SE: Hall of Fame Spotlight: Dawn Cady

K-State Athletics will honor a group of 10 outstanding individuals this weekend with their induction into the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame. This group marks the 11th class in the history of the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame and will be honored with an induction ceremony on Friday, Jan. 29, before being recognized at halftime of the men’s basketball game against Ole Miss at 1 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum the following day. Stay tuned to the K-State Sports Extra throughout the next few weeks for more information about each of this year’s K-State Athletics Hall of Fame Inductees.

The first time Dawn Cady (Sullivan) traveled with her Iowa State Cyclones to play K-State in Manhattan, Kansas, she was nervous. It was 2005 – six years after graduating from K-State as one of the greatest players in the history of the program – but, luckily for her, instead of meeting in Ahearn Field House, the two teams were schedule to compete in Bramlage Coliseum.

Cady, K-State volleyball’s first All-American, played at K-State from 1996-99 before entering the world of coaching. She spent one post-graduate year with the Wildcat volleyball squad as a student assistant coach and went on to spend two years as an assistant at Illinois State before, 12 years ago, starting her career with Iowa State. 

“I think that was a blessing in disguise,” said Cady, who is currently Iowa State’s associate head coach, about playing in Bramlage Coliseum in her first trip back to K-State. “I hadn’t really been back there in many years after I left, so, in a lot of ways, it settled a lot of the nerves.”

Though there were nerves her first few trips competing against her alma mater, over time, playing against K-State in Big 12 Conference matchups has become much more enjoyable.

“After that first year, it became a little bit easier each time,” she continued. “My first couple years back I knew a couple of the players, whereas now, I don’t. I know of them, I follow K-State and I want them to win when we don’t play them, but now it’s more fun to go back than nerve-wracking. Ahearn Field House is a really great facility to play in, and I always find time to walk around campus; it’s always fun.” 

Following a stellar senior season in 1999, Cady earned AVCA All-America Second Team honors as well as being named an Honorable Mention All-American by Volleyball Magazine. She recorded 24 double-doubles her senior year, a statistic which still ranks No. 1 for a season in K-State volleyball history, while she was the first player in school history to go 14 matches with 20-plus kills in a single season. 

She helped the Wildcats make four-consecutive NCAA appearances, including the program’s first-ever trip to the postseason in 1996. 

“Dawn epitomized the definition of the model student-athlete,” said K-State volleyball head coach Suzie Fritz, who was an assistant coach to former head coach Jim McLaughlin during Cady’s years at K-State. “She was one of the hardest-working players to ever play in our program. Every honor, award or recognition she received came because she earned it.  Her level of commitment, character and work ethic helped her develop into the player that she became. She had a wonderful process and approach to growth and improvement, and she was better at it than most. Even more importantly, she was – and still is – an exceptional person.”

An all-around outside hitter, Cady is one of just four players in school history with 1,000-plus career kills and 1,000-plus career digs, and she ranks No. 3 in school history with 1,611 kills and 4,216 attacks, while she’s fifth all-time in digs with 1,258. She’s the only player in K-State history to record four matches with 30-plus kills. 

But when she arrived at K-State from her hometown of Marshall, Minnesota, her volleyball IQ, naturally, wasn’t at the level it needed to be. 

It took time and work with the K-State coaching staff to get her there. 

“When I came in to Kansas State, I was a pretty raw athlete,” Cady explained. “I didn’t know a lot about volleyball and I had to learn almost the whole sport. I took it from a very basic level to the higher level I was at when I finished, and what I learned a long the way has helped me as a coach.”

Because of her experience at K-State, Cady relates to her student-athletes. She sees herself in them and understands what must take place to go from good to great. She learned a lot from her former coaches – McLaughlin, Fritz and current associate head coach Jeff Grove – and has carried that knowledge into her own career. 

“I can see those different levels when they come in; everybody is at a different level,” said Cady. “I think just knowing where I came from to where I went, that’s really helped me, and remembering who taught me and how they taught me is what has influenced me the most as a coach.”

Tomorrow evening, Cady will be remembered and honored for her time as a Wildcat as she, along with nine other K-Staters, will be inducted into the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame.

“Having a volleyball student-athlete inducted to the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame is always special for us,” said Fritz. “There have been many extraordinary student-athletes come through our program for decades, and we are proud to have Dawn represent not only her accomplishments, but those of her teammates, past and future players, and our volleyball program overall.”

For Cady, she’s excited for the opportunity to spend the weekend in purple, surrounded by her family friends, former teammates and coaches.

“It will be nice to come back as a Wildcat,” she said with a smile. “To see friends in that world again; it will be nice to be there and just be a K-Stater again. I’m very excited. It’s a complete honor, and I’m just very blessed and excited for the opportunity.”

 

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