K-State volleyball prepares for weekend trip to Southern Illinois

Sophomore setter Katie Brand bumps the ball on Sept. 8, 2014 at Ahearn Field House. K-State volleyball team squeezes in a win against Missouri State University with a score of 3-2. (Rodney Dimick | The Collegian)

As the Wildcats prepare for their second road trip of the season, they hope to keep their four-match winning streak alive as they participate in their third tournament of the year.

K-State enters the weekend with a 6-1 record and will face Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne, Marshall and the host – Southern Illinois.

The Wildcats are coming off a five-set war with Missouri State, where K-State jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The Bears came storming back to take the next two sets before eventually falling to head coach Suzie Fritz’s squad in the fifth set.

“I think we’ve realized what we need to work on,” sophomore libero Kersten Kober said. “We’re doing our best to get better at that stuff.”

Because of the quick turn around and the grinder of a match that the Wildcats played, they have not had a lot of practice time in between the Missouri State match and the upcoming tournament.

“We needed to rest some of our athletes yesterday,” Fritz said. “We brought in some of our redshirt candidates and some of the kids that haven’t had as much playing time. We worked them pretty good.”

With 14 underclassmen, including 10 complete newcomers to the program, Fritz has a lot of new talent at her disposal. K-State has already been able to get playing time for eight out of the 14 girls on their roster, and six of those eight have played in 22 of the possible 23 sets this season.

“When (the incoming players) came in, they didn’t know our system and they didn’t know much about what was going on,” Kober said. “But now they’re starting to be more communicative and getting more comfortable with us. (Their) making their way on to the court and letting us know they’re there ready to compete.”

Several underclassmen, including freshman outside hitter Kylee Zumach and sophomore transfer and outside hitter Brooke Sassin are making big impacts early for the team. They rank in the Big 12’s top 10 in kills per set. The duo has combined for 94 of the teams total 193 kills.

“There are several of them that have significant playing roles,” Fritz said. “They’re getting lots of good experience. As with any underclassman, there’s consistency issues that exist. But I think that they are progressing as well as we expected them to.”

On Friday, K-State plays a doubleheader against Marshall at 11 a.m. and Southern Illinois at 7 p.m.

Marshall comes into the tournament with a 4-3 overall record and a win over common opponent Green Bay in a 3-1 match. The Wildcats swept Green Bay (25-20, 25-15, 25-23) to open the season.

The Herd is led by sophomore outside hitter Cassie Weaver and sophomore opposite hitter Elyse Panick who are both coming off having a double-double with kills and digs in their win over Green Bay.

The Salukis stumble into the tournament with a 2-5 record with one of those wins coming against Middle Tennessee, a team K-State swept in the Varney’s Invitational. Even with their lackluster record, Southern Illinois has been put through the gauntlet, getting swept by ranked Illinois and North Carolina squads to open its season.

Southern Illinois is led by redshirt freshman outside hitter Andrea Estrada who has a total of 69 kills to go along with three aces. Sophomore setter Hannah Kaminsky brings 141 assists on the season.

K-State wraps up the tournament on Friday with IPFW in another morning game. The Mastodons are 5-2 on the season with one of those losses coming in a sweep to future Wildcat opponent Eastern Michigan.

IPFW is led by team kill leader Emily Spencer who has 112 kills and Hallie Ripley who is the team block leader with 24 total.

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.