SE: Volleyball Excited To Represent USA

Head coach Suzie Fritz and the K-State volleyball team will represent the U.S. at the World University Games in Russia later this month.

July 3, 2013

Video: Volleyball Prepares for World University Games

This feature appeared in the July 3 edition of the K-State Sports Extra.

By Mark Janssen

How could one come up with a better 4th of July experience than representing the United States of America?  

That’s what the Kansas State’s volleyball team will do on Thursday when it boards a jet bound for Kazan, Russia, and the 2013 World University Games.  

“We want to represent Kansas State while wearing the Red, White and Blue of the USA,” said volleyball coach Suzie Fritz. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent our country. We’re pretty honored and excited.”  

USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal said of the invitation, “Kansas State has been a perennially strong program led by an outstanding coach in Suzie Fritz.”  

Fritz indicated that the United States Volleyball Federation chose to focus on other teams that will compete internationally, which opened the door for a single university to participate in the World University Games.   

“I got an e-mail asking if we would be interested, and we definitely were honored to accept the invitation,” said Fritz.  

One significant rule change that the K-State team is trying to adapt to is the international rule that allows only six substitutions per set compared to the 16 allowed in NCAA volleyball.  

“There’s no question that this is making us a better volleyball team,” said Fritz. “We have players who have not been accustomed to playing on the back row who now have to learn how to pass and play defense.”  

On her personal adjustment, middle blocker Taylor Johnson said, ‘I have had to learn how to dig within a month, and I have had to learn how to pass within a month. Normally you have 15 subs, but with this rule there is only one entry a game. That means you go in and you play all the way around, or, you come out and you stay out.”  

To prepare for the tournament, K-State recently played, and defeated, KC Havoc, a semi-pro team from Kansas City, 3-1.  

An interesting note on the trip is that Dakota Kaufman’s family emigrated from Kazan to the United States. Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, the third capital of Russia.  

“I’m looking forward to going and seeing the culture and spending time in the village where we will be around some of the top athletes in the world,” said Kaufman, a junior from  Hillsboro, Kan. “Once I put on the jersey, that’s when I think I’ll realize that I’m representing the USA. To be a part of something like this is huge.”  

Along with practicing as a team, Dr. David Stone from Kansas State’s History department has given the Wildcat team a Level 101 mini-course in Russian culture and the language of the country.  

“We’re playing six of seven days, but we want to utilize what we’re learning and see as much of the Russian culture that we possibly can,” said Fritz. “We are going to compete at the highest level, but we also want to drink it all in and enjoy the opportunity and the experience.”  
The Opening Ceremony will take place Saturday at Summer Universiade, followed by six matches scheduled between July 8 and July 15.  

The USA pool will include Russia, Poland and Czech Republic with the top two records from those teams advancing to the upper division, and the other two teams to the lower division for the final three matches.  

Fritz called the USA Pool “… probably the most difficult of the tournament from top to bottom.”

ESPN will provide more than 40 hours of coverage of the World University Games on ESPNU, while an additional 250 hours will be shown live online on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app for smartphones and tablets.  The Games will also be available through Xbox Live and Apple TV, giving the World University Games the potential to reach more than 85 million households.