By Mark Janssen
What Kansas State athlete do you think is facing the biggest challenge this fall?
No, not quarterback Carson Coffman, but yes, it just could be Kansas State volleyballer Caitlyn Donahue, who is learning the position of setter in the line of fire of Big 12 competition.
"It's been very much a transition," said the Overland Park, Kan., native. "The types of serves you see are so much faster, which makes learning to pass so much tougher. I very much have a new appreciation for the position."
Last year Donahue was an outside hitter and defensive specialist for the Wildcats, but this season, in head coach Suzie Fritz's words, "... has embraced the position of setter. She's enjoying the position and starting to really get a grasp of the position. It's not a position you learn over night.
"What I'm liking is the fact that she's starting to take more risks," said Fritz, who will send her 9-8, 3-3 Wildcats against Texas tonight at 7 in Ahearn Field House. "She's pushing the envelope, which tells me she is gaining in confidence."
Donahue briefly saw action as a setter for Blue Valley West, where she led the Jaguars to a state title in her freshman year, and as a senior was named the 2009 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year.
A three-time Kansas Class 6A Player of the Year and a first team all-America honoree as a senior when she was listed among the top 100 senior players in the country, Donahue averaged 2.39 digs last year, plus posted 127 kills.
Today as a Wildcat setter, the 5-foot-9 sophomore ranks fifth in the Big 12 averaging 9.53 assists per game, plus is sixth in service aces at 0.31 per game. Her season high was a 55-assist effort in a loss to Colorado.
"I thought she could play the position because of her overall skill level. She has a very high volleyball IQ," said Fritz. "I honestly think she could play any position on the floor."
Fritz noted that Donahue was recruited as a defensive specialist with the thought of making her a libero. Struggling at the outside-hitter position last year, she was used at that position, as well.
Then this January, Donahue says, "They asked me about playing setter, but said it was up to me. I was excited and just jumped in with both feet. We're a young team, so we've all grown together and have a great working relationship."
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