Wildcats close regular season with a win, head to NCAA Tournament

Outside hitter Brooke Sassin passes the ball in the game against Baylor on Oct. 29, 2016, in Ahearn Field House. (File Photo by Maddie Domnick | The Collegian)

The Kansas State volleyball team closed out the regular season on Saturday night by defeating the Texas Tech Red Raiders in three sets.

The Wildcats end the regular season in a tie for fourth in the Big 12 at 9-7 and 20-9 overall. K-State was selected as the 14th seed in the NCAA Tournament. It is the team’s third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

“When I think about that core group of seniors,” head coach Suzie Fritz said to K-State Sports, “it’s hard to describe how hard they work.”

The seniors led the way in the winning effort. Senior outside hitter Brooke Sassin had 12 kills in the match, senior libero Kersten Kober had 12 digs and senior setter Katie Brand finished with 39 assists and seven blocks.

“No better way to go out,” Sassin said after the match. “It’s awesome to go out this way and look back and see how much I’ve grown as a player.”

K-State got out to an early 7-2 lead in the first set and never looked back, winning the set 25-16.

“Our block is where it started,” Brand said. “Our middles, both Elle (Sandbothe) and (Katie) Reininger did a great job of using their inside hand to close off the angles. Defense was something we focused on coming in.”

The second set was the closest as it was tied at 20, but K-State then won five of the next six points to go up 2-0.

It was all Wildcats in the final set as they won 25-17 to take the match in straight sets and finish the regular season with a win.

“At this point of the season, it’s just about trying to win and advance,” Fritz said. “Now, it’s genuinely about winning. With a group like that, it’s their show now, I am just turning it over to them and along for the ride.”

By earning a top-16 seed, the Wildcats will host first and second round matchups. They will host Lipscomb on Dec. 2 in Bramlage Coliseum. If the Wildcats advance to the second round, they will face either Ohio State or Missouri State.