Aug. 17, 2012
MANHATTAN, Kan. – The lone freshman on this year’s K-State volleyball team is a setter, and Katie Brand has already made her presence felt during training camp as she brings an element to the position Head Coach Suzie Fritz has not had in a setter for some time now – size. Brand stands six feet tall and provides a different style that Fritz and the Wildcats like so far.
“The two things that size allows at that position, we can have a little bit stronger presence at the net blocking and you can have a little bit better opportunities to be more offensive. And she is both of those things,” Fritz said. “She likes to attack as a setter. She’s finding ways to get her kills and she’s learning to be a better blocker, but she has a big blocking presence.”
Brand comes to K-State from Central Catholic in Grand Island, Neb. In high school she saw a great amount of success helping lead the Crusaders to a state championship as a junior as well as runner-up finishes her first two years and a third-place finish during her senior campaign.
The all-state player in volleyball, basketball and tennis came to Manhattan during the summer to enroll in summer school and to begin adjusting to collegiate volleyball by starting the process of gelling with the team and the K-State system. The freshman said she knows she has room to improve, but the adjustment was not as difficult thanks to the Wildcats.
“Actually, it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, mostly because of my teammates because they’ve been great helping me out,” Brand said. “I’ve still got a lot of learning to do in getting my timing down with each hitter, and they’ve been great about that.”
As Fritz mentioned, being a taller setter Brand provides more options on offense and makes the block bigger at the net. Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue has taken notice to this and knows Brand’s size is making the Wildcats a better team immediately. By being more active on the offensive side, Brand is making K-State’s defense better. Conversely, by bringing a bigger block the offense is learning to face that challenge early in training camp.
Brand has a lot of experience playing volleyball, basically growing up with the sport. That common bond with Donahue has helped the two be able to communicate in practice and enable Donahue to provide the type of criticism setters need to improve.
“She is a very good setter. She’s been playing volleyball for a really long time. She comes in and she learns really fast,” Donahue said. “One thing that I as a setter appreciate about her is that I’m able to give her feedback and move her criticism up within our position and see her make a change. She’s definitely a volleyball kid. She knows what she’s doing, and being able to talk to her and give her feedback, I can see an immediate change. She’s really made great improvement.”
Fritz has seen improvement from Brand through training camp as well and said the freshman has been able to observe the play of Donahue in practice and see the risks she takes at the position to add another element to her own game. By coming in early this summer and learning the system, Brand is ahead of the curve in a way and already up to speed within the system.
All of the knowledge gained over the summer and training camp has made Fritz see what Brand is capable of doing, and the two-time Big 12 Coach of the Year is excited to have Brand on her team.
“I think that she has been exceptional for a freshman. I think it’s a combination of things with her. Her mindfulness for her age; her work ethic; she has tremendous character; she has natural leadership skills; she has some quiet confidence and she has talent,” Fritz said. “I don’t think it’s one thing with her. I think she’s the real deal. I think she has a very bright future. I am pleasantly surprised to see how fast she has adapted to the speed and the system. I couldn’t be more excited about her.”
The freshman is excited to get her first season as a Wildcat underway next week as well. But first, she wants to keep getting better.
“I think winning the little games and doing the little things right,” Brand said, “when we go back and watch film with the coaches and they say, ‘you did that really good.’ I think that can just make your whole day.”