Young players fitting into roles as Wildcats improve on winning streak

Bryna Vogel, sophomore outside hitter, serves the ball against West Virginia at Bramlage Coliseum on Oct. 10, 2015. (File Photo by Miranda Snyder | The Collegian)

The Wildcats stood very calm and collected after practice as they took off their shoes and knee pads while talking to one another.

It was almost as if this was nothing new to them and the spotlight was just another part of the job.

Freshmen Alyssa Schultejans and Macy Flowers have been essential parts of the K-State volleyball team’s four-match winning streak, even at such a young age, but head coach Suzie Fritz said she’s not surprised.

“I’m never surprised by how our young players develop, but it’s just a matter of when,” Fritz said at Tuesday’s press conference. “They are adjusting to the speed of everything because the college game is different. There is a bit of a transition period where they catch up to everything that’s going on.”

Schultejans was named Big 12 Rookie of the Week on Monday after leading all freshman in points, aces and kills per set. Schultejans has 11 double-doubles this season and leads the team in aces. Flowers received the same honor last week, making the two freshman the first players in K-State program history to earn the award in the same season since the award was introduced in 2008.

“These two players have stepped in because of injuries and have helped our team a lot,” Fritz said. “They are big parts of our team and have been a big part of success recently.”

The Wildcats are coming off a straight-set win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday night inside Ahearn Field House.

“I like how hard we are playing right now,” said Fritz. “We just need to keep working on what we do on our side of the net.”

But this has been a team effort and, without a senior on the line-up, this team suddenly seems to have things going their way.

“Simply, we are improving,” Fritz said. “There are a number of things that we have been doing very well, but our young players are stepping up and our older ones are playing well too.”

The Wildcats shift their focus to the Oklahoma Sooners after K-State defeated them in Norman, Oklahoma on Oct. 16.

“This team has been very good about just worrying about the next point,” Fritz said at Tuesday’s press conference. “They haven’t been focused on anything else but them. They are confident and focused on their own improvement, so it has been very easy to keep their heads in a good place.”

Although Fritz sees this team day in and day out, there are still things she sees that her team wasn’t doing half a year ago.

“My favorite part about this team is how much they’ve improved and how they have come together,” Fritz said. “This was a different team six months ago, so seeing where they are now is the most rewarding thing.”

Junior Brooke Sassin and sophomore Bryna Vogel led the Wildcats in their first match against Oklahoma, as each had 11 kills. The Wildcats held the Sooner offense to just a .135 hitting percentage, which is something Fritz said she is very proud of.

“We are playing more tenacious on defense and that is creating more opportunities for us,” Fritz said. “That is helping us on the offensive side as well.”

The Wildcats will look to improve on a 7-1 record at home this season, a 15-8 overall record and a 7-4 record in conference play.

“It’s natural to feel comfortable when you’re at home,” Fritz said. “This is where we work every day and our team is better at home, just like most teams. It also helps that everyone at the game is very engaged and helps us getting home-court advantage while we are here.”

The Wildcats and Sooners will square off at 7 p.m. tonight inside Ahearn Field House.