Cats look for split vs. Kansas

By Brady Bauman

The 17th-ranked Kansas State volleyball team left Lawrence disappointed last month.

Not only did the Wildcats lose to the rival Kansas Jayhawks in the Sunflower Showdown, but they lost a match that was easily within their grasp.

Tonight, K-State has a chance to make up for that loss as the Wildcats host the Jayhawks in Ahearn Field House at 7.

The Jayhawks defeated the Wildcats in four sets on Oct. 16 — marking the first win for KU over K-State at home since 2009. It was a tight match, to say the least. The Wildcats won the opening set in extra points 28-26, but lost the third set the same way with KU taking that set 28-26.

“We’re just excited to be back in our home gym,” said K-State senior Kathleen Ludwig, who led the Wildcats with 17 kills in the previous meeting. “Honestly, we’re just focused on ourselves. We’re excited for sure about our opponent, but we’re excited to just play well, get better at the things we need to get better at.”

Ludwig said the takeaway from the loss in Lawrence was the reminder of how competitive the Big 12 conference is in volleyball.

“At any point, anyone can have a great night and teams can beat other teams,” she said following Monday’s practice. “Everybody in this league is so competitive, and I think we knew that, but (the match with KU) was just proof of that.

“We need to play well all the time, and we need to play well in overtime, and not try and do all these huge, wonderful plays. We just need to do what we do, stay in our system and play good volleyball. That’s just what we’re trying to do this time, when we are playing everyone a second time.”

K-State (20-4, 7-4 Big 12) has gone 3-1 since losing to the Jayhawks with wins against Texas Tech, at West Virginia and Baylor.

The most recent loss came in a sweep at then-No. 7 Texas last Friday. The Longhorns, who lead the Big 12, moved up this week to No. 3 in the country.

The Jayhawks (20-5, 8-3) are 2-2 since the K-State win. KU followed the victory with another home win against TCU, but fell at Iowa State. The Jayhawks then returned to Lawrence with a sweep of West Virginia, but fell again Saturday to Baylor in Waco.

“It’s just another match,” K-State head coach Suzie Fritz said. “That’s how we’re approaching it. We’re trying to win as many of them as we can win, including this one, so I think the opportunity to be at home certainly makes us feel more comfortable, being able to get in our own environment and do what we do in our own place. I think the preparation remains the same.”

Fritz said the loss in Lawrence isn’t a sore spot for her team.

“I didn’t think we gave our best effort and we were disappointed with how we played, more than anything else,” she said. “But, in general, our weaknesses are our weaknesses. What you are tying to do is to get to the point with your team that your weaknesses don’t lose matches for you — that you can be strong enough in other areas, potentially, or strengthen your weaknesses to the point where they aren’t things that can get away from you during the course of a match.

“We continue to develop that, but I certainly think we are capable of playing better than we did the first time.”

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