Perfect effort required of Wildcats to knock off No. 1 Longhorns Saturday

Emily DeShazer | Collegian K-State redshirt freshman setter Katie Brand keeps a ball in play on Wednesday at Ahearn Fieldhouse. The Wildcats will take on the Texas Longhorns in Texas today as conference play winds down.Photo credit: Emily DeShazer.

The K-State volleyball team is hitting the road again, this time for Austin, Texas. The Wildcats (17-9, 5-8 in Big 12) are fresh off a big win against Baylor on Wednesday night, and are looking to extend the winning streak. In their path are the Longhorns (19-2, 12-0 in Big 12), who currently sit as the No. 1 ranked team in the country and haven’t lost since Sept. 13. Texas swept K-State when they faced off in Manhattan, and have looked dominant against every other Big 12 foe so far this season. If the Wildcats can beat the Longhorns tomorrow, it would be huge for their push towards earning a postseason bid.

The Longhorns are led by junior outside hitter Haley Eckerman, who averages nearly 4 kills per set. Eckerman is part of a Texas offense that swings with an attack percentage of .283, while holding their opponents to .180. Senior libero Sarah Palmer leads the defense with 3.61 digs per set, and is an anchor in the back row.

Texas also adds another wrinkle by running an offense that features two setters, which allows more hitters to be on the court at one time, and helps keep defensives off balance. The Longhorns don’t have a superstar who jumps out at you when looking at the box score, but they are well coached and very efficient.

The Wildcats have made huge strides in the past couple of weeks. Volleyball head coach Suzie Fritz preached before the season started that her team needed to be fundamental, defensive and opportunistic. K-State got away from those characteristics early in conference play, but are making a resurgence by learning on their defense.

The Wildcats currently lead the Big 12 in opponent attack percentage, and junior middle blocker Taylor Johnson is near the top of the conference in individual blocks. The balanced offensive attack that K-State employs is orchestrated by redshirt freshman setter Katie Brand, who continues to impress in her debut season with the Wildcats. If the Wildcats want to pull off the upset, it will take a huge performance by the offense.

After their matchup with the Longhorns, K-State will have TCU on the Nov. 24, and then will wrap up the season with Iowa State at home on Nov. 30. If the Wildcats can go 3-0, or 2-1, it could catapult K-State towards a postseason bid, and possibly another 20-win season.