March 21, 2014
K-State Volleyball has begun its preparation for the 2014 season with the start of full spring practices in late February. While the team features 11 returners, there are a few new faces, including early-arriving freshman Kylee Zumach and a pair of transfers, Sheridan Zarda and Brooke Sassin.
Sassin enrolled at Kansas State and joined the team in January after playing her freshman season at Mississippi State. Her time in Manhattan has been brief, but the 6"0" outside hitter has used the short amount of time to showcase her skill set to her new teammates and coaches.
“Brooke is a powerful, fast and dynamic athlete who possesses good attack vision and range,” said head coach Suzie Fritz. “She is a versatile attacker with the ability to score points in a variety of ways. Brooke also has a resilient and competitive temperament that suits her as an outside hitter.”
Last season at Mississippi State, Sassin appeared in 59 sets for the Bulldogs, totaling 105 kills (1.78 kills per set), 35 digs and 10 blocks. She finished fourth on the team in kills per set and sixth in points, all the while being the youngest player in the SEC.
Her standout performance of the season came against a familiar opponent for K-State. Sassin recorded a career-high 15 kills against Baylor in early September.
“We are seeing good things from her right now,” said Fritz. “She is in a period of transition that requires her to learn a lot of new things. We’re asking her to change some of the ways she does things. She is in the process of learning our systems and style of play, as well as build relationships and a comfort level with her new teammates. The biggest thing that she has is that she has the spring to make this transition and will be well prepared by the time the season rolls around.“
With a slate of spring scrimmages on tap and the new season rolling around in August, there are plenty of opportunities for Sassin to get acclimated to her new environment in Manhattan.
“We think Brooke has great potential to impact our team,” said Fritz. “Like most players that are new to the program, her level of contribution will depend on how quickly she learns and adjusts to the things we do. She possesses all of the necessary skills and talents to have a significant role for the team going forward. There is no question that a year of Division I experience under her belt will only help her make the impact that she is capable of making. “
Having already played in 19 matches at the D1-level, Sassin knows what it takes to work through a season of collegiate volleyball. The change of scenery will allow Sassin to use her experience and align it with her goals.
“One of the main reasons I came [to K-State] is that I wanted to be a part of a competitive, successful volleyball program,” said Sassin. “I wanted to have an impact. So far, the volleyball part is exactly what I wanted.”
For Sassin, there was already a familiar face to turn to on her new team. She has rejoined former high school teammate and K-State setter Bailey Shurbet. The two played at Ronald Reagan High School in San Antonio, Texas, helping the school go 42-3 and win a district championship in 2012.
“Volleyball is one of those sports where you have to work well with others on the court,” said Sassin. “I think this group of girls – I know people say this a lot – we have really good chemistry. Maybe at first, it was kind of weird with new people, but now, it doesn’t feel like we’ve been working together for only a month or two. On the court, we know how each other plays and feed off of that.”
The chemistry Sassin has established with her teammates also extends to her coaching staff. The relationship-building began as soon as the idea of attending K-State became a possibility.
“In the transfer process, coaches are going to wonder ‘Is it the player?’” said Sassin, alluding to reasons for student-athletes transferring. “It was a really big risk for the coaches and me. I know Suzie said, ‘I don’t know you; you don’t me. We’re taking risks here.’ I really respected that. I felt a sense of trust that they were willing to welcome me so fast.”
The spring has brought new life to the Wildcat program. In the shape of transfers such as Sassin and new recruits in the summer, K-State is looking forward to what 2014 has up its sleeve.
“It’s not as if people will say, ‘Oh, it’s the same team coming back’” said Sassin. “There’s something new. People won’t know what’s coming.”