Time to reflect: Volleyball seniors share their experiences playing for K-State

Volleyball seniors Mackenzie Morris, Aliyah Carter, Liz Gregorski and graduate student Sydney Bolding celebrate a point against Cincinnati. The Wildcats lost the match 3-1, but have since swept a ranked team four times, including No. 3 Texas on Nov. 9 at Morgan Family Arena. (Madison Riebel | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State’s 2023-24 volleyball season has overflowed with highlights. The Wildcats’ record stands at 13-10, with four wins against ranked opponents under first-year head coach Jason Mansfield. Each senior has provided the team their skills, advice and knowledge of the game to reach new heights this season. 

The most popular highlight of the season was sweeping No. 8 BYU twice at home.

“I think that a lot of people are like, oh, you know, ‘The first night and maybe BYU wasn’t feeling so great,’ or, ‘K-State surely can’t do that again,’ and then the second night, sweeping them again,” outside hitter Aliyah Carter said. “I feel like we definitely turned heads and we’re finally getting the recognition that we should’ve.”

From freshmen to top seniors, each player has grown substantially.

“Coming in as a freshman, I was not even sure of my role, like how I fit into the team,” libero Mackenzie Morris said. “But I feel like as a senior I can see my growth as a leader and a contributor to this team, which has been huge and just learning how to communicate and be confident in myself has been so important.” 

Through personal and team growth over the years, these seniors racked up accomplishments in their careers at K-State.

“I think for me, my biggest accomplishment was, so far … getting rookie of the year my freshman year,” Carter said. “Individually, I think that it was a big stepping stone for me.” 

For setter Loren Hinkle, her biggest accomplishment was evolving as an individual. 

“I’d say probably how I developed as a teammate, like becoming more selfless and trying to be a good teammate,” Hinkle said. 

After years of playing volleyball for K-State, each senior made a great impact on the team. 

“I would say overall, I’m a pretty consistent person on and off the court,” middle blocker Kadye Fernholz said. “I feel like my teammates kind of always know what to expect for me going into practice or going into a game.” 

After making their contribution on the court, the next step for seniors is to think about post-graduate plans.

“I want to apply for PA [physician assistant] school for next summer,” Hinkle said. “Applications open [for] a lot of schools in April. So in the spring I’ll work and get some patient care hours and then apply.” 

Carter’s plans are not finalized, but she has considered continuing her volleyball career. 

“So I have a COVID year that I could potentially use, but I could also play pro,” Carter said. “So I’m kind of just weighing out my decisions and figuring it out trying to talk to my parents about it and see what they have to think, but no, no set in stone plans.”

Although most seniors will be gone next year, they provided guidance for future Wildcat volleyball players to grow. 

“Use all the resources,” Fernholz said. “You have a lot of resources, including people here, and it’s a lot easier to have access to them with our new facility. I know that our sports psychiatrist is in our own facility. Obviously our strength coach, you can go in there anytime you want, even if you want extra lifting times or workouts and stuff. We never really had that chance because we had to be in and out.”

Carter wants every freshman to know how valuable they are.

“I think that my biggest advice would be for them just to always remember that there’s no K-State volleyball without them,” Carter said. “Like I say to the freshmen all the time, we would not be a team without you. So just understand, you are a vital part of the team.”