‘It’s about productivity’: No. 1 Texas sweeps K-State in series finale

Freshmen outside hitter Jayden Nembhard spikes the ball as Texas players attempt to defend at the game at Bramlege Coliseum on Oct. 17, 2020. The Wildcats lost to the No. 1 ranked Texas 3-0 in the second game of the series. (Dalton Wainscott I Collegian Media Group).

A day after nearly knocking off the top team in the nation, the Kansas State volleyball team could not get anything working.

On Friday, No. 13 K-State took No. 1 Texas to the brink in a five-set match that had head coach Suzie Fritz seeing her players grow up in front of her eyes at times. Players were confident and things looked bright for Saturday’s rematch.

However, Saturday would be completely different. The Longhorns came out on fire and would not look back, dominating the match 25-15, 25-16, 25-16.

The Wildcats did show signs of life in the third set, but Fritz felt like a lack of consistent productivity sealed their fate.

“It’s about productivity, your ability to be efficient,” Fritz said. “You’ve got to do that for long stretches of time. We got out to a decent start, but to be honest, we didn’t execute terribly well on our side of the net.”

For Fritz, she felt like her team didn’t execute as well on their first contacts from serve-pass compared to the day before. She also thought the offensive side of the net lacked productivity, leading to the loss.

“I didn’t feel like our first contact, in terms of serve-pass, was quite as strong as last night — that was a distinguishable difference,” she said. “When you look at the differential, when they hit .383 and we hit [.130], then we’re in trouble. It’s just about closing those gaps for us. There’s nothing fancy we need to change.”

Even with the two losses, junior Brynn Carlson sees positive takeaways. She believes that her team raised some eyebrows this weekend with their performance and sees this as a confidence booster moving forward.

“Obviously everyone knows Texas is a very talented team, they’ve earned that number one spot, but I also think we’ve earned that number 13 ranking,” Carlson said. “Being able to play along with them shows that age isn’t really important, it’s about how you perform. I am really proud of how we have performed. We don’t let our age hold us back.”

On Saturday, the Wildcats got a boost from freshmen Jayden Nembhard and Kadye Fernholz as they stepped up into productive roles. Nembhard came into the match late and made an immediate impact, tallying a team-high seven kills for the night. Fernholz added six kills of her own.

Fritz is pleased with her team’s depth, especially with her hitters.

“At that position, I feel really good,” she said. “I think depending on the match, we’ve gotten tremendous things out of our hitters.”

With the loss, K-State moves to 3-3 on the season and will have a quick turnaround for a Thursday night match with Oklahoma. For Carlson, she believes the team will be ready.

“I think this will carry over and it’ll transfer to next week against Oklahoma, we’ll be confident,” Carlson said. “Just to go out and get two wins is the plan.”

Thursday’s match against the Sooners is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum. It will be broadcasted on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.