“I did a radio show this morning with JuliAnne Chisholm,” said K-State head volleyball coach Suzie Fritz. “And I think she put it best, and that’s that we want to put our best against their best and see what happens. That’s kind of the consensus, is that we certainly can put a better product, a better foot forward, and that’s what we intend to do.”
And that’s what they better do, because last time it was not so pretty.
This weekend, Baylor University (13-13, 6-9 Big 12 Conference) travels to the Sunflower State for the first time to play against K-State (10-16, 4-11).
When the two teams last met almost a month ago, the general opinion was the match could have gone either way. Each team had its strengths and weaknesses, and the fans and media predicted a solid contest with guaranteed excitement.
It did not go down like that. Instead, the Bears completely swept K-State and were never behind in any of the games. As Fritz put it, her team’s performance was less than desirable.
“We played very poorly the last time that we played them down there,” she said.
This time, however, the competition does not appear to have changed much in favor of the Wildcats, she said.
“I think they’re better than they were the first time we played them,” Fritz said.
One of the reasons the head coach gave for Baylor’s improvement was the reinstatement of senior outside hitter Ashlie Christenson, who did not play in the last match-up in October.
Christenson has not played in every match so far, but she still ranks among the best on her team. With 2.97 kills per game and a .187 hitting percentage, she certainly has a heavy cannon in place of what should be her arm, but it seems to weigh her down too much when it comes to defense, as her blocking ability seems less than stellar.
A bit farther up in the stats for the Bears is middle blocker Elizabeth Graham. The 6-2 senior, who is just this season beginning to see some serious action on the court, leads her team offensively with a .315 hitting percentage and 2.70 kills per game and defensively with a whopping 1.36 blocks per game, enough for a second-place ranking in the conference.
“They’re very balanced in terms of involving everyone in their offense,” Fritz said. “That makes them a little bit difficult to defend, because you have to worry about all of them.”
For Baylor, though, it is the back row that really shines.
“Defensively, they’re an extraordinary team, one of the top teams in terms of digging balls,” Fritz said. “They extend rallies, and so you have to play well for long periods of time.”
She certainly has that right. Baylor has the third-most efficient squad in the nation as measured by balls dug per game, with senior libero Caitlyn Trice leading the Big 12 with 5.25 digs per game. K-State’s senior libero, Lauren Mathewson, pulls in at a close fifth with 4.79.
First serve is set for 7 p.m. Saturday in Ahearn Field House.