COURTESY: Kansas St. Sports Information
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State Volleyball will be afforded a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this summer as it has been selected to represent and compete for Team USA at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia.
The World University Games will be held July 6-17 and is an international multi-sport celebration of collegiate athletes organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU). The games serve as an international sporting and cultural festival similar to the Olympics staged every two years in a different city around the world. Volleyball is one of the 12 mandatory sports for the World University Games or Universiade with a maximum of three optional sports chosen by the host city. Winter and Summer Games are both held similar to the Olympics as well.
“The opportunity to put on a USA uniform and represent your country is pretty rare in any sport. For USA Volleyball, you have to be playing for our Olympic team,” K-State Head Coach Suzie Fritz said. “There are some opportunities at the youth level and junior level to represent USA, but most of our athletes are never going to have that opportunity, so to be able to put USA on your back and go and compete against some of the world’s greatest athletes is a pretty special thing.”
K-State was one of a select few elite college volleyball programs contacted to represent Team USA by BTI Events, an organization overseeing the selection of participants.
“USA Volleyball is excited that Kansas State has agreed to represent the United States in the upcoming World University Games for women’s indoor volleyball,” said USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal. “The World University Games is a prestigious event held every two years with some of the top rising athletes competing in our sport. Kansas State has been a perennially strong program led by an outstanding coach in Suzie Fritz who has coaching experience within the USAV High Performance pipeline. We wish Kansas State the best at the event.”
Opening ceremonies for the World University Games will be July 6, and K-State will play matches against Russia, Poland and Czech Republic during pool play.
Athletes will stay in special housing similar to the Olympic Village and compete in state-of-the-art venues that have hosted other prestigious events and championship competitions.
“This is an extraordinarily special opportunity for our student-athletes to play for Team USA in the World University Games,” said Director of Athletics John Currie. “Our team traveling across the world to represent K-State and the United States in what will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience is yet another illustration of providing a world-class student-athlete experience and supporting President Schulz’s K-State 2025 vision of advancing Kansas State as one of the nation’s Top 50 public research universities. I’m sure it will be an emotional time for our coaches and players when they step out on that court and one they will all remember for the rest of their lives.”
K-State will be permitted to hold unlimited practices to prepare for the World University Games at the conclusion of the spring semester. The competition will be played under international FIVB rules with fewer substitutions among other procedural differences.
One major adjustment for K-State will be a roster limited to only 12 players, as opposed to 15 in NCAA competition, and five staff members for the World University Games. Two of K-State’s players, Natali Jones and Lilla Porubek, are not be eligible to play with the team in Russia as they hold citizenship and passports from other countries.
“One, we get an opportunity to get some extra time together, which, I think is a huge benefit just in preparation for the fall and in our ability to continue to develop relationships with our athletes and for our athletes to develop relationships with each other,” Fritz said. “Essentially, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because normally we don’t get our hands on them at all in the summer. So, any time we can get with them is incredibly beneficial. There’s no question even if you get 10 days, two weeks, three weeks, whatever that is, it’s going to impact us a great deal just because we get a little more time to prepare, not just for the World University Games, but for the fall as well.”
Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, third capital of Russia, and lies on the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers and has a population of approximately 1.2 million people. It is Russia’s eighth largest city and is more than 1,000 years old with a unique complex of archeological, historical and architectural monuments.
Forbes Magazine has named Kazan as one of the top business climates in Russia. It is a city of learning with more than 180,000 students from 15 countries studying at one of 37 institutions. Many of the great scientific discoveries of the last 200 years have been made by professors at Kazan’s schools of higher learning. Because of its location and the large student population, Kazan is considered by many to be a place where East meets West and is a cultural representation of peace and understanding.
Athletic success and hosting major sporting events is not new to Kazan as the city has been recognized as the sporting capital of Russia. Clubs from Kazan have won multiple Russian and European championships.
Kazan is special to one member of the K-State volleyball team as well. Dakota Kaufman’s family emigrated from Kazan to the United States, and said representing USA and going to the World University Games will be an experience she cannot wait to embrace.
“Once I put the jersey on, that’s when I think I’ll realize that I’m representing USA. And that is so huge just to be able to be a part of something like that is so huge,” Kaufman said. “I’m looking forward to going over there and seeing the culture and spending time in the village and being around some of the top athletes in the world.”