Kansas State hope the mix of six newcomers with three starters will continue
The Kansas State volleyball team has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success
the last seven seasons.
Seven consecutive seasons of at least 19 wins, including hitting the 20-win
plateau in six of the last seven years.
Seven consecutive postseason appearances, including a school-record six
straight bids to the NCAA Tournament.
Four consecutive appearances in the final AVCA/USA Today Top 25 poll. The
team has also ended the year ranked in the organization?s Top 25 in five of
the last six seasons.
In that span, Kansas State has produced three All-Americans ? Dawn Cady
and Liz Wegner (twice) ? five all-district selections and 14 All-Big 12
honorees. In fact, eight of the 10 first team all-conference selections in
school history have come since 1996, including a pair of multiple honorees,
Val Wieck and Liz Wegner. The success has endured through three different
head coaches, first Jim Moore, then Jim McLaughlin and now, in her
However, the success of the program ?like that of countless others ?
has in part been
sustained by its ability to adjust to the loss of its star players. Teams
in the past have found a way to alter their style of play to replace the now
legendary stars of Ahearn Field House, names like Kate DeClerk, the
Wildcats? inaugural All-Big 12 selection and the first player to be named to
an all-conference first team in eight years, to Val Wieck and Kim Zschau to
Dawn Cady and Kelle Branting.
The good news for the current Wildcats is that the team that had to
replace an impact player did better than the squad that included the player.
The 1999 team that had to deal with the loss of Zschau and Wieck improved
both their overall win total and ranking in the conference and nationally,
while the 2000 squad advanced to the Sweet 16 after the departure of the
school's first All-American Dawn Cady.
Now the Wildcats must do the same in 2002, as the program has to adjust
to loss of four-year starters, two-time All-American Liz Wegner and fellow
all-conference selection Lisa Mimick. Wegner left the program, as arguably
its greatest player with over 20 school records to her credit, including
career marks for kills and total attacks. Mimick, a talented defensive
player with over 1,000 digs to her credit, was the one of the team's
emotional leaders throughout her four-year career.
"We will not replace Liz, Lisa and Jayne (Christen), said Fritz." "They
will always be special because they were our very first recruiting class
here at Kansas State. Our team will be different without their presence,
but we will have people step up to fill the void."
Kansas State must deal with the loss of these standout players with just
one 'true' senior and six newcomers, including four freshmen. The Wildcats
return three starters and eight letterwinners overall from a team that
posted a 20-8 overall record and 15-5 mark in Big 12 Conference play in
2001. The team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the
fourth straight year where it lost to eventual Final Four participant
In 2002, the team's strength lies in the areas of serving and passing,
as the Wildcats return more than 94 percent of their assists and 68 percent
of their aces. The squad also brings back 65 percent of their dig total
from a year ago.
The team's perceived weakness lies in the loss of its two most effective
outside hitters (Wegner and Mimick), who accounted for nearly 44 percent of
the team's offense in 2001. In all, the team returns just 44 percent of
their offense and 40 percent of their points scored. The team also lost the
team's leader in nearly all blocking categories, Jayne Christen, who ranked
sixth in the Big 12 Conference with a 1.20 blocks per game average.
The team returns seven players that started at least five matches last
season, including three that saw action in 20 or more contests (Lauren
Goehring, Jennifer Pollard and Gabby Guerre).
"The team continues to develop their own identity and key leadership
continues to emerge," said Fritz, who set a school-record for winning
percentage by a first-year head coach with a .714 percentage. "We will be
youthful in that Jenny (Pollard) is our only true senior, but this is not an
inexperienced team. They have fought some battles together and had a
tremendous spring. Their preparation began months ago and they have done
the necessary work to be successful."
Senior co-captain Jennifer Pollard anchors what Fritz calls "as deep of
a group as we have ever had at the outside hitter position." Pollard, who
served as the team's third outside hitter behind Wegner and Mimick, has
considerable experience with starts in 46 of the team's last 56 matches.
The Wildcats' co-leader (along with Mimick) in double-doubles with 14,
Pollard is top returner in kills (2.79), total attacks (8.39) and digs per
game (3.26). She produced 17 matches of 10 or more kills and 19 matches of
10 or more digs. She ranked third in 2001 with 343.5 points.
"Jenny has developed into a very nice all-around volleyball player,"
said Fritz. "She helps our team in countless ways with her ability to pass,
defend, attack and block. She has a steady, unyielding presence and is a
constant in her ability to not make a lot of mistakes."
Although technically not a starter with just 20 appearances and five
starts in 2001, junior Cari Jensen brings quality experience at the outside
hitter position after averaging 4.00 kills per game in 27 matches and 26
starts as a true freshman in 2000. Jensen, who saw her kill total drop from
374 as a freshman to just 94 as a sophomore, saw her playing time diminish
with the solid threesome of Wegner, Mimick and Pollard last season.
However, she still made the most of her time by averaging 2.47 kills per
game in just 38 games played. She has 14 career double-doubles and 26
matches of 10 or more kills.
"Cari has put her time in and has developed into a fantastic outside
attacker," said Fritz. "She has developed range to add to her already
terminal nature. She figured a lot out last spring and is capable of being
one of the best outside hitters in the league."
