K-State women’s volleyball faces Tulsa on Tuesday

(Photo by Emily DeShazer / The Collegian) Senior outside hitter Courtney Traxson and the Wildcats will face Tulsa this evening at 6pm in Ahearn Fieldhouse as they fight to stay undefeated this season.

The K-State volleyball team returns to action tonight against Tulsa University. The Wildcats, currently 6-0, are coming off an impressive tournament win in this past weekend’s K-State Invitational. The invitational, which included K-State, Siena, Southeast Missouri State and Southern Illinois, was played on the Wildcats’ home court. From start to finish K-State dominated, sweeping all three of its opponents in a reasonably easy fashion.

Head coach Suzie Fritz was pleased with her team’s performance so far this season, but cautioned that they still have work to do.

“I think the team feels good about the course they are on,” Fritz said after the Wildcats captured the tournament title on Saturday afternoon. “It’s about more than wins. It is about improvement and playing well in the preseason. I like where we are at but I also think we have some room to grow before Big 12 play.”

The storyline all preseason has been the improved play of redshirt freshman setter Katie Brand. The Wildcats have been playing well, and a lot of that has to do with Brand’s ability to mesh with her seasoned hitters.

“She gets better with every opportunity,” Fritz said. “She gets smarter, makes smarter decisions and puts her hitters in better position.”

Brand’s improvements over the season were finally recognized, as she was named to the K-State Invitational All-Tournament team, and was also named the tournament MVP. While Brand’s play has been impressive, followers of the K-State volleyball team know her experienced hitters are a big piece of the team’s preseason success. Senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger and senior outside hitter Dakota Kaufman were also named to the All-Tournament team. After being named MVP, Brand was quick to deflect the attention to the experienced team around her.

“I would say that a huge part of my success at my first home tournament was everyone who was playing behind me,” Brand said. “I had huge support from my coaches and especially my teammates.”

Going forward, the team hopes to continue working hard and to improve on the little things. Kaufman, who is averaging 2.15 kills per set so far this season, pointed to her team’s blocking and serving as cornerstones to the Wildcats positive progression.

“Two of the biggest things that we pride ourselves in is blocking and serving,” Kaufman said. “Those are the things we always want to be consistent in because we know we are really, really good at those things.”

Tuesday night’s game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes should be a great test for the Wildcats. Tulsa currently sits at 6-1 on the season, fresh off a tournament victory at the Baylor Classic.

The Golden Hurricanes are coached by Steven McRoberts. McRoberts is in his third year as the head coach for Tulsa, and led his team to the NCAA Tournament in his first two seasons. Last year, the Golden Hurricanes won the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles en route to a 26-10 record.

Tulsa will be the first team the Wildcats have faced all year that use two setters on offense. Typically, this type of offensive system is called a 4-2. The Golden Hurricanes mix up whether or not both setters are on the court at the same time, but the added wrinkle can be tough to defend.

The Tulsa attack is led by true freshman Erica Bohannon. Bohannon, a native of Dallas, Texas, is averaging over three kills per set and was named last week’s Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week. Senior outside hitter Kellie Culbertson joins Bohannon on the front line. Culbertson was named to the Conference USA second team last year, and has continued to look sharp in her final year with the Golden Hurricanes.

Tulsa are averaging nearly two blocks per set and just over 18 digs per set. As a team, Tulsa has a kill percentage of .182, which is significantly less than K-State’s .219 kill percentage.

K-State will look to continue to use a balanced attack to keep defenses on their heels. Through six games, the Wildcats have six hitters that average more than two kills per game. Defensively, K-State is led by senior libero Tristan McCarty. McCarty is leading the team in digs and is a vocal presence in the back row for the Wildcats. One thing to keep an eye on is whether or not defensive specialist Kersten Kober is able to play. Kober injured her knee during the Southern Illinois game on Friday and did not suit up for the match Saturday afternoon. If Kober is unable to play, the Wildcats will need to replace nearly 2.5 digs per set.

The Wildcats are 24-2 all time against the Golden Hurricanes. Their last meeting was on Sept. 13, 2012 and ended with K-State sweeping Tulsa.