All-American Interview Series

MANHATTAN, Kan. - In the 33-year history of Kansas State volleyball, the Wildcats have had five All-Americans grace the floor of historic Ahearn Field House: Dawn Cady (1999), Liz Wegner (2000 and 2001), Lauren Goehring (2003), Gabby Guerre (2003) and Vali Hejjas (2004). The Kansas State Sports Information Office will look at what these five women have been doing since their playing days ended in a five-part summer interview series.


In the fourth of a five-part series, the Kansas State Sports Information Office contacted the first All-American in school history, Dawn Cady. The product of Marshall, Minn., finished her career as one of the most decorated players in school history earning second team All-American honors from the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association (AVCA) in 1999), honorable mention All-American by Volleyball Magazine in 1999, a unanimous first team All-Big 12 selection in 1999, a four-time Academic All-Big 12 selection and is the only player in school history to earn three Big 12 Player of the Week citations.


Cady still holds seven school records and three Big 12 records, including: kills for a season (622), highest kill per game ratio for a single season (5.71; 1999) and most total attacks in a five-game match (93). Her kills per game ratio of 5.71 was the third-best in the nation during the 1999 season. She also finished her All-American season with 22 double-doubles in 30 matches, including six 20/20 double-doubles.


This is how Cady was described by the Kansas City Star’s Mechelle Voepel after she set the school record for kills in a five-game match with 39 against Kansas on Nov. 21, 1999 in a 3-2 win:


            “Whatever Cady does in a match, she just thinks that’s what she’s supposed to do. Never mind that 39 kills is one of the top performances in the country this season, or that she’s been national player of the week once and won the Big 12’s weekly honor twice, or that she’s had 19 double-doubles... You’re embarrassing her by even bringing any of that up.”


During her career, she led K-State to one of its most successful four-year stretches in school history. She was a part of a senior class that became the first in school history to make four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and posted a record of 86-43 (.667), including a mark of 50-30 in Big 12 action.



Kansas State Sports Information Dept. (KSUSID): Dawn, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions and update K-State fans on what you have been up to. Since graduating in May 2000 with a degree in kinesiology, you have progressed through the coaching ranks to become an assistant coach at Iowa State. What was your path leading to Ames and how have your experiences been with the Cyclones? Did you always want to be a college volleyball coach?


Dawn Sullivan (DS):  After finishing my collegiate volleyball career in 1999, I remained at Kansas State until the following December (of 2000) to finish my degree and to work with the volleyball program as an undergraduate assistant.  This experience continued to increase my knowledge of coaching from what I believe are some of the best coaches.  I was able to see and get hands on experience of what a coach does off the court or behind the scenes, all of the things that as a player you tend to know very little about.  In December of 2000, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to play in the United States Professional Volleyball (USPV) league for the Grand Rapids Force.  It provided another perspective of coaching at a different level of volleyball.  I played in this league for one season, before deciding that I was ready to begin my career as a collegiate coach.  I began to look at some coaching openings when I received a phone call from Sharon Dingman, the head coach at Illinois State.  I interviewed and loved what I saw at Illinois State.  It was a position that allowed me to use my knowledge in a very positive environment.  I coached at Illinois State for 3 seasons before making the move to Iowa State in 2005, in which I have loved my experience thus far.  Iowa State is a top notch university with great academics and a beautiful campus.  I am able to coach, with what I believe, is one of the best staffs and in one of the best conferences in the nation, the Big 12.  It has been a lot of fun to help develop these players and this program into a national competitor.


I have always had a desire to coach since my first years involved in athletics.  I feel that athletics provides a unique way to reach an individual.  You can touch on issues that are very important in the development of a person in a non-threatening manner.  I have always had a passion for volleyball and I feel that it is a way for me to positively influence others, as coaches throughout my career have done for me.



KSUSID: Do your current players know about your career accomplishments in Manhattan?


DS: My current players are familiar with my career at Kansas State.



KSUSID: What has it been like to coach your sister at Iowa State? (Dawn’s sister, Laura, is a libero/defensive specialist for the Cyclones and will be entering her senior season in 2007)


DS: I feel very fortunate that I have had the opportunity to make the move to Iowa State, coaching my sister has only added to my experience and I believe that it has added to her’s as well.  But more importantly, family is very important to me and it has been nice to have her in our lives.



KSUSID: What has been your proudest moment, so far, as a coach?


DS:  I am not so sure there has been just one proudest moment, so far.  What makes me proud is watching the process of my players developing on and off the court, when they realize they have always had everything needed to be successful.  I am proud of the courage that arises and the trust they show in each other in order to take the great strides throughout their career as a player and continue to do throughout their lives as a person.



KSUSID: Has it been difficult to coach against your alma mater? Do you find yourself checking on K-State throughout the season?


DS:  I do find myself checking on Kansas State throughout the season.  I very much want the Wildcats to be successful, except against the Cyclones.  As far as it being difficult to coach against my alma mater, I would have to say no.  I am pretty competitive and once it is game time I see Kansas State as any other opponent.



KSUSID: You and your husband, Josh, are the proud parents of three daughters. When they get older, will you guide them toward volleyball or will you let them pick their own sport?


DS:  Josh and I are very proud parents of three daughters, Katie 3 yrs, Sarah 2 yrs, and Emily 1 month. We want them to be a part of what they enjoy when they grow older, whether that is athletics, music, theatre, etc.  Everyone is different and we want them to be who they are and not what we want them to be.



KSUSID: What match stands out for you as the most memorable during your time at Kansas State?


DS:  The match that stands out as the most memorable during my time at Kansas State would be our match at Nebraska my senior year, when we were able to come back from being down two games to beat the Huskers for the first time in the school’s history. 



KSUSID: Following your record performance of 39 kills against Kansas on Nov. 21, 1999, Mechelle Voepel of the Kansas City Star described your effort as Whatever Cady does in a match, she just thinks that’s what she’s supposed to do.’ Later in that story after she listed your long list of accomplishments during that season, she said You’re embarrassing her for bringing any of it up.’ So the question is, did the game of volleyball come so easily to you that you did not realize what you were accomplishing or did you just play each point as hard as possible to achieve a win?  


DS:  The game of volleyball was far from easy for me.  I had a long ways to go and was very fortunate to have coaches willing to take the time to train and develop me into the player I became.  Along with this understanding of how much I had to improve to compete with the best, I am very competitive which pushed me to work harder each and every day and always strived to do my best. 



KSUSID: Due to the changes in scoring, (Editor’s note: The current rally scoring system was instituted before the start of the 2001 season) do you feel that your school records for kills and attacks will never be broken?


DS: I would say that with the change to rally scoring it will be a lot harder for an individual to break my kills and attacks records due to the fact that they will have fewer opportunities to do so.



KSUSID: What was it like playing in a packed Ahearn Field House?


DS:  Ahearn Field House itself is a pretty unique environment and when you fill it full of screaming fans, well let’s just say that, it is one of my most unforgettable feelings.



KSUSID: What are some of your memories of Manhattan outside of volleyball?


DS:  I have some great memories of Manhattan and loved my entire experience in Kansas.  The community, my education, and athletics were all incredible.  It is where I met many life long friends, including my husband, Josh.  It is where I discovered myself as an individual.  It is where my life began.