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Knee Injury Ends, But Does Not Define, K-State VB Senior Bryna Vogel's Career

November 22, 2017
By Corbin McGuire

Ample stories can illustrate the unique qualities and talent of K-State volleyball senior Bryna Vogel. Pieced together, they paint a complicated picture of success and setbacks, predictability and spontaneity, passion and peace.

They narrate her journey from a three-sport high school standout to a K-State walk-on to an All-Big 12 selection; from noticeably quiet to a go-to leader; from submissive to goofily outgoing; from a torn labrum to a complete recovery to a career-ending knee injury.

As K-State’s only senior, Vogel will be honored after the Wildcats’ season finale against West Virginia on Wednesday in Ahearn Field House at 7 p.m., but she won’t play. She will be on crutches. Her left knee will be a large brace. Her K-State career will officially be over when the match ends.

It’s not the ending anyone wanted for Vogel, who severely injured her knee against Kansas on November 8. But one moment does not define a career, nor has it stained her K-State experience.

“It was the best three-and-a-half, almost four years I could have imagined. It was better than I could have expected, by far,” Vogel, whose parents met at K-State, said. “I knew this school and the people here were going to be welcoming. I knew the atmosphere, but I didn’t know how great it was until I got here.

“Obviously, I would have liked to finish but I can’t let that affect how great of an experience I had throughout the years.”

Success Story

The first time K-State volleyball head coach Suzie Fritz watched Vogel play was at one of her summer camps in Manhattan. It was before Vogel’s senior year at Clearwater High School, where she would become the first athlete selected to the Wichita Eagle’s All-Metro Team in three sports — volleyball, basketball and softball.

Aside from Vogel’s raw abundance of athletic talent, Fritz was taken aback by her capacity to learn in those few days of camp.

“It just blew our doors off that, in three days, you could say, ‘Hey, Bryna, try it like this,’” Fritz said. “And in about 10 or 15 minutes, she’d be doing exactly what you’d be asking her to do.”

Those few days of camp led to Vogel earning a chance to walk on for K-State. By her sophomore season, she was on scholarship and playing all six rotations for the Wildcats.

Even with her career cut a handful of matches short, Vogel will leave as one of the more versatile players to ever play for K-State. In the rally-scoring era, Vogel’s 970 digs rank third among non-liberos. She also has 851 career kills and 201 blocks.

Last season she became the ninth member of the Double 300 Club, with 324 kills and 318 digs.

“In my mind,” Fritz said, “she’s a tremendous success story.”

Mouse Training

It tends to take Vogel a while to warm up to people and show off her true personality. Once she does, the stories become endless.

There’s the time Vogel randomly busted out a ukulele to play in front of redshirt juniors Devan Fairfield and Kylee Zumach. Vogel’s musical talents also include playing the piano, guitar and drums, along with singing. She can paint and draw, too.

Then there’s the time Vogel, majoring in animal science, brought home a pair of mice from a StuMo event in an effort to save them. While one of them died this summer, Vogel trained the other and it now freely roams her house.

“She trained it so it follows her around the apartment,” Zumach said of Vogel, who aspires to train animals professionally. “I’m, like, ‘Who knows how to train a mouse? Bryna knows how to train a mouse.’”

In another instance, Vogel helped Zumach put together a cabinet. And “helped” might be an understatement.

“She comes in with all of her tools, does it in like seven minutes and it says it should take like a half hour on the box,” Zumach said. “She can just do everything. It’s crazy.”

Birdcalls? Yep. Vogel once broke those out at a video shoot. She thinks they sound more like a Native American call that you might hear off an old black-and-white movie, which Zumach said is Vogel’s go-to genre when it comes to television.

She’s just a funny person,” Zumach said. “She’s really personable. She’s just quiet.”

Which is what makes one of Fritz’s favorite Vogel stories so memorable. In a match early last season, K-State ran a set to her in the middle of the net. Vogel smoked the ball to the floor, turned around and performed a celebration/imitation of Willie the Wildcat rubbing his nose with both hands.

“Everybody just lost it because it was Bryna, and she’s humble,” Fritz said. “Bryna doesn’t do that kind of stuff.”


‘Ninja and a Nun’

Knowing Vogel’s ability to take instruction and perform whatever is asked, Fritz tried to apply it to leadership.

