Two questions hover above Kansas State's volleyball team for 2010 heading into the club's Aug. 27, opener against UCLA in Honolulu, Hawaii.
1) Can the Wildcats compete in the Big 12 with a roster of two seniors, no juniors, five sophomores and a whopping 10 freshmen?
"Yes," says K-State coach Suzie Fritz. "We're further ahead than we expected, and we had a very productive summer of coming together as a team. Each one of them has had great days, but being young, not so great days, but there's every reason to be encouraged."
2) Can the Wildcats compete in the Big 12 with a roster of 11 Kansans, four from states that border the Sunflower State and two international talents?
"Yes," says Fritz. "We're more athletic than last year. We're bigger and longer. We need experience, but that's just a matter of time. We are very talented. It's a terrific group of high-character, hard-working kids who are eager to learn. What they lack in experience they make up for in other ways."
The two seniors on the Wildcat team are libero Lauren Mathewson and outside hitter JuliAnne Chisholm.
"Their leadership has been outstanding," said Fritz.
Moving from outside hitter and defensive specialist to setter is sophomore Caitlyn Donahue. On the difficulty of that move, Fritz said, "It just says a lot about her ability as a volleyball player. She's one of the most skilled members of our team in a variety of areas. She has nice hands and certainly the athletic ability to get to balls. Her biggest thing is developing the ability to think like a setter, but she has really embraced the position."
The candidates for middle blocker are sophomores Alex Muff and Audrey Horton, plus freshmen Taylor Johnson, Kaitlynn Pelger and Kacia Turner.
Other candidates for outside hitting positions are sophomore Kathleen Ludwig, plus a cast of freshmen including Lilla Porubek, Chelsea Keating, Dakota Kaufman, Courtney Cook and Courtney Traxson.
"We have a lot of positions wide open," said Fritz. "We have the good problem of having several competitive situations. We're far more competitive than last year."
Fritz added, "Years like this are why you get into coaching. We have so many new faces that we are trying to develop. I'm enjoying this like crazy. It's been very rewarding because they are so eager to learn. The team dynamics and work ethic are as good as we've had."
The K-State team reported on Aug. 9, with the first four practice days focused on defense, which was followed by days zeroing in on transitional play and finally the installing of the offense.
On defense, Fritz said, "We're just trying to get everyone on the same page. When this happens, this is where you're supposed to be. When this happens, this is what you're supposed to do."
On offense, she says, "We're going to have a new setter, which takes time. We're trying to play at a fast tempo but not to the point of having a lot of unforced errors."
SCRIMMAGE SET: K-State's volleyball team will have a scrimmage that is open to the public Saturday evening starting at 7 p.m. in Ahearn Field House.
SEASON TICKETS: Season tickets are available for the 2010 season, which includes a special four-pack for $120.
2010 K-STATE VOLLEYBALL ROSTER
JuliAnne Chisholm: 5-11; Outside Hitter; Sr.; Hillsboro, Kan.
Courtney Cook: 6-2; Outside Hitter; Fr.; Fremont, Neb.
Natalia Dobrosz: 5-8; Defensive Specialist; Fr.; Wetzlar, Germany
Caitlyn Donahue: 5-9; Setter; So.; Overland Park, Kan.
Audrey Horton: 6-1; Middle Blocker; So.; Topeka, Kan.
Taylor Johnson: 6-0; Middle Blocker; Fr.; Grand Island, Neb.
Dakota Kaufman: 6-1; Outside Hitter; Fr.; Hillsboro, Kan.
Chelsea Keating: 6-1; Outside Hitter; Fr.; Frankfort, Kan.
Ashley Kelican: 5-10; Setter; So.; Centennial, Colo.
Kathleen Ludwig: 6-0; Opp; So.; Shawnee, Kan.
Lauren Mathewson: 5-6; Libero; Sr.; Kansas City, Mo.
Tristan McCarty: 5-9; DS/Libero; Fr.; Manhattan, Kan.
Alex Muff: 6-1; Middle Blocker; So.; Concordia, Kan.
Kaitlynn Pelger: 6-2; Middle Blocker; Fr.; Olathe, Kan.
Lilla Porubek: 6-1; Outside Hitter; Fr.; Budapest, Hungary
Courtney Traxson: 6-1; Outside Hitter; Fr.; Cheney, Kan.
Kacia Turner: 6-0; Middle Blocker; Fr.; Topeka, Kan.
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