Wildcats host Varney’s Invitational in Bramlage

Photo by Hannah Hunsinger | The Collegian Brooke Sassin, sophomore, outside hitter.

K-State volleyball makes their season debut in the Little Apple with the Varney’s Invitational Tournament Sept. 4-6. The Wildcats will host Arkansas, Middle Tennessee State and UCF in Bramlage Coliseum.

This will be the first tournament K-State has hosted in Bramlage since the 2003 Big 12 Championship season, and is the first regular season match since playing Iowa State in October of 2005. K-State is undefeated in the regular season at Bramlage with a record of 4-0.

The Wildcats are coming off 2-1 in the Green Bay Comfort Inn and Suites tournament, where they swept host Green Bay and South Dakota before falling to Arizona, 3-0.

It will be the first time since 2011 that the Wildcats have played any volleyball at all in Bramlage, which was a spring exhibition game against Chinese pro team Bridgestone Tianjin.

Even though their true home of Ahearn Fieldhouse is a little over a mile away, K-State is looking forward to playing in front of a purple crowd.

“We’re excited about the change,” head coach Suzie Fritz said. “We love Ahearn, so it’s kind of hard to leave our home. But it will be a nice change for us.”

The Wildcats will have a fair amount of players experiencing a home K-State volleyball crowd for the first time with a roster that includes six true freshmen and two transfers.

Teammates have warned redshirt sophomore Nebraska transfer Sheridan Zarda how raucous K-State volleyball fans can get.

“The girls have told me all about the ‘Purple Pit’ and all about how K-State is high on their fans, they’re amazing as I hear,” Zarda said. “So I’m super excited to see them come out.”

K-State comes into the tournament with a impressive 12-match winning streak against nonconference opponents in Manhattan.

Since 2010, K-State is 20-1 at home against nonconference opponents, with the only loss coming to the Wildcats against the Cougars of BYU in 2011.

Even more impressively, Fritz is 51-4 against nonconference foes in her entire tenure as head coach.

K-State starts off the tournament on Thursday evening against Arkansas. The Wildcats have dominated the Razorbacks in their history going 6-1 overall, with the most recent encounter being a K-State 3-0 sweep in Fayetteville.

Arkansas comes into the Varney’s invitational with a 3-0 record and receiving votes in the AVCA poll. They are led by senior outside hitter Meredith Hays who is averaging 3.27 kills per set and 2.27 digs per set.

Also leading the Razorbacks is junior middle blocker Chanell Clark-Bibbs who is averaging 2.27 kills and 1.64 blocks per set.

The Wildcats will face Middle Tennessee on Friday night. This will be the first time the Raiders out of Conference USA and K-State have faced each other. In the past, K-State has posted an 11-1 record against Conference USA foes.

Middle Tennessee, 1-2, is led by junior outside hitter Chelsea Ross. Ross averages 3.36 kills per set with a .176 hitting percentage and Rachel Shaughnessy, a junior middle blocker, is averaging 1.45 kills and 1.45 blocks per set.

K-State will finish off the Varney’s Invitational against Central Florida. The Knights come into Bramlage with a 4-0 record overall and a 0-1 record against K-State with that set coming back in 1981.

The Knights are spearheaded by sophomore outside hitter Jale Hervey who averages 5.0 kills per set with a .481 hitting percentage. They are also led by their other sophomore outside hitter Kia Bright who is average 3.58 digs per game and 2.58 digs per set.