A natural leader by example, K-State needed its only senior to provide more. Vogel was asked to communicate more, show more emotion and pull her teammates in when they needed it.

“Next thing you knew, her teammates were talking about, ‘Yeah, Bryna chewed us out in the locker room.’ You’d go, ‘Bryna?’ ‘Yeah, Bryna got after us pretty good,’” Fritz said. “She’s an executor. She’s about doing her job and doing it well.”

Vogel’s biggest leadership growth spurt took place last spring. She was sidelined while recovering from surgery on her right shoulder, rendering her lead-by-example strength useless. So, she added another talent to her repertoire.

“Every time we’d have a coaches meeting, they’d tell me, ‘You need to talk more,’” Vogel said. “I took that to heart and, even though that’s not my personality to talk, I knew that’s what my team needed.”

Meanwhile there was doubt of whether Vogel, who had her shoulder surgery in January, would be ready to play by August. Returning to full strength from a significant ligament injury to a hitting shoulder in that amount of time, Fritz said, simply doesn’t happen.

But Vogel was determined to return to her six-rotation role.

“I wanted to prove people I could come back stronger than ever,” said Vogel, crediting the support from her teammates, coaches and, specifically, her athletic trainer, Emily Trausch. “I just knew that I could push through it and I knew I could come back.”

By September, Vogel had been named to three all-tournament teams in the preseason, capped by a 15-kill, 23-dig performance in a five-set win over Northern Iowa.

“She was hitting just like she was hitting it before. People don’t do that. That’s not supposed to happen,” Fritz said. “Bryna has more inside of her than maybe any player I’ve ever coached. She’s tenacious and she’s extremely competitive. She’s like a ninja and a nun all rolled up into one. She’s got this unbelievable skillset of her commitment to her faith, her ability to make athletic plays, her commitment to service. She’s a really dynamic and extraordinary human being.”

Senior Sendoff

Vogel had made this jump hundreds, if not thousands, of times. This time, when she leapt for an attack at the net at Kansas two weeks ago, was different.

When she landed, her lower left leg went one way and her upper leg went another. Vogel felt two pops on her way to the floor. The gym went silent. Fritz immediately sprinted out to her lone senior, whose career ended in that instant.

Heartbreak doesn’t even begin to describe the emotions felt by everyone in purple.

“I enjoy coaching so much, but I really enjoy coaching seniors. There’s a sense of urgency in them because a lot of times, that’s it. It’s the last time they get to do it. The hard part about it is you know that it’s not going to last very long. So when that happens and it ends that way, it’s just not the way you want it to end,” Fritz said, fighting off tears. “It’s just not the way you want it to end for her because it’s been a special four years.”

“I think almost everybody cried in the locker room cried after that game,” added junior Zsofia Gyimes. “It was really tough.”

Zumach, who tore her ACL as a sophomore, said: “My heart sank as soon as I saw it. That was really probably one of the hardest things that I’ve gone through at K-State and it didn’t even affect me, personally.”

The next few months will not be easy on Vogel, who will have surgery and begin rehab. She will lean on her faith, as well as her support system of teammates, coaches, friends and family, to get through it.

They know, even if she doesn’t quite yet, that she’ll be fine in the end.

“I know she’s going to attack that rehab like a monster. If anybody could bounce back stronger than ever, it would be Bryna,” Zumach said. “I have faith in her.”

Vogel has been the center of her teammates’ conversations since she suffered the injury. She’ll be the common motivation for Senior Night on Wednesday.

“Everything we talk about before and after games is, ‘We need to do this for Bryna. We need to continue playing with her in the back our mind,’” Zumach said. “We want to do this for her because she can’t be out here herself.”

Regardless of Wednesday’s outcome and despite her knee injury, Vogel will still look back at her time at K-State and smile. The growth she’s experienced, the knowledge she’s gained and the lifelong friendships she’s made all outweigh her unfortunate ending on the court.

“It’s been more than I could have ever imagined. The coaching staff and the teammates that I’ve had have been so wonderful to me. The fans here are some of the best in the country,” Vogel said. “That support, that feeling of family, which is kind of our motto, is definitely something that I’ve felt, and it really made me love K-State more than I could have ever imagined.”



We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Corbin McGuire, or K-State Associate AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.


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