SE: Fritz, K-State Volleyball Reach Historic Milestones

Suzie Fritz remembers feeling terrified. 

Elevated from assistant to head coach for K-State volleyball about a week before the 2001 season, Fritz recalls a conversation with that team, which set the tone for her career. 

“‘Hey, I’m going to screw this up and I’m going to need some help and I need to know that you’re in this with me,’” Fritz, whose first year as head coach ended with a 20-8 record and trip to the NCAA Tournament, recalled saying. “I remember just how extraordinary they were and how well they managed that. Without that group, who knows what would’ve happened.”

What did happen was Fritz became one of the most respected and successful coaches in the Big 12. In her 16th season as head coach, Fritz entered an elite class Friday afternoon when her team topped Mississippi State, 3-1, to secure her 300th career victory at K-State. 

It also marked the program’s 800th win, a feat only two other Big 12 schools have reached. 

“I think it’s a big deal because that is the cumulative efforts of four decades worth of volleyball players here. So I don’t want to diminish that,” Fritz said of the program’s 800 wins. “What we ask of them — the time, the effort, the energy they put in to work and represent K-State — it’s not easy what we ask them to do. That’s representative of a lot of years and a lot of work from a lot of people. I don’t want to diminish that. That’s a big deal.”

As for her 300 victories, Fritz deflected credit for the achievement. Instead, she shared it with the hundreds of women she’s coached while at K-State. 

“Again, I’m not putting on the spandex. I’m just trying to get them organized and trying to help them be as good as they can be, so it’s about them. It’s not about me. I don’t think about it that way,” she said. “It makes me appreciative of the opportunity to still be here and do what I love. I feel like I have the greatest job on earth. I get to be around high-achieving young women all the time and it’s pretty great.”

After sweeping the Wildcat Classic, Fritz’s record sits at 302-170, which ranks third among active Big 12 coaches and fifth all-time in the conference. 

“It’s so special for Suzie. Congrats to her,” senior setter Katie Brand said. “Honestly, I know this is kind of bias, but I truly believe she’s the best coach in the country.”

“Suzie means so much to all of us,” senior libero Kersten Kober added. “We love playing for her. She’s a good motivator. She knows what we need individually and there’s no better coach to play for. It’s so awesome to be part of something so exciting for her and for this program.” 

Fritz started her career at K-State in 1997 as an assistant. Nearly 20 years have gone by and she hasn’t left for “so many” reasons, but one in particular stands out. 

“The people, right? People say it all the time. When people talk about the K-State family, it’s real,” said Fritz, the all-time winningest coach at Kansas State. “There’s been a ton of people involved in growing, not just our environment, but also all of athletics and all of the university into what it feels like to be part of it.”

“This is my family,” Fritz continued, pointing to the locker room in Ahearn Field House. “This is my family. It’s a family affair for sure.”

The program’s culture Fritz has developed is undeniable, and it starts with her family-based approach. 

“The way she treats us, the way she doesn’t just treat us like volleyball players, but as actual people,” Brand said. “She cares about our lives. She cares so much about us off the court that’s it’s so easy to trust her on the court. Every decision she makes, we’re all on board. We buy into everything she says, and it’s everyone.

“It’s hard to find another team where everyone loves the coach as much as all 19 of us do.”

Brand, a fifth-year player, said every coach comes off as welcoming in the recruiting stage. What set K-State apart, she added, was how everyone spoke of Fritz on her visit. 

“Here you could tell right away. When Suzie isn’t around, everyone just praises her and how great she is,” Brand said. “I’ve been here four and a half years and it’s been the same, consistent Suzie Fritz the entire time.” 

Over time, Fritz said she’s learned from and eliminated many mistakes, become more patient and figured out how she wants her program to operate. “All the things that come with experience,” she said. 

What hasn’t changed is what she enjoys about coaching. 

“The rewards come from when you see a player maximize their potential. That’s when you feel like you’ve done a good job and there’s a ton of those opportunities in coaching,” said Fritz, whose teams have racked up more than a 100 Academic All-Big 12 honors. “The personal awards come from more from the relationships of going through something difficult with a group of people, and where they start and where they finish. 

“There are an enormous amount of extraordinary women out there that came through this program that continue to do extraordinary things. That’s rewarding.”