Wildcats to host weekend tournament


Things seemed a little worrisome when the No. 21 K-State volleyball team (5-2) stumbled out to an 0-2 start for the first time since the 2003 campaign.

However, the Wildcats’ fortunes seemed to change as the squad has since reeled off five consecutive victories, including a first-place finish at the Nike BYU Invitational.

But with seven matches in the books, Suzie Fritz isn’t sure the Wildcats are where they need to be.

“I think our focus right now is just really trying to develop some consistency and some discipline in terms of the things that we want to do,” said Fritz, who is in her ninth season as K-State’s head volleyball coach. “We just haven’t really thought about the ones we’re winning and the ones we’re losing. I’m not sure the wins and losses are a true indication of how you play.”

The Wildcats will continue toward their goals of consistency and discipline as they host the Varney’s Kansas State Invitational this weekend in Ahearn Field House.

Fritz said K-State, which features seven freshmen, enters the tournament playing on a higher level than it was at the beginning of the season as the team continues to develop its own identity.

“They’ve finally figured out what kind of team they need to be,” she said. “That just doesn’t come overnight. You’ve got to play together for a while. My whole thing is, decide who you’re going to be and be that team. Don’t try to be anybody else.”

The tournament features a solid field, highlighted by the No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats, who bring a perfect 7-0 record into Manhattan. Also participating are the Portland Pilots (2-6) and the Purdue Boilermakers (4-2). The Boilermakers, who are receiving votes in the AVCA coaches poll, handed K-State its first loss of the 2008 season at their home tournament in West Lafayette, Ind.

“Purdue and Kentucky are legitimate top-25 teams and I don’t recall having two top-25 teams in [this tournament] before,” Fritz said.

The tournament kicks off tonight at 5 p.m. when the Boilermakers and Pilots face off. Entering the tournament, the Wildcats are led by a pair of outside hitters in junior JuliAnne Chisholm and senior Kelsey Chipman. The duo is averaging 3.6 and 2.92 kills per set, respectively. Chipman has been an all-around force for K-State in 2009, and averages one block per set and owns a .385 hitting percentage.

While home court advantage is often cherished, Fritz said playing within the confines of one’s own building can sometimes lead to added difficulty.

“You would think that you would play better at home, but there’s also more distractions,” she said. “You can go into somebody else’s place and nobody knows you. I think there are different pressures that come with having to be good at home.”

That being said, she also expressed her appreciation for the fans, who set a record for season ticket sales this year.

“I’m so happy with the fans’ response to this team and their support,” Fritz said. “I’ve just been very, very pleased with the community and campus response to this team.”