K-State volleyball set to host NCAA Regionals

Senior setter Katie Brand digs the ball during the K-State volleyball match against Baylor in Ahearn Field House on Oct. 29, 2016. (File Photo by Nathan Jones | The Collegian)

For the first time since 2007, the Kansas State volleyball team will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in Bramlage Coliseum.

The 14th-seeded Wildcats will face off against the Lipscomb Bisons on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Although K-State had a tough schedule this season, it wasn’t a guarantee that the Wildcats would be hosting the first two rounds.

“I think we felt like our strength of schedule would hold up, that it would give us an opportunity, at minimum, if it was seen in the right light, but when you get down to this point, you’re just trying to control the variables that you can control,” head coach Suzie Fritz said to K-State Sports. “I’m excited so much for this group of women. They’ve worked so hard to get to the postseason, but to be able to play the first two rounds at home, it’s a big deal.”

Senior middle blocker Katie Reininger said it took a few seconds before it hit her that she would get to play at least one more time at home this season.

“I think we suspected we had a chance, but it took us a while to figure out, like, ‘That’s a Powercat on the board,'” Reininger said. “‘We’re hosting.’ The room erupted and it was awesome. It’s good to be at home. We get to sleep in our own beds, we get to be in Bramlage, we have our fans with us … nothing but exciting things await us.”

The Bisons went 22-7 in the regular season and won the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship to get an automatic berth into the tournament.

Lipscomb might have a strong showing from their fans to the game this weekend because of their strong connection with the state of Kansas.

Lipscomb sophomore outside hitter Carlyle Nusbaum and junior libero Brittany Thomas are both from Overland Park, while junior outside hitter Chloe Rogers is from Stillwell.

With a tough schedule out of the way and a new season starting, Reininger said this team has a good chance of doing something special.

“I think being mentally tough will be key,” Reininger said of keys to postseason play on K-State Sports’ website. “Knowing that while these are teams we haven’t played before, we’re prepared for everybody we’re facing.”

The other match of the first round will be between Ohio State and Missouri State with the two winners facing off on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Four Wildcats named to All-Conference teams

In other volleyball news, the Big 12 released the All-Conference teams on Monday morning and four Wildcats were honored.

Senior setter Katie Brand garnered her third straight First Team All-Big 12 honor. She is just the third player in K-State volleyball history to achieve that feat.

Senior middle blocker Katie Reininger and junior opposite hitter Bryna Vogel were named to the Second Team. This marks the second straight year Reininger was named to the Second Team and the first All-Conference honor for Vogel.

Freshman middle blocker Elle Sandbothe was named to the All-Freshman team. Sandbothe came on strong at the end of the year for the Wildcats.