K-State wins Varney’s Invitational with sweep over UNLV

Junior setter Katie Brand sets the ball during the Varney's Invitational against California on Sept. 4, 2015 in Bramlage Coliseum. (Nathan Jones | The Collegian)

K-State fans stood anxiously for match point in the third set in Saturday’s UNLV match.

A week ago, they had discovered that their reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Kylee Zumach, would be out with a knee injury. However, the Wildcats would not let that setback stop them from clinching their second straight Varney’s Invitational Tournament.

As UNLV’s defense thought that Katie Brand was about to set up one of her teammates for the kill, she surprised them for the sixth time in the game on the second hit, giving the Wildcats the 3-0 sweep at Bramlage Coliseum.

“We talked about me not being active enough (against Cal),” Brand said. “Today that was kind of the focus of me being more active to get my teammates opened up more by (the defense) paying attention to me.”

The Varney’s Invitational Tournament MVP finished with her second double-double of the weekend with 43 assists and 16 digs to add along with her six kills. Katie Reininger and Bryna Vogel added 11 kills each in the Wildcat’s 3-0 sweep over the Runnin’ Rebels.

“Coming into the tournament, we were all questionable how it was going to go,” outside hitter Brooke Sassin said. “We have a lot of fight and everyone gave 100 percent the whole time. It worked out to our advantage and helped us out a lot.”

UNLV hung around with K-State in the first set, producing 16 kills and getting their attacking percentage over .300. Bree Hammel and Alyssa Wing would get five kills in the first set, who each finished with 10 kills in the match.

Vogel produced two straight kills at the end of set one to give the Wildcats a 25-20 victory. The last two sets belonged to the other Wildcat to make the all-tournament team, Brooke Sassin, who led all players with 19 kills.

Sassin’s 14 kills in the final two sets rallied the Wildcats to a 25-17 victory in set two and a 25-22 finale in set three. The junior outside hitter’s .372 hitting percentage helped the Wildcats create opportunities with a .432 percentage in the first set and a .405 average in the second.

“I liked the way we played,” head coach Suzie Fritz said. “I thought we competed hard, and our team chemistry is really strong. We’ve got a lot of people doing a lot of things.”

K-State had a tougher time finding opportunities in the third set, finishing with a .231 attacking percentage and producing eight errors in the third. UNLV, however, would not give up so easily, tying the score up 10 times in the third, eventually tying it up 13-13.

Thanks to three kills by Sassin, the Wildcats were able to go on a 4-0 run and end UNLV’s hopes for a comeback. K-State was able to force UNLV into committing 14 errors throughout the game and an attacking percentage of .235 for the match.

“We have a lot of resiliency in this team,” Brand said. “When (UNLV) was coming back, we always knew that we wouldn’t quit fighting.”

The Wildcats continue their streak at Bramlage Coliseum, now holding a 10-0 undefeated margin at the Octagon of Doom. Only losing one set in the course of three matches in 36 hours, the Wildcats have a tremendous amount of momentum riding on their 5-1 start.

“It was wonderful to be at home,” Fritz said. “It was nice to piggyback off of some of the football crowd and expose some new people to K-State volleyball and bring them back to Ahearn.”

travels to Murfreesboro, Tennessee for the Middle Tennessee Invitational. The
Wildcats will play Virginia Commonwealth on Friday and wrap up the tournament
with matches against Seattle and Middle Tennessee State on Saturday.