It had been a long time since the No. 21 K-State volleyball team (4-2) had tasted victory outside the friendly confines of Ahearn Field House.
The Wildcats, who had not won a match outside of Manhattan since a win at Texas Tech on Nov. 29, 2008, finally put an end to their road woes by winning the Nike BYU Invitational on Saturday.
“You know, it’s not easy to win on the road,” said head coach Suzie Fritz. “It’s not easy to win on somebody else’s floor. But we felt very good about going into what we felt like was a really competitive environment, and being able to pull of three wins was a really nice weekend.”
The Wildcats opened tournament play with a 3-0 victory over Weber State (1-5) on Friday. K-State won by scores of 25-22, 25-22 and 25-17.
Competition stiffened for the Wildcats in game two when they faced a Cal Poly team that started the season 0-4, but received votes in the AVCA preseason poll. However, K-State proved to be up for the challenge and downed the Mustangs (1-6) in four sets. After splitting the first two sets by scores of 27-25 and 20-25, the Wildcats grabbed the momentum for good and dropped the Mustangs by scores of 25-17 and 25-19 to improve to 2-0 in tournament play.
Things didn’t get any easier for K-State in the finale as they faced tournament host Bringham Young on its home floor in front of a small but raucous crowd that had just learned of the BYU football team’s upset of Oklahoma. The Cougars’ volleyball team nearly followed suit, taking the Wildcats the distance, but K-State proved to be too much for BYU and won the final set 15-11 to capture the tournament title.
After the conclusion of the final match, senior middle blocker Kelsey Chipman, who amassed 43 kills and 18 blocks while maintaining a hitting percentage of over .400 in three matches, was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Senior setter Soriana Pacheco and junior outside hitter JuliAnne Chisholm were also named to the All-Tournament team.
Chipman said she appreciated the accolades, but she wishes that all of her teammates could have received similar recognition.
“It’s always nice to get recognized, but I wish we could put our whole team on the All-Tournament team because everyone did such a great job on what they were supposed to be doing,” Chipman said.
Fritz praised Chipman, a native of Topeka, saying she’s emerging as a team leader early in the season.
“You know, as a middle [blocker], it’s hard to get [Chipman] enough balls for her to carry us and there were times when I felt like she was carrying us,” said Fritz. “I felt like we were riding her as much as you can ride a middle [blocker].”
The Wildcats have now returned to Ahearn to prepare for tonight’s showdown with South Dakota (3-4). The Coyotes are led by a pair of outside hitters in junior Kristin Kritenbrink and Bailey Reshel, who average 3.35 and 2.2 kills per set, respectively.
Chipman said although K-State isn’t familiar with South Dakota’s roster or style of play, the Wildcats won’t take the match lightly.
“We don’t know too much about [South Dakota], but every team’s going to be good,” she said. “We’re going to come in and treat them like we do every other team and just get ready the best we can.”
Tonight’s match is the first of a five-game homestand for K-State, which includes the Varney’s Kansas State Invitational. First serve is set for 7 p.m.