Gardner, Wildcats Improving in Final Spring Workouts

April 25, 2013

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State volleyball team has spent its spring practices getting better each day and working toward improving heading into the 2013 season this fall. One new Wildcat has embraced that challenge of getting better every day and doing it at a brand new position.

Dallas Gardner transferred to K-State from Northwest Missouri State this spring originally with an interest in the engineering program. The former setter has found herself, however, also playing volleyball at her new school and making the transition from a setter to a defensive specialist. It is a challenge she said raised questions in her initially, but she has embraced the opportunity and already sees a major improvement from the beginning of spring practices to this the final week.

“It is always challenging going from one position to another because I’ve been a setter for my whole life,” Gardner said. “There is some experience you have just playing that position for a certain amount of time. Coming in it is one thing to learn where to be, where to go, but you also have to learn the instinct of the position and that takes time. You can’t really teach that.”

Fortunately for Gardner she is not alone on the team in terms of learning a new position.

Senior defensive specialist Tristan McCarty was in a similar boat when she first came to K-State. The career kills leader at Manhattan High School, McCarty made the move from outside hitter to DS her freshman year and even enrolled in the spring semester like Gardner did.

All those things can be a major undertaking, but McCarty said Gardner has made significant strides this spring in learning her new position and shown she is dedicated to getting better.

“I was the exact same way when I came in. There was a senior DS in my position. I came in at semester, so it’s kind of the exact same story. I know where she’s at. I know what she’s feeling when she comes in. I know the overwhelming aspect of that,” McCarty said. “And I also know how hard it is to jump into a group of girls who have been together for so long. She’s been doing a fantastic job. We couldn’t ask for me out of someone who has been here for less than a semester and is already making so many improvements and gaining confidence as well.”

Gardner had a successful freshman season at Northwest Missouri State where she led the MIAA in service aces, an area the Wildcats also are very successful at after leading the Big 12 Conference in aces during league action with 1.42 per set in 2012. Gardner started in 27 of the team’s 32 matches last fall and provided some offense at the setter position with 1.35 kills per set. Defensively, Gardner added 2.13 digs a set as well.

Through spring practices, Gardner said she steadily began feeling more comfortable in her new position as she continued to learn the subtle nuances of the back row. After once wondering how she would contribute to the Wildcats early in the spring workouts, now she sees herself as a defensive specialist thanks to her hard work and the help of her fellow defensive specialists like McCarty and Gina Madonia.

“I’ve gained a lot of confidence because I never thought of myself as a passer,” Gardner said. “Coming here, I thought what am I going to do here as a passer? But I think just practicing and getting to know it has helped me out a lot.

“Tristan has been great. She is always talking in my ear every drill and helping me out. It’s mostly constructive criticism, but Tristan and Gina help out a lot because if I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t have known what I was doing. It does help that she’s willing to give me that feedback.”

Gardner and the Wildcats are preparing to close spring workouts on Friday with one final scrimmage. K-State will travel to take on Illinois in Fulton, Mo., at 7:30 p.m. on the campus of Williams Woods College. The Wildcats and Fighting Illini also played a spring scrimmage last year after Illinois had played for the national championship in 2011.

McCarty said she and her teammates have enjoyed the process of getting better this spring and she is excited to see what 2013 has in store for her senior season.

“We’ve been in the gym a lot. Team training has been going really well. As far as improvements go, the possibilities are endless,” McCarty said. “We’ve seen so much growth across the board. Nearly every position we lost, has been filled by someone who has already been here for three years. You can’t really ask for more than that. I think our ending is not even begun yet.”