The K-State volleyball team has had an up and down season thus far. After rocketing out of the gate and winning 12 of their first 13 matches, it has been a struggle ever since.
In conference play, the Wildcats have amassed a record of 3-7, loosing some matches that they probably should have won. On Wednesday, K-State fell to Texas Tech, who only had one conference win going into the match. While road victories in the Big 12 are always hard to come by, it seemed reasonable to expect the Wildcats to pick up a much needed win against the Red Raiders.
Now, K-State sits at 15-8 with a home match against West Virginia scheduled for Saturday evening. The Mountaineers will arrive in Manhattan with a record of 17-9, and 3-8 in the Big 12. West Virginia defeated K-State in Morgantown on Sept. 27 3-1.
Jill Kramer coaches the Mountaineers and is in her fourth season. She has brought life to a West Virginia program that has somewhat struggled in its transition to the Big 12 Conference. She was previously an assistant at Alabama, Virginia and UT-San Antonio. She also served as an assistant to the USA Junior National Team.
The Mountaineers have four seniors on their roster, who all contribute to the rotation. While the experienced players have helped guide West Virigina, it has been the play of freshman outside hitter Jordan Anderson that has carried the Mountaineer offense. Anderson, who hails from Flower Mound, Texas, currently averages over four kills per set and leads the conference in that category by a large margin.
Beyond Anderson, however, West Virigina struggles to hit with much power and consistency. They average just over 13 kills per set and are sixth in the conference in hitting percentage at .202. Just like K-State, the Mountaineers rely heavily on their defense to keep them in matches. West Virginia currently holds opposing hitters to a kill percentage of .182, which is good for second in the conference behind Kansas. K-State is right on their heels, however, holding teams to .183 kill percentage.
Sophomore setter Brittany Sample has been the signal caller thus far for the Mountaineers, and has done a fine job. She currently averages 10.53 assists per match, which is good for third in the conference. She is one of the shorter setters in the Big 12 at 5-foot-7-inch, which effects the way WVU attacks and plays defense.
Even with the loss to Texas Tech, K-State’s defense continues to be a bright spot. Senior libero Tristan McCarty has recorded 279 digs on the season, which is good for over 3.3 digs per set. She currently sits at eighth in the conference and has moved up that list in the past couple of weeks.
While the backline has been very solid, it has been the play up front that has dictated how effective the Wildcats can be. Senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger continues to anchor the defense with her athletic, inspired play through all six rotations. She currently averages over a block a game, and leads the offensive attack for the Wildcats. Senior outside hitter Taylor Johnson sits at second in the conference with 1.25 blocks per set, and has come on strong as of late helping spark the Wildcats.
The story has been the same in nearly every loss for the Wildcats. They seem to always put themselves in a position to be effective, but are unable to put away points when they need them. If K-State has hopes of turning around their season against WVU, they need to play aggressive volleyball that ultimately ends in kills.
Redshirt freshman setter Katie Brand has done a great job distributing the volleyball to her hitters and keeping blockers guessing. It is up to the hitters to finish the job and tie it all together. The defense is there, especially at the net, to have a great team. Head coach Suzie Fritz preaches defense and fundamentals and seems rather pleased with those two aspects of her team’s play. However, the lack of firepower on offense has made matches against Big 12 foes difficult to stomach. K-State is hoping get back on track, and that begins tomorrow at 7 p.m. in Ahearn Field House.