SE: Kober Earns Big 12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year

K-State volleyball’s Kersten Kober recently added a new feather to her hat. 

Following an exciting season where the Southlake, Texas, native served as the Wildcats’ libero and kept up her 4.0 GPA, Kober made Wildcat history by earning K-State volleyball’s first-ever Big 12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year award. 

“I was so excited when I found out,” said Kober with a smile earlier this week. “I was in a meeting with my coaches and (head coach) Suzie Fritz told me. I had no idea I was even in the running for it, so it was just really exciting. I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

While on the court Kober, a junior, was working hard at her skills and being a team leader, off the court she was working just as hard to keep her grades up.

“Managing your time enough to be able to succeed at both is really difficult,” explained Kober, who is studying accounting and has aspirations of going to law school after her time at K-State. “Good time management has really helped with that. It’s hard to be a student and an athlete at the same time.”

While Kober certainly has the drive to be successful as both a student and an athlete, it helps immensely that she is playing for a team and a coaching staff that share her values.  

“The expectation with this team is to be good on the court but to also be successful in the classroom,” she began. “And we have the opportunity to do both here at K-State. Suzie puts a lot of emphasis on doing well in school, and she really cares a lot about how we do in the classroom. That helps motivate each and every one of us. Across the board, we have a lot of smart and motivated people on this team, and that really helps.”

Along with her most recent award, Kober is a two-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team honoree and was also named CoSIDA Academic All-District 7 First Team this year. Following her freshman season in 2013, she became K-State volleyball’s first student-athlete to be named to the Academic All-Big 12 Rookie team.

“The type of grit, effort and execution you see from Kersten on the court is what you get from her on the academic side,” said Kristin Waller, the Associate Director of Student-Athlete Services and Academic Counselor for the Wildcat volleyball team. “She is a very determined and focused young woman who, once she has her goal in mind, takes the action necessary to make sure she reaches that goal. She puts forth consistent and steady performances both in the classroom and on the court, so the fact that Kersten has been named the Big 12 Volleyball Scholar Athlete of the Year is well-deserved.”

On the court, Kober sits eighth in K-State’s record book for career digs with 1,126 and is coming off a 2015 campaign in which she notched a career-high 500, making her just the fourth Wildcat in school history to reach the 500-dig mark in a season. In her three years with the program, she has played in 85 of a possible 89 Wildcat matches and has been the team’s starting libero for the last two seasons. 

This past year Kober, one of the Wildcats’ few upper classmen, helped K-State to a 17-12 (9-7 Big 12) record and the program’s fourth trip to the NCAA tournament over the last five seasons. 

“I just thought this season was a lot of fun,” said Kober. “I thought some of the freshmen really stepped up and took on some really big roles. They had some big shoes to fill and they did a good job with it. We definitely took a huge step up from last year, but we’re still all trying to evolve in the way that we lead. It’s been nice having this year with no seniors because we had to develop our leadership a little bit sooner and faster.”

While Kober said she is thrilled to be named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the accolade has not completely sunk in as she’s focused on finishing this semester with a bang. 

She has had three finals this week, and her last exam is this afternoon. She said earning the Big 12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year award has not added any pressure for her to do well in her finals, rather, it has been motivation to continue strong. 

“I have finals in Tax (Accounting), Accounting Theory and History and an upper level Econ class,” she said. “I feel like all I’ve been doing for the last week is studying. I’m so excited to close the books up after Thursday and not look at them until I come back in January.”

For the second time in her career, redshirt junior Katie Brand was named an All-America Honorable Mention by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), the organization announced.

A native of Grand Island, Nebraska, Brand followed up her selection from a year ago by turning in a campaign that only surpassed it. The setter posted personal-bests in average assists (11.10), digs (3.10), kills (1.24) and points (1.76). She also registered a career-high .372 hitting efficiency, the best by a K-State setter since 1985.

Brand finished the regular season as the only player in Division I to average 11.0 assists, 3.0 digs, 1.0 kills, 0.70 blocks and 0.10 aces. She was also one of three players in the nation to have 20 double-doubles while still registering more than 11.0 assists per set.

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Paced by sophomore defensive tackle Will Geary on the first team, Kansas State had four football players named to the Associated Press All-Big 12 teams, the organization announced Wednesday.

Geary was named a first team defensive tackle by the AP after earning honorable mention accolades from the league’s coaches. Junior fullback Glenn Gronkowski (listed as a tight end), senior offensive lineman Cody Whitehair and senior kick returner Morgan Burns (listed as an all-purpose player) were each named to the second team. It was Gronkowski’s first All-Big 12 honor this postseason, while Whitehair and Burns were each on the coaches’ first team.

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