Jan. 22, 2014
Incoming K-State volleyball recruit Sami Flattum is a self-described competitive person. Or as she simply states, "I don't like losing."
The 6'2" right-side hitter, a signee in the 2014 class alongside Kali Eaken, will arrive in Manhattan in the summer with a nice background in winning. She played volleyball at Lakeville North High School in Lakeville, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. Her high school team reached the state tournament three times, winning twice. Flattum also played club volleyball for prestigious Northern Lights, a program that knows how to win - evidenced by nationally-ranked teams among its eight age groups and its seemingly-endless list of alumni that went on to play volleyball at the collegiate level.
She has been tutored by one of Minnesota's Hall of Fame volleyball coaches, Walt Weaver, a man who has more than 700 high school wins, 14 trips to the Minnesota state tournament and three state championships to his name. Weaver worked with Flattum at a young age, saw her develop within Northern Lights, and coached her for two years (2012-13) at Lakeville North.
"She is a competitor and a clutch player who will come through for her teammates when they need her most," said Weaver.
Need her most? Try when a trip to the state championships - in the volleyball-crazed state of Minnesota nonetheless - is on the line. Flattum had the solo block for match point in the 2011 section finals against crosstown rival Lakeville South. The match, one Flattum remembers more than others because of the intensity on the court and the amount of fans in attendance, vaulted Lakeville North to its second straight state tournament.
The Panthers, though, lost in five sets during the state final against Eden Prairie. The fifth set needed extra points, 22-20, a score and memory Flattum fires off as if happened the previous night.
"We almost won three times," she says about the shortfall.
Weaver considered Flattum to be the "rock of our offense" at Lakeville North.
"She was clearly one of the strongest right side attackers in our state and often led the team in timely points in the biggest matches we played," said Weaver. "Simply put, Sami is a game player... and it has been my observation in watching her play that she excels most in the toughest of situations."
Flattum started playing volleyball in third grade - "the in-house league, where nobody touches the ball. It just falls because everyone is starting out." The recruiting process did not start for her until she was 15, with K-State being one of the first schools to start expressing interest.
"It got serious later," said Flattum about the thought of playing collegiate volleyball. "Before, I was just playing for fun. Once we started winning state tournaments, college coaches started talking to me. I thought, `Wow, I could actually do this.' I didn't think it was possible...It didn't really cross my mind."
"Sami was a little bit of a late-bloomer, in that she started a little later," said K-State volleyball head coach Suzie Fritz, "but she played at a very competitive high school in Lakeville North."
With the competition in high school driving her, Flattum was named to the Class AAA All-Tournament Team in 2012 after totaling 24 kills and helping the Panthers win the state title in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. In 2013, she was named to the South Suburban All-Conference Team after averaging more than 2.5 kills per set. All of it was part of her helping Lakeville North at least advance to the section finals in all four years.
In choosing K-State, Flattum was drawn to the "people and the community."
"[Manhattan] seems small to me from where I come from," said Flattum. "Everything is based around the sports and everyone comes out to support [the Wildcats]. I love the atmosphere."
Flattum made her official visit during mid-November, watching the Wildcats sweep Big 12 foe Baylor in Ahearn Field House. The trip provided Flattum a small sampling of what to expect often during the K-State experience. It also gave the K-State coaches and student-athletes an opportunity to visit with her and discuss what lies ahead with her and K-State volleyball.
"She has pretty good length and a fast arm," said Fritz. "We see her as an opposite down the road. She has primarily been a hitter/blocker, but we would like to see what other skills she can develop as a player at this level."
As with any freshman, Flattum, who aspires to be a nurse, would like to get the most out of her college experience. She chose K-State, though, primarily for the opportunity to play Division I volleyball. So ultimately, what does the fierce competitor want to do most?
"Well, obviously, I want to win." No surprise there.