SE: K-State Sports Extra Q&A With Katie Brand

Every month during the athletic year, K-State Sports Extra features a new student-athlete in its monthly Q&A special. This month, we caught up with volleyball’s redshirt junior setter Katie Brand before the Wildcats’ (16-8, 8-4 Big 12) matchup with Iowa State (16-8, 9-4 Big 12) on Wednesday at 7 p.m., in Ahearn Field House. 

In a year where the Wildcat volleyball team needed a team leader more than ever, Brand stepped into the role. This year’s roster features no seniors, so, as a redshirt junior and the longest-tenured Wildcat, it was Brand’s role to fill, and she’s filled it well. 

Continuing an already successful career, Brand is currently the only student-athlete in Division I averaging more than 11.0 assists, 3.0 digs, 1.0 kill, 0.75 blocks, and 0.15 aces per set. The all-around player also leads Big 12 setters in points while ranking second in the conference with 1,003 assists.

Last season, Brand earned All-Big 12 First Team accolades and AVCA All-America Honorable Mention honors following a season where she recorded 1,274 assists, 314 digs, 112 kills and 104 blocks. She became just the fourth Wildcat in school history to join the Quadruple-Triple club (100+ kills, digs, assists and blocks).

In addition to her on the court performance, Brand, who is majoring in Life Sciences, has excelled in the classroom. She has earned Academic All-Big 12 honors twice as well as Academic All-District honors this season, making her and teammate Kersten Kober the first Wildcats to garner that distinction since 2010. Brand and Kober are now up for Academic All-America honors, which will be announced in December.

K-State Sports Extra recently caught up with Brand. Here is what she had to say:

Sports Extra: You’re in the Big 12’s top 10 in both assists per set (No. 2 averaging 11.27) and digs per set (No. 9 averaging 3.07). How are you feeling at this point in the season?
Katie Brand: Personally, I feel like the biggest jump I’ve made from last year to this year has been in my leadership and the way I’ve been able to connect with my teammates. When you’re young, you have to focus a lot on yourself and just getting your job done, but once you’re able to kind of let that go a little bit, focus on others and really have an outward perspective, I feel like that’s when you really grow. The stats and the numbers, it’s not what I look at anymore as much as how my team is doing, how people are feeling and getting a sense of what our chemistry is like on and off the court. 

SE: This team is unique in the fact that there are no seniors on the roster. What has that dynamic been like for you?
KB: It’s actually really special. It’s neat to think that next year we will have the same group of girls back. In previous years, thinking that we’re going to lose some of our key players, our leaders, we had to wonder about who was going to step up. This year, we already have that in place. We’re just so excited to see what we can do in the future.

SE: You started the season on the road but you’ve been back in Ahearn Field House for a good stretch now. What are your thoughts on playing at home?
KB: I enjoy it so much. I don’t think there is any team in the Big 12 that enjoys their home crowd as much as we enjoy ours. Coming back here, we have such a huge home-court advantage and you can see that in the stats and in how many games we win at home versus when we’re on the road. We’re so appreciative to be at home.

SE: You’ve garnered quite a few accolades and records in your career. Is there one that stands out as your favorite?
KB: I probably would say set assists just because I know when I get those assists, they’re kills for the hitters. Those are all things that I didn’t do personally, they’re a team effort every single time. Every time, there has to be a dig or a pass that allows me to assist off, then a hitter that kills the ball. I think any time a stat reflects us as a whole team, that’s my favorite.

SE: You spent two summers training with the U.S. Collegiate National Team. What did you take away from those experiences?
KB: Going away and experiencing that higher level of competition, I got to play with the best of the best, so to see their execution level and what they expect, their expectations were so high. So to be able to bring that back here and realize, ‘Hey, we’re not that far off.’ I brought that back, raised our expectations a little bit and executed at a little higher level.

SE: Where would you say you have grown the most since your early days with K-State volleyball?
KB: I think, like I was saying in the beginning, the reaching out part. I think when you come in as a freshman, and me especially, you’re selfish in a way that, ‘I want to get better… I want to improve on these things… I want to do so many things.’ Until I started focusing on the team as a whole, and how everyone else and the team around me was doing, and how we’re accomplishing things, I think that’s where the biggest jump for me as a volleyball player occurred.

SE: Finally, what is the best part about being a student-athlete here at K-State?
KB: This is very cliché, but the family I get to spend it with. My coaches, my teammates, I think I have the best in the Big 12, and it’s really hard to beat. They’re definitely the best part. 

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 McHugh-Stewart or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.