Year of the Rookies
An impact rookie.
Don't believe me?
How about Marcus Foster parading the Wildcats to the team's fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament back in March? He was K-State's leading scorer, averaging 15.5 points per game his freshman season.
And who could forget Feb. 8, 2014, when the unranked Wildcats took on then-No. 15 Texas and Foster scored 34 points in the Wildcats' 74-57 upset win. Bramlage Coliseum was alive. The atmosphere a freshman - an 18-year-old kid - brought to the arena was simply...fun.
While Foster obviously stands out, the rookie success didn't stop with him.
Kicking off her career on the water as the lone freshman on K-State rowing's 1st Varsity 8 boat this spring, Noelle Dykmann was named the Big 12 Rookie of the Year by the league's coaches on May 7. Throughout the spring season, Dykmann helped the Wildcat rowing team to several program firsts, including a second-place finish at the Big 12 Championship - the Wildcats' highest conference finish.
Her accomplishments didn't just stop there as Dykmann also earned First Team Academic All-Big 12 honors and was named to the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll.
After an exciting outdoor season where she finished in the top 10 in six of eight meets, including a fourth-place finish at the 2014 Big 12 Outdoor Championship, thrower Danie Plank qualified for the NCAA Championship and placed 21st overall at the national meet in Eugene, Oregon, this past summer. Plank was the only Wildcat freshman to qualify for the national meet.
Her appearance at the NCAA Championship marked just the third time in the past five years that a freshman from the Big 12 competed in the javelin on the national level. It was also the first time in five years (since Ali Pistora in 2009) that a Wildcat javelin thrower competed at the NCAA Championship meet.
And the list just continues to go on and on.
I haven't yet mentioned women's golfer Connie Jaffery. The Kilwinning, Scotland, native helped K-State to its first first-place finish in 10 years at the Marilynn Smith/Sunflower Invitational earlier this fall. She earned Big 12 Golfer of the Month in September after carding the second-lowest score in program history, an 8-under par 208 at the Johnie Imes Invitational where she won her first-career tournament individual title.
Gaffery's solid start helped guide the Wildcat women's golf program to new heights in its most successful fall season ever and leaves the team excited to see what the spring season holds.
On the football field, freshman Elijah Lee opened his career with a bang on August 30, against Stephen F. Austin when the Blue Springs, Missouri, native recorded two sacks. With one game left as the Wildcats are heading into the Valero Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2, Lee's current 4.5 sacks are the most by a true freshman in Wildcat History.
A pretty cool feat for someone who was playing on Friday nights just one year ago.
And Matthew McCrane - the redshirt freshman kicker who has turned heads nationally this season - has gone 16-of-17 in field goals and 38-of-39 in extra points. His 86 total points in 2014 are the most points scored by a Wildcat freshman in school history. He broke K-State legend Martin Gramatica's record of 66 points, and, in terms of accuracy, McCrane leads the Big 12 by connecting on 94.1-percent of his attempts.
For his poise on the field, McCrane not only earned honorable mention All-American by Sports Illustrated and was named to the USA Today Freshman All-American team, but he was also named Phil Steele Freshman All-American.
Finally, last but certainly not least, is volleyball's Kylee Zumach.
Zumach's freshman season was one for the record books as she earned a K-State season-high five Big 12 weekly awards, recorded 406 kills - the most ever by a K-State freshman - and was the first player in the history of the program to be named Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
After leading the Wildcats to a 22-9 (9-7, Big 12) season and a berth in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Zumach was named an All-Big 12 First Team performer as well as to the All-Big 12 Freshman team, while she was named the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Midwest All-Region Freshman of the Year on Dec. 9.
Topping off her successful first season in purple, just last week Zumach was named an All-America Honorable Mention honoree by the AVCA - the first Wildcat freshman to be recognized as an All-American.
After an exciting year for these seven Wildcat newcomers, there is one thing that is certain: the future of these Wildcats couldn't be brighter as they look forward to even more excitement in 2015.
With that being said, cheers to 2014 - the year of the Wildcat rookies.
K-State's Elijah Lee (9) sacks Texas' Tyrone Swoopes at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas on October 25, 2014. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
K-State's Connie Jaffrey watches her tee shot during the Marilynn Smith Sunflower Invitational at Alvamar Golf Club in Lawrence, Kansas on September 8, 2014. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
Noelle Dykmann competes at the 2014 Sunflower Showdown (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)