Volleyball team swept by KU, still clinches NCAA Tournament spot

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The Wildcats celebrate a point in K-State's 3-0 loss to West Virginia on Oct. 15, 2021 at Bramlage Coliseum. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

It was a big weekend for the Kansas State volleyball team. Not only were the Wildcats playing their in-state rivals — the Kansas Jayhawks — but K-State was also playing for a potential shot at the NCAA Tournament.

Going into the weekend’s matches at 15-10 overall and just 6-8 in the Big 12 Conference, it was tough to say whether or not the Wildcats had a spot set in stone in the tournament no matter the result over the weekend — but a win in the Sunflower Showdown wouldn’t hurt.

Instead of going into Sunday’s NCAA Selection Show with confidence, the Wildcats would be biting their fingernails as the names of each team were read off one by one on Sunday night. K-State struggled against the Jayhawks (16-11, 8-8 Big 12) on Friday and Saturday, falling to the in-state rivals 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 23-25, 14-25) on Friday night, and 3-2 (25-21, 25-20, 16-25, 21-25, 12-15) on Saturday night.

The two losses dropped K-State to 15-12 on the year and 6-10 in the Big 12 while also moving the Wildcats to seventh place in the conference. The losses also finalized a 1-5 finish to the season, with the only victory in November coming against Iowa State on Nov. 13.

Simply put, things looked bleak for K-State heading into Sunday’s selection show.

“We had an opportunity to kind of have it in our control, and now I think it’ll just be up to how they judge your resume and the teams, what it looks like and what’s around us, and we will clearly be a bubble team going into it,” head coach Suzie Fritz said on the team’s tournament chances after Saturday’s loss. “I personally believe that we’re an NCAA tournament team.”

Fortunately for the Wildcats, the committee favored K-State over some of the other teams on the bubble, calling K-State’s name among the final four teams in the field of 64. The Wildcats will travel to Lincoln, Nebraska, to take on the Florida State Seminoles (19-9, 11-7 ACC) at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

One reason for K-State being selected despite its finish to the season is because of the team’s strength of schedule and RPI. The Big 12 is the No. 1 RPI conference, while K-State was playing a top-30 schedule in the nation that included eight teams selected to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

“It feels good, this one feels about as good as any,” Fritz said after Sunday’s Selection Show. “It’s been a very difficult six-game stretch for us. We didn’t feel like we were playing poorly, we were playing really capable opponents, and we didn’t finish the conference season like we wanted to finish the conference season. So, we were nervous about it.

The selection into the field of 64 is K-State’s 18th all-time selection and the first since 2016 when K-State was the No. 14 overall seed and hosted the first two rounds at Bramlage Coliseum. K-State and Florida State last met in 2010 when the Seminoles defeated the Wildcats 3-2 in the UK Invitational in Lexington, Kentucky.

K-State holds a 2-1 series lead over the three times the Seminoles and Wildcats have met.

K-State will have to learn from its mistakes against KU, such as getting into a massive hole early, or not finishing a match after taking a large lead – both happening against the Jayhawks on Friday and Saturday. As always, the strong play of sophomore Aliyah Carter will have to continue into the tournament for the Wildcats to have a chance at making a run.

Broadcast information has yet to be released for the 4:30 p.m. match with Florida State on Friday afternoon at the Devaney Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Hey! I’m Cameron Bradley and I am the sports editor for the Collegian! I am a junior from Wichita, Kansas, and I am majoring in journalism. When I’m not working for the Collegian, I’m creating content and putting on broadcasts with K-StateHD.TV. I am also currently a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. I love sports, spending time with friends, family and doing everything that I do for the glory of God!