EMPORIA (KSNT) – Emporia State volleyball is coming out hot during the program’s first year under head coach Ken Murczek.

It’s the best start for ESU volleyball since 2013, but Murczek isn’t taking all the credit.

“I’m only one piece of this,” Murczek said. “They’re the ones playing. They’ve just done an outstanding job.”

About half the team is new, too. The players are embracing new beginnings. Setter Brailee Bogle is just a freshman, but her new teammates are helping her build her confidence.

“There’s a lot of pressure on me due to my position, but that’s been my biggest thing,” Bogle said. “Honestly, having girls that have my back constantly makes it a lot easier.”

The team is also embracing different cultures. Sandora Sasaki, from Japan, leads the team in kills.

“It’s hard for me to play because I’m short and American people is so tall,” Sasaki said. “Everyone is so kind and helps me a lot.”

International players bring more than their skill to a program, according to Murczek.

“When you get out of this bubble, Emporia State, and you get out in the real world, people look different,” Murczek said. “They talk different, and I’m really excited our team gets to experience some of that.”

The Hornets begin conference play on Friday, Sept. 15. They’ll continue to build relationships and embrace the new beginnings in the meantime, while preparing for a challenging MIAA schedule.

“Let’s not kid each other,” Murczek said. “We know this conference is no joke.”