After a week off, the K-State volleyball team will travel to Lawrence to face off with No. 23 Kansas. The Wildcats (16-8, 4-7 in the Big 12) are coming off a big home win against West Virginia that helped stop a losing streak. The Jayhawks (19-6, 9-3 in the Big 12) have been playing great at home, and are looking to move up in the conference standings. While road wins for any team in the Big 12 are difficult, they have been especially elusive for the Wildcats, who are still searching for their first road victory in conference play.
The Jayhawks are led by senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc, who leads a dominant KU front line with 1.21 blocks per set. Jarmoc is second in conference history in solo blocks with 96. Right next to her will be freshman Taylor Soucie, who has been tremendous in her first year with the Jayhawks. She leads the team in hitting percentage, swinging an astounding .402 in conference matches. If the Wildcats want to slow KU down, it is going to start with limiting Jarmoc and Soucie. KU currently leads the conference in kills per set at over 15, and does a great job of putting their playmakers in positions to put away points. While K-State’s defense has been it’s strength throughout the season, it wasn’t enough in the first contest against KU, when the Wildcats were swept 3-0. If K-State wants to knock off another ranked opponent, it is going to have to turn in a stellar defensive performance against the aggressive, powerful hitters that KU throws out there.
Look for junior Taylor Johnson, who is fresh off a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week award, to be the catalyst for the Wildcats from the start. She currently leads the conference in blocks per set (1.31), and has been an absolute wall against some of the best hitters in the country. Her play has continued to improve throughout Big 12 play, and she is beginning to take advantage of teams shading their defense towards Kaitlynn Pelger.
The opportunity is there for the Wildcats to make a push towards the postseason. A road win against a nationally ranked KU team would be a great resume booster, and definitely something that head coach Suzie Fritz could build off of moving forward.