Six New Faces Prepare for 2013 K-State Volleyball Season
While some have been in Manhattan since the spring semester, some got to travel to Russia with the team this summer and some arrived this month, they are all ready to represent K-State this season, which begins in Las Vegas, Nev., this Friday and Saturday at the UNLV Invitational.
From San Antonio, Texas, freshman setter Bailey Shurbet arrived in Manhattan in January. Lettering four years in volleyball at Ronald Reagan High School, Shurbet led her team to the 2012 district championship her senior season.
"It's been great," Shurbet said about her time in Manhattan. "The girls are great, and coming a semester early was the best thing I've ever done. I love it. I'm happy to be here."
Also arriving in January was sophomore libero Dallas Gardner, from Lenexa, Kan.
Gardner transferred to K-State after playing one season with Northwest Missouri State where she started in 27 matches for the Bearcats.
"I really feel like it was good to have the spring to get used to how they play here and how everything is run," Gardner said. "The coaches, the team, it was really nice to get to know them in advance to the season."
A sophomore middle blocker transfer from St. Mary's College, Katie Reininger arrived at K-State in the beginning of the summer and had the opportunity to travel with the Wildcats as they represented Team USA in the World University Games in Kazan, Russia.
"Russia was an incredible experience. We were so blessed to be able to represent our country," Reininger said. "Coming in early and being able to practice with the team was awesome. The team just welcomed all of us newbies and freshmen, and that was an awesome experience."
Freshman outside hitter Brookelyn Langhaim, from Highland, Utah, also arrived in Manhattan in June and traveled with the team to Russia.
"It was definitely a huge advantage for us to come in June because of Russia," Langhaim said. "Unlike other schools where they only have open gym hours for two hours a week, we got to full-on go into practices and be coached by the coaches as much as we wanted all week. That was a huge advantage, and I feel pretty good going into the fall."
For freshmen setters Kersten Kober and Mattie Batchelder, coming to K-State has been a long-time dream.
Kober, from Carroll, Texas, grew up wearing K-State purple, and with a K-State alum for a father, choosing Manhattan wasn't a tough decision.
"A lot of my family went here. My dad graduated from here, so K-State was kind of known through my family and I was a big fan," Kober said. "That played a big part, but also getting to play with this program is an honor, and I'm so excited to be a part of this team and the atmosphere that this volleyball program provides."
Similarly, Batchelder, from Colorado Springs, Colo., knew a thing or two about Manhattan and K-State before joining the volleyball program.
"I grew up around K-State - my parents went here, my grandparents went here, my aunts and uncles went here and my cousins went here too. It's always been my dream to come here," Batchelder said. "I love the people. They're so great and so nice. I love the energy and the pride for the school here at K-State."
To help integrate the younger players, each incoming player is given a "Big Sis" player to help show them around. Batchelder's "Big Sis" is senior libero Tristan McCarty, who has helped make the transition to college - on and off the volleyball court - a lot easier.
"They've been really, really good at taking it all in, being sponges and trying to absorb everything," McCarty said. "You can't really ask for more when you're trying to create a player that wants to be coachable. They all have different qualities about them, so it's been really exciting just to see their individual personalities kind of emerge and you kind of get to know them a little bit more as the weeks progress."
As for the coach's perspective, head coach Suzie Fritz said the new faces on her roster are, "a really neat group, really diverse in what I think they're going to bring to the team right now and further on in their careers."
The Wildcats' 2013 season begins at 6 p.m. (CT) Friday in a match against Portland, while the UNLV Invitational concludes Saturday with K-State taking on Cal State Fullerton at 12 p.m. (CT) and host school UNLV at 9 p.m. (CT).