Since taking the helm of the program in 2001, Suzie Fritz has established K-State volleyball as not only a contender in the Big 12 but also the nation. A Kansas native and part of the program since 1997, Fritz is K-State’s winningest coach and has helped the program reach the NCAA Tournament 15 times, including 11 as the head coach.
Fritz has accumulated 295 career wins in 15 seasons and led the Wildcats to being nationally ranked in 10 different campaigns. She has a 158-122 (.564) record in Big 12 action, with the 158 wins ranking third among Big 12 teams since 2001. Fritz helped lead the Wildcats to their first and only Big 12 title in 2003 when the nationally-ranked `Cats were 18-2 in conference and 30-5 overall.
From an individual standpoint, Fritz has helped guide eight Wildcats to 12 All-America honors, including two-time honorable mention and current Wildcat setter Katie Brand. Brand was one of the five Wildcats that also earned All-Big 12 awards in 2015, bringing the total to 40 under Fritz.
The Wildcats have enjoyed great success in the classroom in addition to on the court. K-State has earned the most Academic All-Big 12 honors in conference history, including 101 since Fritz was named head coach in 2001. The Wildcats have also earned the prestigious AVCA Academic Team Award (3.3 team GPA or higher) 12 times under Fritz’s direction, including in each of the last five years. JuliAnne Chisholm and Cari Jensen have combined to earn four Academic All-American honors under Fritz while the Wildcats have accumulated 18 Academic All-District distinctions, including current Wildcats Brand and Kersten Kober notching that achievement in 2015. Kober was also named Big 12 Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year last year, the first recipient of the award in program history.
The 2015 season saw K-State reach the NCAA Tournament for the 16th time overall and 11th under Fritz. With a non-conference schedule that ended by facing two teams that went on to reach the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament, K-State had to use a six-match winning streak in the middle of Big 12 slate, its longest conference winning streak since 2003, to finish in the top half of the Big 12 standings. Late wins over Oklahoma and Iowa State at home propelled K-State to its best conference finish since 2011 and a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska for the first round of postseason play for the fourth straight time.
Last year’s team featured no seniors as it relied on its core group of juniors – Brand, Kober, Katie Reininger, and Brooke Sassin – to lead it to the 12th winning season in Fritz’s tenure. While Brand finished as one of the top setters in the country, libero Kober helped the Wildcats lead the Big 12 in digs, a first for the program since 2002. Reininger and Sassin, meanwhile, picked up All-Big 12 Second Team honors with Reininger leading the team in blocks and Sassin logging the first Double-300 campaign by a Wildcat outside hitter since 1999.
Conversely, several underclassmen were forced to have prominent roles, with sophomore Bryna Vogel playing all six rotations for the first time in her career and the freshman duo of Macy Flowers and Alyssa Schultejans making an impact in their first years. Flowers and Schultejans were All-Big 12 Freshman Team recipients, making them the first pair of K-State teammates to earn all-freshman honors in the same season and setting the tone for future campaigns.
Fritz turned in one of her better coaching seasons in 2014 as K-State, despite boasting one of its youngest teams in recent history, used its steady mix of youth and veteran leadership to reach the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in school history. The trip to the postseason, which ended in the first round against No. 20 Utah, capped a campaign in which the Wildcats went 22-9 and saw three players exhibit All-Big 12 performances. Freshman Kylee Zumach led the way as she was unanimously voted Big 12 Freshman of the Year, the first in school history, as well as All-Big 12 First Team and All-Big 12 Freshman Team. Brand, an All-Big 12 Freshman Team selection in 2013, joined Zumach on the First Team while senior Natali Jones, who was among the Big 12 leaders in blocks all season long, was named an honorable mention. Zumach and Brand – who both earned All-American honors – along with Katie Reininger (honorable mention), were also named to the AVCA Midwest All-Region Team, with Zumach earning all-region Freshman of the Year honors, another program-first, as well.
The Wildcats may have had standout individual performances surface at the end of the year in the form of postseason awards, but the group of 14 underclassmen and four seniors helped the 2014 team as a whole rebound to previous K-State standards. The regular-season wins, overall and in conference, were the most for the Wildcats in six years while the resiliency expressed by the team all year long helped them tie the program-record for most comeback wins (8) and best road/neutral record (13-5). The team had only seven returning letterwinners from the previous year, but under Fritz and coaching staff’s watch, the Wildcats laid the groundwork for the young team to compete at a high level for years to come.
Although 2013 fell short of reaching the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats still completed their third straight winning season with an 18-11 record and 10th winning campaign under the direction of Fritz. K-State captured three wins over ranked opponents, which included victories at No. 23 Cal and home triumphs over No. 25 Oklahoma and No. 25 Iowa State. Overall, K-State had five wins against teams ranked in the top 50 of the final RPI rankings. The Wildcats were best at home in Ahearn Field House where they went an impressive 10-2 and had four straight sweeps to end the home campaign. Also, nine Wildcats were named to the Academic All-Big 12 Team - the most in the conference and tying the school-record - while Kaitlynn Pelger was named All-Big 12 First Team and Brand was named to the All-Big 12 Freshman Team.
