Shawnee volleyball player has been well traveled with Kansas State University team
Long before Kathleen Ludwig made her mark as an opposite hitter on an NCAA Sweet 16 Kansas State women’s volleyball team, the Shawnee native was making a name for herself in the metro area by being a fearsome outside hitter on coach Gwen Pike’s Bishop Miege squads.
Having just appeared in Hawaii at the NCAA Sweet 16 of the Division I Volleyball National Championships, Ludwig set her feet back on mainland long enough to recollect her early career in volleyball. Her K-State Wildcats had just beaten Wichita State and upset No. 2 seed Nebraska in five games to earn their trip to the islands. Unfortunately, the Wildcats’ run was stopped by national power Pepperdine University in Honolulu, but that didn’t stop Ludwig from fondly remembering her start in Shawnee.
“I was in second grade when I started playing,” said Ludwig, one day after returning from Hawaii. “I played on a rec team at the Roeland Park dome. In fifth grade I started playing club volleyball, and from then on I was playing year-round.”
Four years of successful club play brought Ludwig in as a freshman to Pike’s program at Miege. Ludwig immediately started on varsity as a freshman and helped the Stags to a Class 5A state championship. Ludwig credits Pike and coach Linda Ernst for helping her gain the skills that would make her a Division I recruit.
“Being coached by Gwen Pike and coach Ernst for four years instills skills and a passion for volleyball in you,” Ludwig said. “My freshman year I got to play varsity and win state. I truly, truly enjoyed Bishop Miege — and not just volleyball. I got to be involved in student council and theatre. It was a great experience.”
It was not long after starting at Miege that Ludwig started to realize that volleyball might just take her past high school.
“The summer after my freshman year, K-State had contacted my club coach about coming to a camp in the summer,” Ludwig said. “I had an OK camp, but while my mom was there (K-State) coach Suzie Fritz took us by the arm and talked to me about thinking about playing volleyball in college.”
“A year after that — in the summer before my junior year — I took a look at both KU and K-State. Both of them were good programs, and I wanted to stay close. I just had a really good connection with Kansas State. It was pretty much a no-brainer for me, and I’m pretty positive I made the right choice.”
Ludwig redshirted her freshman year at K-State, so while she is an academic senior, she’s a junior in eligibility for the Wildcats. After finishing her major in Elementary Education this year, Ludwig plans on returning to the court for a final year of college competition. The players have most of the rest of December off, but will return to off-season training in January. The Wildcats return almost the entire roster from their Sweet 16 team, so expectations are high around Manhattan. Still, Ludwig knows that preparation comes first.
“We’ll come back in January and start with weights and conditioning in the mornings,” Ludwig said. “We’ll have a few short, 30-minute practices, then — in the spring — we’ll have more intense practices and skill work and play in some spring tournaments.”
Besides the opportunity to see exotic sights such as Hawaii, K-State volleyball has offered up opportunities to Ludwig to see much of the rest of the world as well.
“Two summers ago we traveled to Hungary and Italy,” Ludwig said. “We played every night and still got to see all the sights and experience all the different cultures. It was such a great experience.”
Ludwig doesn’t have as much time to keep tabs on area volleyball as she’d like to, but she knows that her high school coaches have kept Bishop Miege at the top of an ever more competitive Kansas volleyball scene.
“I know coach Pike and coach Ernst do a really good job,” Ludwig said. “They are definitely continuing to get the program better.”
Asked if she’d like to continue with volleyball past her competitive career, Ludwig was definite and even tied in a shoutout to her alma mater.
“I really want to get involved in coaching once I start my teaching career,” Ludwig said. “I really want to go back and start getting involved in Bishop Miege’s program.”