K-State head coach Suzie Fritz ran from baseline to baseline giving high-fives to the student body that stuck around for the entire three-hour volleyball match between the Wildcats and Oklahoma Sooners.
She and the rest of the Wildcats breathed a huge sigh of relief after they blew a two-set lead and made a very important fifth-set comeback to defeat the Sooners, keeping their NCAA Tournament bid in the running.
“I didn’t think we played very well for a good portion of the match,” Fritz said. “Even in the two games we won, I didn’t think we played that good. From there, we just got worse and lost momentum in set three, and I knew we were better than that.”
Fritz was quick to give high praise to the Sooners, who are seventh in the Big 12 conference and tried to play the spoiler role against the Wildcats.
“Oklahoma played really well tonight,” she said. “They played very hard physically at the net and played hard on the defensive end as well. They created a lot of problems for us at the net and that frustrated us offensively.”
The Wildcats had four players hit for double-digits in kills. Junior Brooke Sassin and sophomore Bryna Vogel led the charge with 15 kills each, while freshman Alyssa Schultejans had 13 and junior Katie Reininger added 11.
K-State had 37 attack errors on the night, which was something Fritz noticed.
“I think we were having trouble killing balls, and then we started looking for things that weren’t there,” Fritz said. “I felt like we were searching too much and just let the situation evolve and take what they give us.”
Junior Katie Brand had eight kills and 60 assists in the winning effort. Vogel and Sassin both contributed double-doubles in the match, adding 14 and 16 digs to their kills, respectively.
The Wildcats took the first two sets, although they could have gone to either team. K-State won 25-23 in the first set and 29-27 in the second. The Sooners fought off five set points in the second before the Wildcats capitalized on an attacking error by Oklahoma to take the set.
The Sooners weren’t going down without a fight, however, as they controlled most of the third set and won it 25-21.
Oklahoma lead 23-16 in the fourth set, but the Wildcats still had a comeback in them. K-State won six of the next seven points, but it wasn’t enough. The Sooners ended the set on an attack error by Sassin to win it 25-23, forcing a decisive fifth set.
The Sooners led 11-7 in the fifth set and had all the momentum going their way, but after a timeout, the Wildcats won the next eight points and took the match in five sets.
The Wildcats improved to 16-8 overall and 8-4 in conference play. Their next game will be against the Iowa State Cyclones on Nov. 18 inside Ahearn Field House. The Cyclones are up one game ahead of the Wildcats for third place in the conference.
“When you get to November, being healthy is a big part of being good, and I don’t think we are terribly healthy right now,” Fritz said. “We are going to use this bye week to rest and get ready for the remainder of our schedule.”