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Volleyball Set to Compete in Final Spring Competition
K-State's Chelsea Keating sets the ball in front of Taylor Johnson against Tulsa at Ahearn Field House in Manhattan, Kansas on September 10, 2013. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
April 12, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
Grow, progress, perfect - just a few things K-State volleyball is focusing on during its spring training.
The young team is spending its intense spring sessions working towards finding consistency and, with three new faces on the court already, getting everyone on the same page.
"We feel like we're making steady progress in the areas we've been spending time on," K-State head coach Suzie Fritz said. "The spring is hard, it's really hard, and I don't think people really understand how much time and effort we put into this segment. We have four competition dates, we're going hard every day and we're lifting in combination to that. Honestly, the hours we're putting in are more than during the season."
With the first three competitions of the spring behind them and three wins under their belts, the Wildcats will travel to Stilwell, Kan., today to compete in the 2014 K-State Spring Tournament taking place at Blue Valley West High School.
The nine-team tournament tips off at 9 a.m., with each team playing two morning sessions and two afternoon sessions.
"I'm really excited," said Nebraska transfer Sheridan Zarda. "It's weird playing multiple games in a day, I haven't done that since club, but I think we're all really looking forward to competing in consecutive games, playing together, getting our rhythm and having fun, of course."
At Nebraska, Zarda played in 19 matches as a true freshman in 2012 before redshirting in the 2013 season. A native of Shawnee, Kan., Zarda attended St. James Academy High School and competed alongside fellow Wildcat teammate sophomore Dallas Gardner, where the two helped St. James achieve three state titles.
Along with Zarda, K-State welcomes newcomers freshman outside hitter Kylee Zumach from Buffalo, Minn., and freshman transfer from Mississippi State, Brooke Sassin.
"All good things. There's a lot going on with them, they're learning an entirely new way of playing volleyball, but I think they're doing very well," said Fritz on the newcomers.
Today, K-State will open its morning competition with a match against Wichita State at 10 a.m., followed by a match against Illinois at 11 a.m. In the afternoon session, the Wildcats will take on Saint Louis at 1:30 p.m., and Kansas City at 2:30 p.m.
So far this spring, the Wildcats have already proven a tough team on the court as K-State has earned spring wins over Creighton (3-1), Missouri (2-1), and the Kansas City HAVOC, Kansas City's semipro team (2-0).
"Any time that you go into a game, it really shows your weaknesses," sophomore setter Katie Brand said. "In practice, we play against the same people every day. We know each other so well that when we go play someone else, they expose some of those (weaknesses). With every game so far, they've exposed different weaknesses, but every time we've been able to come back and we've been playing our best volleyball towards the end of each game; that really says something about us."
Brand, who was recently selected to the U.S. Collegiate National Team, is one of only five Wildcats returning to the court carrying significant playing time over from the 2013 season. The 2013 roster graduated six seniors, leaving Brand and fellow freshman Kersten Kober along with seniors-to-be Chelsea Keating, Gina Madonia and Taylor Johnson to carry the load from an experience standpoint. Though Fritz said losing that many years of experience is tough and the young team still has a lot of learning to do, she is happy to see her team 3-0 in its spring scrimmages.
"They are competing and playing hard," Fritz said. "I think it's great, winning is great, but right now we're just focused on being better. We need to play good volleyball over and over again, and we're seeing that, it's just not maybe as consistent as we would like it to be."
Working on that consistency, the team not only trained hard this spring and prepared in practice, but it has also watched film so each player can get a visual on what she specifically needs to work on. It's a busy schedule, but Fritz makes the most of it because she knows once the spring sessions come to an end, she won't be able to work with her team again until Aug. 9.
But perhaps that's what makes this weekend so special - it is the second-to-last time the Wildcats will compete before the 2014 season begins in late August.
"I get really excited about playing, it's my favorite part," said Brand, "so getting to play four matches this weekend, I cannot wait."
For more information on today's tournament, click here.