SE: Vogel Vamps Up Play for No. 23 K-State Heading into Big 12 Schedule

Bryna Vogel thought it was a trophy, another one to add to her vast collection of athletic achievements. It was only when the K-State junior looked carefully that she realized what she was holding. 

Vogel ended the best week of her volleyball career with a 21-kill performance at a remarkable .704 hitting percentage Saturday against Southern Mississippi in the Arkansas Invitational. No K-State player has ever recorded that many kills at a higher efficiency, meaning her performance was not only historic but it also stamped her as the obvious choice for the tournament’s MVP. 

Her prize for accumulating 39 kills, 23 digs, six block assists and five aces in three K-State victories? No, not another trophy. Instead, she received an Apple Watch. 

“I was really shocked,” Vogel said of receiving the high-tech watch. “I was surprised.”

K-State head coach Suzie Fritz was not the least bit surprised by Vogel’s recent play. She said the coaching staff could see “this” coming since last spring. “This” also included Vogel putting up 18 kills, eight digs and five block assists in a home win against Creighton, the start of a dominant stretch that ended with her earning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week on Monday. 

“She just seems like she’s seeing things faster. Sometimes when you hear athletes start to talk about the game slowing down for them — that things are developing slower, that nothing seems fast anymore — a lot of that has to do with how fast they see things,” Fritz said. “You hear NFL receivers talk about it, you hear NBA point guards talk about it, you hear MLB batters talk about it, that all of a sudden things seem to be developing slower for them, and I feel like that’s where Bryna is at as a player. She sees things a lot faster.”

Vogel points to a number of factors for her recent surge. 

One, her confidence is high, which has “really helped.” Two, her experience at the U.S. Collegiate National Team-Indianapolis program this summer has carried over into the season. Three, she’s surrounded by a solid group of teammates who have pushed K-State (11-2) to a nine-match winning streak and a No. 23 national ranking.

“It’s the team working together, it’s not about just me,” said Vogel, as K-State opens Big 12 play against Iowa State in Ahearn Field House Wednesday at 7 p.m. “When they’re doing well, I can do well also. We have to work together to be good, so it’s not just me.” 

Before college, Vogel’s athletic focus covered more than just volleyball. 

She became the first athlete selected to the Wichita Eagle All-Metro Team in three sports — volleyball, basketball and softball. As a senior, Vogel earned the 2014 Lynette Woodard High School Female Athlete of the Year by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission, matching a feat her sister, Tricia, who played softball at Emporia State, accomplished in 2010. 

“Bryna is unusual. She was all-state in three sports and she was devoting a very minimal amount of time to playing volleyball prior to coming to college,” Fritz said. “That is different than the majority of players we get, who have played volleyball for a long time and a lot of them are solely devoted to being volleyball players. She was very different.”

When the time to decide on a sport to pursue for college approached, her parents — Randy and Nancy Vogel — sat her down. Her decision came down to a number of factors, but a conversation with them certainly helped out. 

“My parents just said that whenever they see me playing volleyball, I just light up when I’m on the court,” she said. “That’s how I leaned toward volleyball.”

Her parents also had a role in where their youngest daughter went to play volleyball. The two met while attending K-State, which Randy played football for, and trips back to their alma mater were frequent for athletic events. 

Additionally, Vogel wanted to pursue a career with animals. With K-State’s highly regarded Animal Science program, Manhattan made perfect sense. 

“I really, really wanted to come here, so I went to all the (volleyball) camps my junior year,” Vogel said. “They finally picked up the hint that I wanted to go here.”

Fritz said Vogel’s attendance at those camps blew the K-State coaches away. The athleticism she brings to the table, the work ethic she owns, the mindfulness she displays and the potential player she could become all came to light.

Now, it’s all coming together.   

“Part of what we’ve seen with her is because in the last two years it’s the only sport she’s really done,” Fritz said. “She’s devoted herself to one thing and you’ve really seen her make as much or more improvement than anybody we’ve ever had.”

Vogel ranks third on the team with 141 kills on the season, but her .349 hitting percentage tops the team among players with at least 300 total attacks. She also ranks first in aces (14), third in digs (114) and fourth in blocks (27), bringing a complete package of skills to the floor for K-State. 

“Bryna does so many things well,” Fritz said. “We ask a great deal from her, as we do anyone else who plays six rotations, but she’s a tremendous defender, she can score points with her serve, besides what she can do at the net as an attacker.” 

Those who know Vogel wouldn’t be surprised by any amount of success she reaches in any area. Driven by her faith and family, the Clearwater native tries to be good at everything she does, which is a lot. 

She’s musically gifted, able to play the guitar and drums. She also enjoys artwork, passionate about drawing and painting. Vogel graduated first in her class at Clearwater, a 4A school 20 miles southwest of Wichita. She has earned numerous academic honors at K-State, where she hopes to turn her education into a career in either training animals for movies or for people with disabilities. 

Whatever she does, she’ll probably be good at it. 

“She’s a very fast learner and she’s just a very mindful person in the way that she approaches her life,” Fritz said. “She’s pretty special in a lot of ways.”