K-State volleyball hits the road to battle Texas Tech

Sophomores Katie Reininger and Katie Brand go up for a block during the Arkansas game on Sept. 4, 2014. (Kandace Griffin | The Collegian)

While K-State (14-2, 1-1) celebrates a much-needed win against its in-state rival Kansas (12-4, 0-2), the team will need to quickly turn its attention to to an upstart and talented Texas Tech (14-1, 2-1) team on Saturday afternoon.

Defense has emerged as a big strength for this young, talented K-State team as they have 177.5 blocks on the year, which is good for second nationally behind North Dakota.

Leading K-State and the Big 12 in blockers per set is senior middle blocker Natali Jones with 1.37.

“Natali is great at the net,” head coach Suzie Fritz said after K-State’s win in Lawrence Wednesday night. “We didn’t get our middles a ton of balls and they weren’t as involved in the offense as I think we would like for them to be over time. We’d like a little more balanced, but the swings that they got were good swings.”

Sophomore setter Katie Brand also is ranked nationally, falling at No. 12 in assists with 667 for the season. Her 11.12 assists per set is good for 20th.

Offensively, K-State continues to be led by one of the best one-two punches in the conference with freshman outside hitter Kylee Zumach and sophomore outside hitter Brooke Sassin.

Sassin is coming off a strong performance against Kansas in which she tallied 15 kills and a machine-like hitting percentage of .351.

“We’re so young but we don’t give up,” Sassin said of her team’s mentality going through the Big 12 season. “In big games, even when you know it’s tough, and you could easily sit back and let them beat you, we just don’t give up.”

Texas Tech has been the surprise of the Big 12 so far this season. The Red Raiders cruised through a fairly easy non-conference schedule while taking care of both TCU at home and the Baylor team in Waco that gave the Wildcats their first home loss of the season.

Texas Tech is led offensive by junior outside hitter Jenna Allen and her 176 kills. Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Douglass and senior middle blocker Mikia Mills are tied for the team lead in blocks with 61.

First serve of the match is at 3 p.m. at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock.

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.