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Let it rip: KU's Ayah Elnady explains being in a zone while serving

Go inside the mind of one of KU volleyball's top serving options

3 min read
Kansas junior Ayah Elnady is as good behind the service line as she is at the net and she has become one of KU's top serving weapons in recent years. [Chance Parker photo]

Kansas junior Ayah Elnady makes her volleyball living crushing kills as close as possible to the net.

But one of her most dangerous skills actually best serves the Jayhawks place far away from it. Thirty feet to be exact.

That’s where Elnady transforms herself from sneaky assassin into an all-out menace, ripping serve after serve at her opponents at top speed and with wicked movement.

So far this season, the native of Cairo, Egypt ranks among the team leaders with nine aces. Three of those came during a 3-0 sweep of Oral Roberts on Tuesday night, when Elnady stole the show during the second set and served a stretch of 10 consecutive KU points during the Jayhawks’ victory.

To say that Elnady was in a serving zone during Tuesday’s hot stretch would be putting it mildly. After the match, she described to R1S1 Sports what being in a zone behind the service line feels like.

“What I’m thinking about is just like being focused, just hitting the ball hard to a zone,” she said. “Having too much energy helps with the serve, too.”

Energy is something Elnady brings plenty of during her time as KU’s server, jumping as high as she can and swinging as hard as she can each time she serves.

“That’s what I try to do,” she said with a laugh.

Because of the nature of her aggressive serving style, Elnady also is among the team leaders in service errors. But when her serve is on, it’s a bona fide weapon and a whole lot to handle.

Although she insists that it was not her intention to do so, two of Elnady’s three aces on Tuesday night hit the tape at the top of the net as the crossed to the other side, making an already-tough serve even harder to handle.

Generally speaking, the KU junior said her plan is to hit each serve hard with a lot of spin toward the back of the court.

“That’s the plan,” she said.

And it often works. A big part of that is the routine she uses that puts her in balance and creates a familiar rhythm that her body knows how to use. Like a good free throw shooter in basketball or putter in golf.

Elnady’s serve starts with one hard pound of the ball onto the court as soon as she gets it. Then, it’s four two-handed dribbles low and in front of her followed by the toss, four steps, a leap and a swing.

KU junior Ayah Elnady fires a serve during the 20th-ranked Kansas volleyball team's sweep of Bellarmine on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023 at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena. [Chance Parker photo]

“It’s the same routine every time,” she said. “Having a routine helps with the serve. My serve got much better when I came to KU. The coaches helped me with my serve a lot.”

Part of that improvement, she said, came when she became comfortable taking more risks.

A lot of really good volleyball players focus on body control and taking a little off while kind of aiming their serves. Not Elnady. She jumps as high as she can and swings as hard behind the serving line as she does at the net.

Even though she said she loves hitting at the net a little more, Elnady conceded that the energy and adrenaline she gets from a vicious serve is every bit as intoxicating as a hard kill.

“Every time I go back and hit a good serve and the crowd has so much energy, on the next serve I go back and I hit it even harder,” she said.

Tuesday’s win moved Elnady and the 20th-ranked Jayhawks to 6-1 on the season. Next up, they’ll play host to Bellarmine, New Hampshire and Texas State during this weekend’s Jayhawk Classic at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena.

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