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Brand Competes with U.S. Collegiate National Team
K-State's Katie Brand digs the ball against Southeast Missouri State at Ahearn Field House in Manhattan, Kansas on September 6, 2013. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
June 23, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
This week, K-State volleyball setter Katie Brand has the opportunity to take her skills to a new level.
One of just 60 collegiate volleyball players selected for this year's U. S. College National Team (CNT) program, Brand will be among 36 athletes that spend the next 10 days in Minneapolis training and competing with the team.
"After competing in the tryouts back in February, I know that the talent level there is going to be really high," Brand said about the CNT program, "but the coaching is great, and I'm going to be playing with great competition, so I'm just really excited."
Earlier this year, Brand traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and was one of nearly 250 collegiate volleyball players that tried out for the program. Two separate teams of 12 players were selected for tours in China and Europe while another 36 - including Brand - head to Minnesota for the training in conjunction with the 2014 USAV Girls' Junior National Championships.
Narrowing her selection down even more, of the group of 36 that made the CNT program in Minneapolis, Brand is one of just six setters to make the cut. Overall, she is one of just 10 setters - two on the team heading to Europe and two traveling to China - in this year's entire CNT program.
"It's particularly special for her because she is a setter," explained K-State head coach Suzie Fritz. "They're not going to take many setters. They're going to have several outside hitters, middles and attackers, so it makes her one of the elite setters in her age group to be a part of that experience."
Overall, the CNT invites nine middle blockers, nine outside hitters, six opposites, six setters and six liberos to Minneapolis who will be coached by lead coaches Mike Hebert and Bill Neville - both retired colligate coaches who have also coached on the U.S. National Team level during their careers.
"My favorite part of the summer is that we get to focus so much on just volleyball," Brand said with a smile. "We're still in classes, and I'll be taking online classes while I'm in Minneapolis, but this week will still be just volleyball. Every day we'll go in, train and compete against each other all day."
And it will be all volleyball, all the time this week for Brand.
The opening four days of the program will be filled with training. After the intensive training sessions, the 36 will be divided into three equal teams. The three teams will then spend their final days with the CNT competing in a round-robin tournament from June 27-30.
While the experience is an outstanding one for Brand, it is also an opportunity for the K-State volleyball team to learn through the knowledge she will bring back.
"Seeing the other competition that's out there and knowing I can compete with them, that gives me a lot of confidence," said Brand, "and then for my team, going to play with the Collegiate National Team and gaining that experience, I can bring that back here and help them by showing them what I learned."
Fritz said after the tryouts she could see Brand's confidence beginning to grow on the court, so she knows only positive can come from having a player compete on one of the highest levels in collegiate volleyball. Fritz said she is excited to see how Brand's experiences will play a positive role in her team this upcoming season.
"Part of her responsibility is to share that experience," Fritz said. "To come back, be a better leader and say, 'I've been there, I've done this,' and bring that back to the team in a productive way."
The week of competition also serves as a second tryout for the U.S. National Team - a dream of Brand's and something Fritz says could be in the talented setter's future.
"I think Katie has a great amount of potential beyond college volleyball," Fritz said, "whether that's playing professionally overseas or with our National Team. She has so many intangible qualities besides just her physical qualities - she has tremendous size and her setting IQ has improved dramatically in the time she has been here with us. She's hungry to be the best, and she's ultra competitive. She just has all the right intangible qualities to keep playing beyond college should she choose to."
Going into her redshirt sophomore season, Brand - an All-Big 12 Freshman Team selection in 2013 - will be one of nine sophomores to make the CNT program and is one of only three athletes from the Big 12 Conference on the team.
"You can do high school National Teams and that was something that I was always interested in, but never really tried out for," said Brand. "Coming here, I just never expected or thought I'd get to go try out for the Collegiate National Team. When I did, I was really nervous because I wasn't sure where I would stand, but then making the team, that was definitely a dream."
For more information on the U.S. Collegiate National Team and a full roster of the 36 competitors, click here.