Another year of K-State sports has come and mostly gone, save a few spring sports still competing. In honor of the school year’s ending, the Collegian sports desk took a look back at some highs and lows of the past year, as well as team, coach and player of the year.
- The new K-State women’s soccer team kicked off its first-ever season in late August on the road in St. Louis. The team had its first home game several weeks later in mid-September that set the record for largest crowd at a Division I soccer game in Kansas. While they struggled at times to reach a 4-9-3 record, they were competitive in most games in their first-ever season.
- K-State volleyball won its 800th program win and got head coach Suzie Fritz’s 300th win in charge of the Wildcats against Mississippi State in early September. The Wildcats had one of their best seasons in recent memory. They were chosen to host a sub-regional in the NCAA tournament and took down Lipscomb in the first round before falling to Ohio State in the next round.
- Head football coach Bill Snyder has led the Wildcats to pile up more wins. Snyder passed yet another milestone in the Wildcats’ final home game of the season; he won his 200th game as head coach of the Wildcats. The Wildcats dominated the 114th edition of the Sunflower Showdown beating the Jayhawks 34-19. Chants of “Bi-ll-Sny-der” echoed throughout the stadium after the game, and the Hall of Fame coach was carried off the field. “200 is a number and that stands for a lot of wonderful young people that have come through this program, and every single one of them has contributed to that particular number,” Snyder said after the game.
- K-State football went to Houston for the Texas bowl against Texas A&M in late December looking for its first bowl win since 2013. The Wildcats outplayed the Aggies in almost every aspect of the game and held on late for the 33-28 win. Snyder was given a confetti bath, and the Wildcats took home the Texas Bowl trophy.
- In late February the K-State men’s basketball team was dominated by last place Oklahoma. It looked like the season was over and head coach Bruce Weber would lose his job sooner rather than later. The Wildcats then won three straight games, including a win in the Big 12 tournament over No. 9 Baylor. It was enough for the Wildcats to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.
- K-State took down Wake Forest in its First Four play-in game; senior forward Wesley Iwundu dominated for the Wildcats in the 95-88 win. The Wildcats would lose in the first round to Cincinnati, but the win over Wake Forest was the first NCAA tournament win for K-State since 2012. “I couldn’t be more thrilled for these guys,” Weber said after the Wake Forest game. “They’ve persevered. They’ve believed. They’ve kept the faith and now we get to move on to Sacramento.”
- The K-State women’s golf team won two championships through the season and qualified for the NCAA tournament regional in Athens, Georgia. The Wildcats won both the Chip-N Club Invitational and the Westbrook Invitational.
- The Wildcats’ women’s basketball team won the most games in a season since the 2008-2009 season and hosted NCAA tournament opening round games in Manhattan. They eventually fell in the second round to Stanford.
- As mentioned above, K-State men’s basketball lost to last-place Oklahoma in late February by 30 points. The game was their eighth loss in ten games. Many, including the Collegian sports desk, thought the Wildcats would miss the NCAA tournament and head coach Bruce Weber would lose his job at season’s end.
- The football team looked like they were going to take down No. 18 Oklahoma State at home in early November when they had a 37-28 lead midway through the fourth quarter. However, the Cowboys would rally and scored with just 1:46 left in the game to take down K-State 43-37. The Wildcats dropped to 5-4 record with the loss.
- The BatCats started their season off strong at 15-6. However, they struggled once Big 12 play started. The Wildcats lost 12 of 14 games from March 24 to April 15. The Wildcats now sit at 25-20 overall and 4-11 in the Big 12. They are in danger of missing the Big 12 Championship at season’s end.
Team of the year: K-State football
This may be the cop-out answer, but when looking back at the year, the football team stood out the most. The Wildcats started off slow but improved steadily throughout the season in typical Snyder fashion.
K-State started off the season with a loss at Stanford and struggled at times to a 5-4 record and 3-3 Big 12 record. After the fourth loss, the Wildcats were able to string together some wins thanks to a strong running game behind the emergence of then redshirt freshman running back Alex Barnes.
Then redshirt junior quarterback Jesse Ertz also matured greatly as the season progressed, just like many first year starting quarterbacks under Snyder.
The Wildcats won their final three games of the season and earned a bid to the Texas Bowl where they took down Texas A&M.
“I think it’s the perfect ending for this team,” senior safety Dante Barnett said after the win. “With all we’ve been through with last season and starting off this season (and) the fight that this team had; it was the perfect way to end the season.”
Coach of the year: Jeff Mittie
Yes I know, Jeff Mittie is not Bill Snyder. But Mittie’s success leading the women’s basketball team should not be ignored.
The Wildcats won 23 games, the most in a season for the team since the 2008-09 season. They have improved each year under Mittie with this past season being his best yet.
K-State finished fourth in the Big 12, was consistently ranked in the Top 25 all season and made it the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second year straight.
Player of the year: Katie Brand
To put it simply, Brand was one of the best players in Wildcat volleyball history. The senior setter earned AVCA third team All-America honors in her final season in a Wildcat uniform, the first K-State All-American since 2008.
Brand is second all-time at K-State for career assists with 4,743, second in career double-doubles with 67 and is one of three Wildcats since 2001 with multiple 1,200-assist seasons.
She helped the Wildcats earn a seed and the right to host the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament in her final season.