MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- A group of Kansas State University athletes is feeling extra patriotic this July 4th as they gear up to don USA jerseys and compete on a global stage.
The K-State volleyball team leaves Thursday for the 22-hour trip to Kazan, Russia where they’ll be representing Team USA at the World University Games.
The World University Games will be held July 6-17. The games are 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.
"I like the opportunity and I think there’s a lot of things that we can take out of it. We get to compete against some of the best players, literally, in the world. They will be Olympians. If they’re not already, they will be Olympians. They are the best players in the world between the ages of 18 and 28. So I think we have a tremendous opportunity and I’m more interested right now in how we respond to that opportunity," said K-State Head Coach Suzie Fritz.
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.
"I can’t believe that we are able to go over there and represent our country. That is something that not a lot of people say they get to do and so it’s such a great honor to be able to do," said Dakota Kaufman. Kaufman’s family emigrated from Kazan to the United States and it's the first time a member of her family has been back to Russia since.
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.
"Everyone wants to be able to say that they’re going across the world to play volleyball and playing at K-State is big enough for me- Division I, that’s the highest level in the United States- but now we get to go and represent something greater than that. We get to go and represent our entire country and not many people get to say they did that. We were fortunate enough to have that opportunity and be chosen and to have a great Athletics Department that put forth the funds and support as well as our own program to help make this trip possible," said team member Tristan McCarty.