After setting the Manhattan High School record for kills, Tristan McCarty said she knew that she wanted to continue her playing career in the city she grew up in. Instead of going back for her second semester of her senior year, McCarty had planned out an early graduation that allowed her to enroll at K-State a semester early.
"I planned ahead before I graduated high school, so by the time it came around I was mentally prepared to get in," McCarty, now a senior on the volleyball team, said. "Physically from that kind of stand point, as far as the workouts go, the time change, the time management, that kind of stuff was hard to adjust to. But you have no other choice than to set a regiment, stick to it and then get right into practice. Being able to come in early was kind of like a redshirt year for me. I was able to have that time period to not have any pressure of the fall season and be able to just progress as much as I could without the heavy stress of a fall season."
Despite having a successful high school career as a hitter, McCarty said she knew that her height would inhibit her from playing on the front row at the division one level. However, McCarty’s height was not going to be an issue for the coaching staff at K-State. They saw the potential she had to evolve into a defensive specialist.
"What really stood out for us was her work ethic and her leadership skills," head coach Suzie Fritz said. "That was something that was kind of a natural thing for her throughout most of her prep career as well. So we felt like we really liked her passing mechanics. We liked the simplicity of the way she ball handled and felt like she could have an impact for us maybe in that role as a ball handler."
As a true freshman in 2010, McCarty found herself in the lineup regularly helping out the Wildcats. She recorded four matches of 10 or more digs, including a season high 13 dig match in a win over Kansas.
During her sophomore season, McCarty had one of her best games against No. 2 Nebraska in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Finishing the game with 15 digs and three service aces, she helped surge the Wildcats past the Huskers in what was one of the biggest wins in program history.
"Tristan has always been a very good vocal leader," senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger said. "She does the right thing. She is someone who you look up to on and off the court."
McCarty continued to take great strides forward as a player setting her up for a very successful junior season in 2012. Last season, the Manhattan native played every set for the Wildcats, finishing the year with a career-high 238 digs.
Going into this year, McCarty, along with the other seniors, sat down and came up with a team motto: "Breathe, Believe and Battle." The Wildcats have jumped out to a 13-3 record so far this season. Despite being 1-2 in Big 12 play, McCarty said she believes that if her team can live by the motto, they could still be in for a successful season.
"We’ve been talking about [the motto] a lot so far this season," McCarty said. "With a little bit of adversity this season already, it’s nice to have that reminder to fall back on and to give us that little reminder of ‘we’re going to be fine.’ It’s not if, but when and we still have the ability to take it all in, take a deep breath and then go battle."
McCarty does not shy away from expressing her passion on the court. As one of the team’s vocal leaders, she knows when it is time to have fun and when it is time to get down to business. But do not let that fool you. According to one of her teammates, McCarty could have a career as a Tina Fey-type character on Saturday Night Live.
"She’s pretty funny, I think people might see her as kind of mean on the court, but she’s a pretty funny person," senior outside hitter Courtney Traxson said.