The 2012 season featured the Wildcats’ ninth trip to the NCAA Tournament with Fritz as the head coach. K-State compiled 21 wins in the regular season, highlighted by victories over ranked opponents Minnesota (No. 10), Dayton (No. 20) and Iowa State (No. 22). The Wildcats started the season 12-0 and even broke the school record for consecutive sets won when they captured 23 straight sets. The streak started with the fourth set against Oregon State on August 25 and lasted eight matches until K-State dropped the first set in the win against Minnesota on September 14. In non-conference play, the Wildcats won 11 of its possible 13 regular season matches in straight sets.
In 2011, K-State ended a two-year NCAA Tournament drought in thrilling fashion. The Wildcats won four of their final six matches, helping them earn a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. After dispatching Wichita State in straight sets in the first round, the Wildcats were left to face the No. 2 team in the country, Nebraska, on its home court at the Nebraska Coliseum. The Wildcats pulled out a five-set upset of the Cornhuskers, the program’s first win against a top-10 team since 2003, and moved on to the Sweet 16 for the second time with Fritz as the head coach. The victory against Nebraska was the first time the Huskers had lost an NCAA Tournament match at home in the first two rounds. It also ended a 16-year streak for the Cornhuskers in which they reached the regional semifinals. The Wildcats later lost to Pepperdine in Hawai’i in the regional semifinals, but nonetheless, K-State had another 20-win season in hand after finishing the year 22-11.
While the team enjoyed great success in 2011, Pelger, a middle blocker, became just the seventh different Wildcat in program history to earn All-America honors. The Olathe, Kansas native was named AVCA All-America Honorable Mention in 2011 - a feat she repeated in 2012 - as well as Volleyball Magazine Third Team All-American. Fritz has seen K-State earn nine All-America honors in her time as head coach and 12 All-America accolades since she was a K-State assistant coach starting in 1997.
Both the 2009 and 2010 seasons featured young Wildcat teams that fell short of a winning record, but still contained many highlights. In 2009, K-State upset No. 23 Texas A&M in a Big 12 match in Ahearn Field House, snapping a streak of 21 straight losses to ranked opponents. The Wildcats also won the BYU Nike Classic in 2009. During the 2010 season, Lauren Mathewson cemented her name in the K-State record books by finishing her career with 1,755 digs, which were second-most in program history. Also, Pelger became the first K-State freshman to be selected to the All-Big 12 Freshman team.
The 2008 K-State team reached the NCAA Tournament and finished 20th in the final AVCA Coaches Poll. The Wildcats finished third in the Big 12 with a 14-6 record and had to travel to Seattle for the first round of the NCAA Tournament, where they fell to Santa Clara in five sets. Three players earned All-Big 12 honors that season while Nataly Korobkova earned her second All-American honor when she was named to the AVCA All-America Third Team.
Behind Korobkova’s first All-American season in 2007, K-State reached the NCAA Tournament once again, advancing to the second round. Korobkova, Fritz’s fifth All-American as a head coach, had 498 kills in her first season, earning Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors, an All-Big 12 First Team selection and AVCA All-Region VI accolades in addition to the All-American nod. Similar to 2008, K-State finished third in the Big 12 with a 14-6 record in 2007.
The Wildcats have averaged a fourth-place finish in the powerful Big 12 under Fritz, but in the off-year of 2006, the team finished 10th. Key injuries also helped end the team’s impressive run of postseason appearances.
In 2005, the team reached 20 wins for the seventh consecutive season, going 21-11, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the eighth straight year. K-State opened the campaign with the second 8-0 start in school history and first since the 1998 season. The Wildcats broke single-season school records for team total blocks (354.5) and team block assists (621). The squad was also successful in the classroom as K-State put eight Wildcats on the first and second teams of the Academic All-Big 12 teams.
The dominance at the net by the Wildcats would become a trend under Fritz’s leadership. After setting the blocks record in 2005, K-State would post the second-best total blocks mark the following season and raise the bar again in 2007, tabulating a school-record 357.5. In terms of block assists, Fritz’s teams all hold the top-five totals in school history, including a program-best 643 in 2007.
The direction of the program continued rising in Fritz’s fourth year with another trip to the NCAA Tournament and 20 wins in 2004. The Wildcats finished with a 20-11 record and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to national powerhouse, the University of Southern California.
Fritz led the Wildcats to their first conference championship in school history in 2003, which was just her third year as head coach. K-State posted a 30-5 record and was a perfect 18-0 at home in Ahearn Field House. After losing the first two matches of the season, the Wildcats went on winning streaks of 12 and 16 matches en route to the conference title. K-State took both matches from conference power Nebraska, including just the program’s second win on the road against the Cornhuskers in October.
