SE: K-State Prepares Donahue for the Pros

By Kelly Stewart

The past two years have been exciting for former Wildcat volleyball player Caitlyn Donahue (2009-12).

From playing professionally in both Puerto Rico and Switzerland to training with Team USA, her volleyball career path has taken her around the world.

“All I wanted to do going in was try to be awesome at volleyball, enjoy life and realize that I was lucky to have the opportunity to play as a professional,” said Donahue. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was really, really cool.”

Prior to heading overseas, Donahue helped lead the Cats to back-to-back 20-win seasons her junior and senior years. As a team captain, she led the Wildcats on an exciting run in the NCAA Tournament in 2011, reaching the Sweet 16 after an upset win over No. 2 Nebraska before returning to the postseason in 2012.

The three-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team honoree ended her career with 3,618 assists (fifth in school history) and 1,107 digs (ninth in school history), making her the only player in K-State history to rank in the top 10 in both categories. As a senior, she was named All-Big 12 First Team and AVCA All-Central Region Honorable Mention.

Following her final season with the Wildcats, Donahue sat down with an agent to discuss her options of playing professionally. Not long after, she decided to begin her career in Puerto Rico.

“The league down there is smaller, it’s a shorter season and it’s not far from home, so they send a lot of fresh-out-of-college players down there,” explained Donahue. “It was a really interesting experience.”

Donahue spent one season in Puerto Rico before getting a call up from Karch Kiraly, head coach of the United States Women’s Volleyball Team.

“I never really thought that was a possibility for me,” said Donahue about playing with the national team. “It was really neat getting to train with Team USA, and I think being in that gym was what allowed me to get over to Switzerland.”
 
Donahue spent the summer of 2013 in California training with Team USA. It was a summer filled with growing her game and perfecting her skills before taking a leap over the Atlantic Ocean and spending the next season playing professionally in Basel, Switzerland.

“Europe is one of the best places for professional volleyball,” explained Donahue. “They’re crazy about it over there. I got over to Switzerland and was there for a long time because it’s an eight-month season. Everyone there was friendly, my teammates were nice, the team operated in English, which was very helpful to me, and I definitely got better at volleyball. I was playing with some very good European players.”

Following her season in Switzerland, Donahue closed her professional career this past spring where she started it all.

“I had the opportunity to go back to Puerto Rico, and I’m so glad I did it,” explained Donahue. “It was a nice end to my career and I enjoyed being back down there. I knew people from my first time around, and I knew what to expect, so it was a blast. It was a nice way to wrap up my pro volleyball career.”

But if it weren’t for the foresight of Wildcat head coach Suzie Fritz, who enters her 15th season at the helm of the program this season, Donahue may have never played professionally.

“The opportunity (to play professionally) started here at K-State because Suzie decided to switch my position,” said Donahue, who was an outside hitter during her freshman season in 2009. “After my first year, she decided I was going to be a setter. That was instrumental in me having the ability to play at the professional level. I was pretty undersized as an outside hitter and I was always a good passer, but not the best passer, so Suzie putting me in that role opened a lot of doors for me.”

Donahue not only got her start as a setter at K-State, but she also got much, much more.

Filled with memories, good times and success both on and off the court, her four years with the Wildcats were a few of the best years of her life.

“There are so many!” she said when asked about her fondest memories. “We had a lot of success my junior year and the start of my senior year. My main highlight would obviously be making it to the Sweet 16 my junior season. Then, at the start of my senior season, we were awesome; we started off 13-0.

“When I look back at K-State, I remember the people. I remember loving being a part of the volleyball team and loving being a part of the Manhattan community. We had so many great fans and supporters.

“Also, I absolutely loved playing for Suzie Fritz. I feel so fortunate that I had a coach who I really, truly loved playing for. When I talk to a lot of other college players as we move on in our professional careers, a lot of them didn’t feel the same about their college coaches and their college career, but I can honestly say I just loved being here all four years and the people were a huge part of that.”

Putting her volleyball career aside for now, Donahue is excited to be back at home in Olathe as she recently accepted a position at Blue Valley Southwest High School as a freshman and junior English teacher.

While she said one day she would like to coach high school volleyball, for now, she is excited to “focus on being an awesome classroom teacher. Then, I think once I get settled in, I’ll look into coaching.”

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly Stewart or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.