Looking to add to tournament resume, volleyball returns to action for spring matches

Sophomore libero Dru Kuck dives to save the ball in K-State's 3-0 loss to No. 1 Texas at Bramlage Coliseum on Oct. 17, 2020. (Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

After exceeding preseason expectations in the fall — placing third in the Big 12 Conference — the volleyball team looks to continue its success in the spring portion of the season in hopes of boosting its NCAA Tournament resume.

Winning seven out of their last 10 matches, the Wildcats (10-6) third-place finish in the Big 12 was its highest conference finish since 2008. Kansas State ranked as high as No. 10 in the country during the fall season — but not all teams were ranked because of many conferences deciding not to play volleyball in the fall and instead push their regular seasons back to the spring because of COVID-19.

The Big 12 is one of only four conferences that played in the fall, next to the ACC, SEC and Sun Belt. The rest of the conferences began their volleyball seasons this spring as the regular season for spring matches will last from Jan. 22 to April 3.

After the regular season ends, selections for the NCAA Tournament will occur on April 4 to help create the 48-team bracket to be played out in Omaha, Nebraska, from April 13-24. There will be 30 automatic qualifiers via conference champions across the country and 18 at-large selections that will take into consideration both fall and spring seasons.

The Big 12 only allowed for conference matchups in the fall portion of the season, and with K-State finishing third in the Big 12 behind Baylor and conference champion Texas, the Wildcats have a lot of work to do through the spring non-conference schedule to earn one of the 18 at-large bids.

Opportunities are quickly fading away as the Wildcats were supposed to open the season with two matches against Wichita State in Manhattan on Feb. 25 and in Wichita on Feb. 27, but both were postponed because of a change in WSU’s conference schedule. Both teams will try to play both matches, but it will be later on in the season.

Youth continues to headline the team this spring — mainly team-kills leader freshman Aliyah Carter. Carter paced K-State with 228 kills (3.74 per set) in the fall. Junior Brynn Carlson was also a major offensive impact, tallying 143 kills.

Freshman Mackenzie Morris returns to the libero spot. Morris was the team leader in digs (256) and aces (22). Her 3.82 digs per set ranked fourth in the Big 12.

K-State opened up its spring season last night against Texas State and led the Sun Belt champions for two sets, but let the final three get away, falling 3-2. That was a tough start for a team that needs to get quality wins under its belt to get an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats will continue to play on the home court throughout the rest of the season against non-conference opponents. The Wildcats take on Saint Louis on March 14 and Creighton on March 20, before concluding their spring season with matches against Wayne State on March 27 and 28.