Wildcat offense dominates in sweep of Arkansas

Photo by Kandace Griffin | Colligian Gina Madonia, senior defensive specialist, goes for the ball in the Thursday night game against University of Arkansas in Bramlage Coliseum. Kansas State swept Arkansas 3-0 in the opening match of the Varney's Invitational in Bramlage Coliseum.

As a Division I transfer, the door was open for Brooke Sassin to make an immediate impact at K-State.

The sophomore has done that and some for Suzie Fritz’s 2014 squad.

Behind a team-high 15 kills and .583 hit percentage, the San Antonio, Texas native sparked a thrilling home opener for K-State as it opened up the Varney’s Invitational tournament with a 3-0 sweep of Arkansas (25-18, 25-15, 25-16).

“Arkansas is a good team and we knew that going into it,” Sassin said. “So, for us to play so crisp and focused to where we just swept them was awesome.”

The outside hitter now has tallied 39 kills on the season, which is quickly approaching half of her freshman season total.

“I thought we played extremely well,” head coach Suzie Fritz said. “We’ve been working a lot on establishing offensive rhythm and defining the tempo, the rhythm, the speed that we want to play. Some of that work was really starting to come together for us.”

Arkansas came into Bramlage with a 3-0 record and was receiving votes in the AVCA poll. A win of this magnitude against an opponent of this caliber has Fritz saying she’s excited for the rest of the season.

“I haven’t even thought past tomorrow,” Fritz said. “But, if we can sustain at this level of play throughout the majority of the season, I think we could win a lot of games.”

Senior outside hitter Chelsea Keating was dominant posting a double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs going along with two aces.

She led all players in both aces and digs.

“We played really well,” Keating said. “It was really clean volleyball and I think we handled ourselves well.”

Having transferred from Mississippi State, the game provided Sassin with her first experience in front of a K-State crowd.

“It was great,” Sassin said. “In Green Bay, we got our wins, but there really wasn’t a crowd there to support us and I think it helped us a lot and I think it intimidated the other team as well.”

Another standout for the Wildcats was sophomore setter Katie Brand, who was quiet in scoring with only three points on the night, but ended up with a whopping 40 assists.

“Hitters have to have a great relationship with the setter no matter what team your on,” Keating said of Brand. “With Katie, you can tell her if a set is too fast or too slow and she will fix it. She does everything to put the hitter in a great position.”

The defense was also on their mark only allowing one Arkansas player to score in double digits and limiting Chanell Clark-Bibbs to only four points on the evening.

“I thought we played really solid,” Fritz said. “We were able to serve in a way that their quick hitters weren’t much of a factor for them because they couldn’t ball handle well enough to get all of their people involved. So then you become more predictable and easier to defend.”

With the win, K-State stretches its home-court winning streak against non-conference opponents to 13. The Wildcats have also won five-straight home matches by way of a sweep

The Wildcats continue play in the Varney’s Invitational tournament tonight against Middle Tennessee at 7 p.m.

Tim Everson was born in Wichita, KS in 1994. Before fifth grade he moved up to Manhattan for one year before settling in Riley, KS where he graduated from Riley County High School in 2012. Tim has worked for the Collegian since spring of 2014 and took over as Sports Editor during the summer of 2015. Tim loves sports, music, movies and good food when he can get it.