For 16th-year Kansas State volleyball head coach Suzie Fritz, this weekend is just another match and a chance for her team to improve early in the season.
But there is a bit more significance to these three games when K-State hosts the Wildcat Classic as Mississippi State, Miami and Loyola come to Manhattan.
Fritz sits just one win shy of 300 in her career as head coach at K-State while the volleyball program is at 799 wins in their history as well.
“I haven’t even thought about that a little,” Fritz said with a grin. “I just learned about it last week, but in my mind that win is just the next one.”
Fritz did comment, however, that many people have contributed to these millstones.
“I don’t want to dismiss the fact that there were an enormous amount of people that have gone through and had an impact on that,” Fritz said. “A far bigger impact than I have had on it, so this is not my accomplishment, but a cumulative effort over a number of years with lots of people.”
Some of those people being players and coaches on the team currently, will gear up for three matches over the weekend.
The Wildcats will use lots of depth this season after returning everyone from last year, which can help when they have more than one match in a single day and three in two days like the ones coming up.
“It’s hard to play so many matches, but this is where our depth should help us,” Fritz said. “Even if you use a lot of your depth you still have to manage fatigue. We are now over a month in on training and we have just stay healthy, which is a big part is being good.”
Senior middle blocker Katie Reininger appeared to hurt her ankle this past weekend in a match against Georgia Tech. She said she is day-to-day right now, but is getting better.
“It was just a little sprain so I should be back in no time, but I’m not sure when yet,” Reininger said. “We want to make sure it’s fully healed since this is my last season, and I don’t want to hurt it again in the preseason.”
The Wildcats won the first two sets in that Georgia Tech match, before dropping the next two, but pulled out the win in five sets.
“I feel so good about this team because we are so deep and players stepped up when I went down, which was awesome,” Reininger said. “I’ve had a lot of injuries in my career, but it still is hard.”
The Wildcats are coming off a 2-1 weekend with wins over Georgia Tech and Tennessee State inside Bramlage Coliseum and are now 4-2 this season.
“I think we have a lot of room to grow and we are finding ways to win, which is always encouraging, but I don’t think it’s always pretty,” Fritz said. “We are winning points when we have to, but we aren’t playing clean enough.”
Fritz said she knows her team can get a lot better, which is good with lots of season left.
“I think if you ask a majority of coaches if they can improve, they would always say yes,” Fritz said. “I think there is still a lot in us, but I feel we are working on things we know we need to. We are building on our strengths and working on our weaknesses right now.”
One Wildcat who has had a good start to her season is senior outside hitter Brooke Sassin, who leads the team in kills with 76 and averages almost 3.5 kills per set.
“I go in to every game with a fresh mindset and I think that has helped me,” Sassin said. “I’ve tried to be adaptable and a short mindset is something that has definitely come with age because I didn’t think like that as a freshman or sophomore.”
Sassin said she thinks there are high expectations this season, but the team is just working to improve.
“Since it’s my senior season I know this is it for me, but the season is still in the early stages so I don’t think about it too much,” Sassin said. “I think there is a sense of urgency for us, but all of the seniors are on the same page so I think we’ll be fine.”
The Wildcats will start the tournament by taking on Mississippi State on Friday at noon, who is 5-2 this season with losses to Kansas and Oklahoma.
On Friday at 7:30 p.m., K-State will face off against Miami as the Hurricanes have started 3-3, with one of those losses coming to Texas.
The Wildcats will finish the weekend battling Loyola on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Ramblers are also 3-3 this season, but have won their last three matches after losing the first three.
Although the Wildcats have already had their home opener this past weekend, those games were held in Bramlage Coliseum, while these games will be played at the true home of Wildcat volleyball, Ahearn Field House.
“I think everyone is excited to be here again,” Sassin said after practice in Ahearn on Wednesday. “This is home and where we are most comfortable. This is a very tough place for other teams to come and play in so that’ll be a good advantage for us.”