A late summer transfer from Division II Northern Michigan, sophomore
Michaela Franklin has the ability and talent to feel the void at outside
hitter. A native of Lincoln, Neb., Franklin saw action in all 32 matches
for the Wildcats with 20 starts and 121 games played. She ranked second on
the team in total kills (421) and kills per game (3.48) and registered 24
double-digit kill performances, including 21 of the team's last 23 matches.
"Michaela is a gifted athlete," said Fritz. "She has a strong arm and
possesses the ability to get on the ball. She is a terminal attacker and
will work to develop range and become a more complete player."
The rest of the depth at outside hitter comes in the form of three
players that have never touched floor in an actually game situation.
Katie Stanzel redshirted her freshman year after a stellar four-year
career at Marian High School in Omaha, Neb. The 2000 Gatorade Circle of
Champions Player of the Year for the state of Nebraska will look to
contribute after learning the system.
"Katie's strongest asset is her work ethic," said Fritz. "She has all
the talent and desire to become a great volleyball player."
A heralded true freshman out of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Jaime Perkins was
a four-year starter and four-year member of the Omaha World Herald
All-Western Iowa team out of Thomas Jefferson High School.
"I liken her to Lisa Mimick," said Fritz. "If you ask her what she
loves to do, she loves to dig balls. I think she'll have an opportunity to
challenge early because of her skill level."
The only Wildcat to start all 28 matches last season, junior Lauren
Goehring will guide an extremely young group at middle blocker with a
redshirt sophomore and two true freshmen.
Goehring, a former member of the Junior National team, was the team's
best all-around player in 2001, as she averaged 2.12 kills per game on .255
hitting with 0.35 aces per game, 2.44 digs per game and 1.04 blocks per game
as a sophomore. She paced the squad with 37 service aces, including a 0.35
per game average, and was second on team in blocks. A strong, effective
hitter, she overcame a slow start to the season by tallying a hitting
percentage of .300 or better in 12 matches, including 10 in the team's last
"Lauren had a breakthrough spring, and will share some of the leadership
responsibility as a returning junior," said Fritz. "She is starting to come
into her own and I believe that this year will be a very exciting one for
her. Lauren does so many things for our team, in that, she cannot only
block and attack at a high level, but that she is also a great backrow
defender and passer."
Sophomore Lisa Martin will see a significant role after seeing limited
action last season with just one start in 10 matches played. However, she
played a crucial role in the Wildcats' five-game win over Missouri on Sept.
26 with a season-best six kills on .600 hitting with team-best six blocks.
"Lisa has the athletic ability and prowess to accomplish whatever she
desires," said Fritz. She is an extremely competitive and this fall will be
an opportunity for her to showcase her talents."
Two freshman ? Joy Hamlin and Molly Lindquist could also see time during
the year Hamlin, at 6-foot-3 the team's tallest player, was a three-year
starter at Winfield High School in Douglass, Kan. and a two-time all-state
selection. Lindquist, a walk-one from Manhattan High, was a three-sport
standout in volleyball, basketball and soccer. She turned down several
soccer scholarships to walk-on at K-State.
One of the Big 12's top true freshmen in 2001, sophomore Gabby Guerre
returns after serving as the team's starting setter the final 20 matches of
the year. Guerre, who narrowly missed a triple-double on several occasions
during the season set a freshman record with 12 double-doubles. A player
with the team's second highest hitting percentage at .293, averaged 1.16
kills per game and ranked third with a 2.84 digs per game average.
"Gabby stepped into a difficult role as a starting freshman last year
and did a nice job of running our offensive system," said Fritz. "She is
wiser and more experienced now with a season of competition under her belt.
She has done the necessary things in the offseason to improve her physical
presence on the court."
Although, she will serve primary as the team's starting libero, junior
Laura Downey-Wallace could see time at the setter spot. Downey-Wallace
started seven matches in 2001 and averaged 8.07 assists per game to go with
A senior transfer from Division II USC-Aiken, Kristen Foote moved back
to her hometown of Manhattan, Kan., after spending her first three seasons
at Emporia State and USC-A.
A new term for college volleyball in 2002, libero is a designated
back-row player who cannot serve, attack or set inside the attack line.
One of the team's top players, Laura Downey-Wallace began the season as
the team's starting setter before seeing action primarily as the team's
defensive specialist. She tallied six double-digit dig performance during
the year, including a season-best 16 in a three-game of Washington State at
the Wildcat Classic on Sept. 8.
"Laura is a tremendous all-around volleyball player," said Fritz. "She
came to us as a left-side attacker and has since spent time at both the
setter and defensive specialist positions. She possesses a wealth of
technical skill and understands the game at very high level."
A pair of skilled sophomores ? Kris Jensen and Jami Sleichter ? will
provide support for Downey-Wallace at libero and defensive specialist.
Jensen, the identical twin sister of Cari, saw action in 25 matches and
78 games last season, averaging 1.59 digs per game. She turned in five
double-digit dig totals, including a career-best 19 in a loss at No. 14
Texas A&M on Oct. 22.
"Kris has the ability to score points in bunches with her serve," said
Fritz. "She can help us the most with her ball-control and defensive
Sleichter saw time in 23 matches and 67 games last season, averaging
1.79 digs per game. She had a season-best 15 digs at Iowa State on Oct. 10,
one of four 10-dig matches on the season.
"She has a solid ability to receive serve," said Fritz. "She is fiery
and competitive and is starting to understand the demands of the game and