K-State Sports Extra: VB Headed to Europe

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Summer plans will have to wait one more week for members of the K-State volleyball team as they are currently zooming their way to Budapest, Hungary, for the first stop in an eight-day foreign tour trip.

The Wildcats will play two matches in Budapest, before going to Slovenia at mid-week for two more matches, and then wrapping up the tour in Venice, Italy.

"This trip has so many benefits starting from the cultural perspective in that none of our girls have ever been outside of the continental United States, so the cultural experience will be amazing for them," said K-State coach Suzie Fritz.

Then from a playing perspective, the team was allowed to train for 10 days prior to Monday's departure.

"That's a huge benefit just in terms of practice time together," said Fritz. "Plus, we will have the opportunity to face international competition and compete against a different style of volleyball."

In Budapest, K-State will face the Hungarian National team, plus the Club team that produced ex-Wildcats Vali Hejjas and Rita Liliom, plus incoming Wildcat Lilla Porubek.

"Budapest is dear to our program because of the quality individuals who have been in our program," said Fritz.

Ironically, Virag Nyari, the mother of Porubek, is a national legendary volleyball player, who has most recently teamed with Hejjas in beach volleyball competitions.

K-State will travel with a 12-member team that will include 10 returnees from last year's 12-18 team, plus freshmen Tristan McCarty of Manhattan, Kan., and, Erin Truett of Goodyear, Ariz., who joined the program for the spring semester.

Fritz said she wasn't sure of a starting lineup, but the mix is expected to include Caitlyn Donahue at setter, Lauren Mathewson at libero, outside hitters JuliAnne Chisholm and Kathleen Ludwig, middle blocker Alex Muff and defensive specialist Abby Fay.

During the spring season, Fritz said, "I think we made progress, but the dynamics of the team will change dramatically in the fall. We'll have two seniors (Chisholm and Mathewson) and no juniors, and the rest will be sophomores, plus six incoming freshmen.

"We're going to have our work cut out for us integrating all the new personalities in the fall," said the Wildcat coach.

The story of how the trip came about is a unique story in itself.

K-State was scheduled to travel to China during the summer of 2008, but the organizers cancelled the trip the day before the team was to depart.

ESPN's "Outside The Lines" did a story on several teams that lost travel opportunities, which was viewed by officials at the Kansas City-based USA Athletes International.

"They came to us and said they wanted an opportunity to make things right and gifted us this trip out of the goodness of their heart," said Fritz.

USAAI founder William Edington said, "We wanted to give Kansas State volleyball the experience of playing the sport they are so passionate about on the international level. Yes, this is the story of setting things right, but it is about the thrill of playing in another country and feeling the surge of what that means."

Included in the tour will be a city tour of Budapest, attending a Hungarian Horse Show, the Postojnska Jama cave system in Slovenia, and a city tour of Venice, including a tour of a glass factory.

"We're so thankful for USAAI and this tremendous opportunity for our kids both competitively and culturally," said Fritz. "We're super excited about it, and very, very thankful."