Volleyball opens season with young team at AVCA Showcase


The K-State women’s volleyball team begins its 2009 season this weekend in Omaha, Neb., at the prestigious Runza/American Volleyball Coaches Association Showcase. There is one word that can describe the attitude in the locker room: Excited.

Now that the opening weekend is finally approaching, the team is ready for the season to begin.

“We’re really excited, we are ready to get going [and] quit beating up on each other and play somebody else,” said junior outside hitter JuliAnne Chisholm.

The Cats go into this weekend with a preseason ranking of No. 22 in the nation. Although the ranking is high, the Wildcats have a lot of spots to fill after having five players graduate, including four starters. Eight newcomers also join the team, making it one of the youngest in the Top 25.

Head coach Suzie Fritz is entering her ninth season as head coach of the Wildcats, bringing with her a career record of 171-79, which makes her the program’s all-time leader in victories.

Replacing four starters is a difficult adjustment for the Wildcats, but the team has looked to its bench and transfer students to fill in the gaps. Vanessa Murray, a transfer student from Pierce College, appears to be ready to contribute to the team. In 2008, Murray led the Brahmas to a 32-2 mark and the team’s second consecutive conference championship.

The young Wildcat squad will most likely look to four-year starter Kelsey Chipman as a team leader to help the team maintain excellence on the court.

In the weekend tournament, the Wildcats will be facing two Top-20 teams in No. 11 Minnesota and No. 16 Michigan. Minnesota only returns two starters, All-American Brook Dieter, outside hitter; and Lauren Gibbemeyer, middle blocker. The Golden Gophers’ roster also includes 2008 Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year, libero Christine Tan, who averaged 4.86 digs per set last season.

Michigan, on the other hand, is a very experienced team that returns five starters from last season. The Wolverines went 29-6 last season and made their second consecutive NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance.

Since 1995, 21 former teams from the showcase have played in the NCAA Semifinals. The venue for this event is the Qwest Center, which has a seating capacity of more than 18,000. Tickets are still available through Ticketmaster or the Qwest Center box office.

This event will provide volleyball fans a taste of what is to come from Wildcat Volleyball.