, until her club coach got mad at the team during a practice and made everyone line up on the wall and set. They saw her hands and the rest, to HBU’s fortune, is history.
“I was a middle at first and my team didn’t really have a setter,” Armer said. “It’s kind of an accident I became the setter, but naturally, I had good hands. I just hadn’t been taught. Trent has worked with me on keeping my hands high, footwork and strategy, so my volleyball IQ is very different than when I first came here, because of the film sessions and him helping me play smarter.”
Everyone in the Armer family has played Division I athletics. Kayla’s mother, Michelle, was an All-America swimmer at the University of Michigan while her father, Chip, played basketball for the Wolverines. Her sister, Jacqui Lynn, is a freshman on the LSU volleyball team.
“It’s fun that everyone in my family has played a sport in college, and my family is super-competitive about everything,” Armer said. “I was actually a dancer all through middle school, but my dance school closed, so I played every sport, then volleyball just stuck. My younger sister started playing volleyball before I did and I wanted to try it. My younger siblings (sister, Marisa, and brother, Bo) are swimmers, so they take after my mom, but no one pushed us one way or the other. When people ask me if I play Division I, I end up bragging about my family and tell them, ‘We’ve all played Division I.’”
During her HBU career, Armer has twice earned All-Southland Conference honorable mention, twice been named first-team academic all-conference and was voted to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team in 2014. She has made multiple all-tournament teams and was named MVP of the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup this year, when the Huskies defeated host Houston, ULM and San Jose State for the team title.
“Athletically, HBU has been more than I could have asked for,” Armer said. “I started as a freshman and have been the starting setter ever since. The coaches care about us as people and want the best for us. Academically, the professors care about us, too, and will work with us and our athletic demands. The campus is small, but I like the fact that it’s in Houston, so you get the best of both worlds, with a small community in a big city.”
“Kayla was a member of my first recruiting class at HBU, she’s been a four-year starter and has been an integral part of developing our culture as a program,” Herman said. “She has taken us to places we haven’t been as members of the Southland Conference. She will be greatly missed and will leave a stamp on the future of this program and the conference. Her leadership and being a great person, on and off the court, has influenced everyone around her.”
Armer and the Huskies finish the regular season at the Southland Conference Tournament Nov. 18-20 in Conway, Arkansas.