K-State volleyball excited to make NCAA Tournament

K-State volleyball players celebrate after scoring a point during the volleyball match against University of Texas-Austin on Oct. 21, 2015 in Bramlage Coliseum. (File Photo by Nathan Jones | The Collegian)

For the fourth time in five years, the K-State volleyball team is heading to the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats were on the bubble after losing in straight sets to Baylor Saturday night in Waco, Texas, but they found out Sunday they had qualified.

“We are just elated,” head coach Suzie Fritz said. “We knew we were in a situation that it was going to be touch-and-go, if you will. We were not real certain. We feel like we deserve to be there, but at the same time, there were some things that got away from us in the last few matches.”

The Wildcats will take on the Wichita State Shockers at 4:30 p.m. Friday in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the Devaney Center. These two teams met up in the NCAA Tournament in 2011 when the Wildcats defeated the Shockers in three sets, but lost in the round of 16 to Pepperdine.

The Shockers have won 15 of their last 17 matches, and they won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Saturday after defeating the Missouri State Bears in five sets. The last time the Shockers made the field of 64 was in 2013, but they lost to the Kansas Jayhawks in four sets in Lawrence, Kansas.

The year before that, however, Wichita State made an impressive run to the Sweet 16 after beating Arkansas and then Kansas, but the Shockers lost in three sets to USC.

Last season, the Wildcats made the tournament and lost to the Utah Utes in three sets in the first round in Lincoln.

But this year’s team is a bit different, and Fritz said her players have showed her many positives.

“They’ve been wonderfully resilient,” Fritz said. “They have won the matches they are supposed to win. I believe we have got better as we went. We managed a very difficult schedule, and we are good enough to be one of the best of 64.”

K-State doesn’t have any seniors on its team, so making the NCAA Tournament is something Fritz said she is very proud of. She said because they are young, they may not “understand the magnitude” of playing in December, but that this experience will be useful for them later in their careers.

“It’s a program expectation (to make the NCAA Tournament), and there are some that do not know what to expect,” Fritz said. “Sometimes it takes getting there, seeing it, feeling it and having that opportunity.”

The winner between the Shockers and the Wildcats will face the winner of the other regional match in Lincoln between the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Harvard Crimson, who face off at 8 p.m. Friday night. The winners of the two matches will meet up on Sunday.