Aug. 19, 2014
Watching the Purple/White scrimmage last Saturday in Ahearn Field House, it was hard not to notice something different. No, it was not the new Big 12 Conference logo on the court. There are not any new seats either.
The change, and it's a bit drastic, is the new roster for the K-State volleyball team. Nine newcomers, six freshmen and three transfers, plus four players who utilized their redshirts last year means there are 13 fresh faces to this year's Wildcats roster (you can learn more about them at K-State's YouTube page).
Coupled with seven returning letterwinners, K-State is predominantly "young" amongst its 20-person roster entering the second week of training camp. Among the group of 20, 14 are underclassmen. Out with the old and in with the new, though, brings about opportunities for many different players to contribute all season long.
"This will be a team that needs to rely on everybody," said head coach Suzie Fritz. "I think we have a lot of good pieces, but we are still trying to put it all together."
The Purple/White scrimmage showed off the new Wildcats, such as Kansas native and freshman outside hitter Bryna Vogel, who had 13 kills in the night's four sets. Fellow freshman outside hitter Kylee Zumach showed she will be a consistent presence on the outside from the outset. The Minnesota native, who joined K-State this past spring, had 11 kills on 41 attempts.
The changeover in roster is most obvious at the outside hitter position. Last year, four of the six seniors were outsides. Of the 693 kills contributed by all K-State outside hitters in 2013, more than 80% is gone into the Kansas wind in the form of the graduating seniors.
Senior Chelsea Keating will help bear that load on the outside this season as well, but so will another player with Division I experience and is new to K-State: Brooke Sassin. The sophomore outside hitter from San Antonio, Texas had a match-high 16 kills along with eight digs during the Purple/White scrimmage.
Two of last year's four redshirts, Brookelyn Langhaim and Katie Reininger, will also add to the mix on the front row. While Langhaim is an opposite, she showed what she's capable of when she had nine kills from the right side during the scrimmage. Reininger, who is a middle blocker, redshirted last season after transferring from Saint Mary's (CA) College, where she played as a freshman. Reininger took 36 swings in the Purple/White, dropping in 13 kills, while also adding five blocks.
The scrimmage was held a week into camp, so the coaching staff was not expecting much from the offensive side of things - they had worked on defense and transition for the first seven days. There were still some high points for the K-State offense, showcasing what the coaching staff and players talked about throughout media day on Monday: this team is eager, hungry and ready to learn.
"The thing that is so nice about a young team is that they make so much improvement in a short amount of time," said Fritz. "Veteran teams are nice because they have that experience, but, to some degree, by the time they get to being seniors, they are who they are. That doesn't mean they can't learn; that just means those windows are a little tighter [to develop]. With young teams, and what we're seeing with this team, they are so eager. They are wonderful learners and are making so much progress in a really short period of time.
"Watching them make that much progress is enjoyable for all of us."
Media Day Highlights
The K-State volleyball team addressed the media after practice on Monday evening, helping preview what's new entering next week's season opener. The theme of young and eager was common, but here are a few highlights from the session.
Fritz on the mentality of the group of seniors...
"[Senior] Taylor Johnson talked to [former K-State catcher] Blair DeBord at one of the leadership academy meetings. He had made this statement that when [K-State baseball] won the Big 12 championship in 2013, those seniors never said, `This is our year.' They never made it about themselves. I think this volleyball team is that kind of team. The seniors don't think it is about them. It's about `us.' That's how you want it to be."
Keating on the energy level of the newcomers...
"They have way more energy than I do. As a fifth-year, I don't have that anymore. It's nice, though, having somebody who is excited about stuff all the time. We didn't have that last year. We were all older and had all experienced it before. It's nice to have new faces and people who are excited to play volleyball."
Setter Katie Brand on this year's team compared to last year's team...
"Last year we had so many seniors and so many veterans out there playing. It gets routine. It never gets boring, but it just becomes the same thing over and over. During the Purple/White scrimmage [last Saturday], some of [the newcomers] were getting nervous, which is something new. They are just excited about the season and everything it has to offer."
Single-match tickets on sale now
This past Monday, single-match tickets for the Wildcats' 13-match home schedule went on sale. Fans can purchase tickets three different ways: head to the ticket page here, call 1-800-221-CATS, or visit the K-State Athletics Ticket Office in Bramlage Coliseum. For a full list of promotions, click here.
The Wildcats' home slate gets underway with the Varney's Invitational in Bramlage Coliseum from September 4-6. After the tournament, K-State returns to its normal home of Ahearn Field House with a nonconference match against Missouri State on September 8 at 5 pm.