By Ricardo Cruz
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
For any sports fan, getting the opportunity to play for your hometown team or college would be a dream come true. For Kansas State volleyball player Tristan McCarty, she made that dream a reality and has never looked back.
"I have been a K-State fan for most of my life, since I was little and knew what sports were basically," McCarty said. "Sports were a huge part of my life when I was younger and once it became a more realistic opportunity, I made sure to capitalize on it and worked my butt off to make sure it happened."
McCarty grew up in Manhattan, Kan. The junior defensive specialist was not only a standout in the classroom; she was a standout on the volleyball court. She earned First Team All-State honors as a senior, while guiding the Lady Indians to two sub-state titles and one sub-state runner-up, all while graduating with a 4.0 GPA. While McCarty received several scholarships coming out of high school, it was an easy decision for her.
"I had some other offers, but K-State was my main one and I wanted to make sure that was where I ended up."
The hometown girl that once represented her community so proudly was now taking that one step further.
Head coach Suzie Fritz was very happy that McCarty chose to play for her and continue her playing career in Manhattan.
"It has remained a significant priority for us that if there are great players in the state of Kansas, we want them to be playing at K-State," Fritz said.
McCarty graduated high school early and enrolled in the spring semester at K-State. She wanted to get with her teammates as soon as possible and start to build the chemistry needed to become great. Fritz acknowledged that this was a big reason why McCarty has been so successful in her career.
"What would have been the spring semester of her senior year of high school, she was with us already playing, practicing and training," Fritz said.
The opportunity to play in front of friends and family members was just an extra benefit for McCarty. She was now attending a school that she loved and was part of a program that she truly respected, and it was all happening in her hometown.
Growing up in Manhattan, McCarty knew what it meant to be a Wildcat. She understood the history and aura that surrounded the university. That history also includes a rivalry with a school east of Manhattan in a town called Lawrence. The rivalry between K-State and Kansas is a bitter one and after watching many great battles between the two schools, McCarty was going to leave her mark in the Sunflower Showdown.
"The K-State and KU rivalry is pretty big so you hear about it growing up," McCarty said. "You always watch those big games on TV and now to be in that position where I am on TV and friends and family can watch me is just great."
McCarty has seen significant playing time since putting on her No.4 jersey. As a freshman, she played in all but one set while setting a season high in digs in a match against the Jayhawks. As a sophomore, she continued to make strides and helped the Wildcats earn a trip to the Sweet 16. This year, K-State is off to one of its best starts in school history with McCarty being an instrumental part of it.
Fritz has seen the improvements and strides that McCarty has made.
"The thing about her from the very minute she walked through the door is the way Tristan works. It allows her to make improvements that maybe some other players cannot make because she is extremely meticulous about her technique," Fritz said. "She is a perfectionist and exceptionally mindful about the way she works."
Consistency is one thing that Fritz has seen from McCarty.
"She has always had that ability to do things well, but what we see now is that she can do those things well over time," the coach said.
McCarty, too, has seen some improvements since day one of making the transition to K-State's system.
"My passing, serving and my defensive capabilities have all seen improvements," McCarty said. "Basically when you come in, you are not good, and you are suppose to get worse before you get better, that way you are in their system and doing things the right way."
McCarty enjoys her time at K-State. While not every second of every day is perfect, she points out that at some point throughout each day, she recognizes how happy she is to be there.
One piece of advice that was given to McCarty by Fritz has given her the motivation to continue working hard day-in and day-out.
"Get comfortable being uncomfortable," McCarty said. "It is great advice because it relates to anything in life; you are never going to have everything given to you on a silver platter, so you might as well get comfortable dealing with the unknown and the uncertainties of life. Once adversity is thrown your way, you better be able to strap-on and prepare for it yourself."
While McCarty could have chosen to go to another school and play for some other program, she decided that she wanted to make her impact in her hometown. She can experience the college life, but still have that hometown feel, because well, she is at home and there is no other place like it.