Lauren Goehring and Gabby Guerre were both named All-Americans for their contributions during the 2003 season with Goehring earning first team honors and Guerre receiving an honorable mention. Goehring was also the school’s first conference player of the year. The Wildcats had three players on the All-Big 12 first team with an additional two as honorable mentions.
Following her debut season, Fritz took the team again to the NCAA Tournament in 2002, a streak of post-season tournament appearances that would become five straight for the Wildcats under Fritz’s leadership.
Three Wildcats were named first team All-Big 12 in 2002, marking the fifth year in a row - all under Fritz’s tenure - that the program placed two players on the league’s first team. The 2002 squad gained valuable experience with a number of players returning the next year for the most successful season in school history.
In her inaugural season as the K-State head coach, Fritz led the Wildcats to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and a 20-8 record. It was the highest winning percentage in school history (.714) by a first-year coach.
Also in 2001, Liz Wegner became the first player in K-State history to be named an All-American team twice in her career, as she was named an honorable mention All-American by Volleyball Magazine. Wegner joined fellow senior Lisa Mimick on the 2001 All-Big 12 First Team.
Fritz began her head coaching career at K-State as an interim head coach after Jim McLaughlin left the program shortly before the start of the 2001 season. After a 9-5 start in her first year, Fritz was named the program’s permanent head coach. She took the reins from McLaughlin after serving as his top assistant for four years.
As an assistant coach for the Wildcats, Fritz was one of the chief architects of K-State’s success from 1997-2000. She helped guide the program to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments, including its first appearance in the round of 16 of the tournament in 2000. In that span, the Wildcats posted a 103-52 (.665) overall record, including a 75-36 (.676) mark in Big 12 play. The program recorded four straight final AVCA/USA Today Top 25 finishes, including a then-program-best 16th ranking to conclude the 2000 season.
The team developed into a force in one of the nation’s toughest conferences, finishing in the top five each year. The Wildcats had a then school-record second place finish in 2000 with a 14-6 record. As the head coach, Fritz would best that conference mark with a 16-4 record in 2002 and better it yet at 18-2 in the title year of 2003.
While an assistant at K-State, she helped produce two All-Americans - including the program’s first in Dawn Cady in 1999 - along with three all-district selections, 11 All-Big 12 honorees, and 22 Academic All-Big 12 picks.
Prior to coming to K-State in 1997, Fritz spent two years as an assistant coach at NJCAA power Barton County Community College in Great Bend, Kansas. During her stay with Barton County, she helped guide the Cougars to a 111-14 (.888) overall record and a pair of top five finishes at the NJCAA National Tournament. She helped coach two first team All-Americans, two NJCAA All-Tournament picks, seven Region VI honorees, and five Academic All-Americans.
Fritz also played two years at Barton County from 1990-91, helping lead the Cougars to a 107-10 (.915) overall record and back-to-back Final Four finishes at the NCJAA Tournament as the team’s starting setter. During her sophomore campaign, she was named the school’s Most Valuable Player and to the All-Tournament team at the NCJAA Tournament. She was also named to the Volleyball Academic All-American team. She ranked ninth in school history in single-season assists with 1,219 set in 1991.
After two years at Barton, Fritz transferred to Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe) for her junior season before transferring to Florida Atlantic for her senior campaign, finishing her playing career in 1994. She was named the Florida Atlantic’s Most Inspirational Player and was an All-Tournament selection.
Upon earning a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and wellness education from Florida Atlantic in 1994, she spent a year as an assistant coach at her alma mater before returning to coach at Barton County in 1995.
Fritz earned a master’s degree in educational administration and leadership from Kansas State in August of 2002.
Fritz has also served as a coach for the USA Women’s Volleyball program. She was appointed to a coaching role with the A2 team in 2006, and in 2009, she was named the A2 head coach, taking the team to a third-place finish at the USA Adult Open Volleyball Championship. In 2013, Fritz and the K-State Wildcats represented the United States at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia.
She also served as the keynote speaker at the AVCA National Convention in 2008, presenting on various aspects of the game.
Fritz is not the first coach in her family. Steve, her husband, was an assistant coach for K-State track and field for 21 years and is now the head boys basketball coach at Riley County High School. Her parents and both brothers have served in some coaching capacity as well. Suzie’s father, Larry Wiemers, spent more than 25 years as head football coach at Clay Center High School. Her brother Dave coaches football at Pittsburg State, and brother Jon at Southeast Missouri State. Suzie’s mother, Sandi, has been involved in baton twirling for years and has held positions in her national and world organizations.
A native of Clay Center, Kansas, the former Suzie Wiemers, was married to Steve Fritz on June 17, 2000. Steve Fritz, a member of the Kansas State Sports Hall of Fame, was a decathlete who placed fourth in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. The couple has two children, Thomas Jon (T.J.) and Jake.