The prospect of staying home and playing for Fort Hays State volleyball always appealed to Thomas More Prep-Marian standout Kayla Vitztum.
Unfortunately, the timing and circumstances weren’t right to make FHSU a viable option during her initial recruiting process.
While Vitztum was preparing to make her college choice, the Tigers were still in the process of searching for a permanent head coach after Kurt Kohler resigned as FHSU coach two weeks into the 2017 season last September.
“Fort Hays didn’t have a coach during my first recruiting process, so I never got the chance to talk to them,” Vitztum said. “Staying in Hays would have been cool for me, but that wasn’t an option for me at the time.”
About seven and a half months after signing with Newman University for volleyball, the recruiting process recently started all over again for Vitztum.
This time, everything aligned for her to become a Tiger.
Vitztum enrolled at Fort Hays State on Thursday and will play for the Tigers this fall under first-year FHSU coach Jessica Wood-Atkins.
Vitztum was granted her release from Newman and reopened her recruiting after Destiny Clark resigned as Jets’ coach late last month to become an assistant at Providence College.
“When I heard the Newman coach was gone, I saw an opportunity to maybe see if (Wood-Atkins) was interested in me. After I got released, I contacted her and she was (interested).
“Fort Hays just seemed like a really good fit and the best opportunity for me personally.”
Vitztum, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter who helped the Monarchs win a Class 3A volleyball state championship as a senior, said she had mixed emotions about having to go through the recruiting process again.
“It was exciting that I could open it up to other schools again, but it was also very frustrating in the way that it was just a lot of work,” Vitztum said. “It’s pretty much recruiting all over again. It’s a ton of work — anyone who's done it knows that.”
However, the process came together pretty quickly.
“I’ve been to Fort Hays’ arena a thousand times, but actually getting to go into the locker room to see the weight room and seeing all the work that was being put in, I just saw myself there and fitting into the program,” Vitztum said.
Vitztum’s older brother, Jared, is entering his redshirt sophomore season with the Tiger men’s basketball team.
“It’s going to be fun going to school with him again and seeing both of us compete at the next level,” Vitztum said. “I’m just excited to stay here. I have a family base here. I know everyone here and I know it’s a really supportive community.”
Vitztum helped the Monarchs to four straight MCL league titles and is the MCL all-time leader in kills with 1,040 in her career.
She also starred in basketball and soccer and ran two years of track.
The Tiger volleyball team, which was coached on an interim basis by Brandi Fairbank last year after Kohler resigned, finished 11-24 and 2-16 in the MIAA last season.
Wood-Atkins was the head coach at Colorado-Colorado Springs from 2004-08, compiling a 78-69 record and guiding the Mountain Lions to an NCAA Tournament berth in 2007. She then spent several years working in NCAA compliance at UCCS and the University of Idaho.
Vitztum said she’s eager to get her college career started with the Tigers.
“I’ve heard really good things about every girl on the team,” Vitztum said. “I’m excited to get to know all of them.
“I’m really excited about not having to redshirt and have the opportunity to compete right away. I really believe that coach Atkins can turn Fort Hays’ program around and I think we’re going to develop into a really good team.”