The Kansas State volleyball team will look to tonight’s Sunflower Showdown as an opportunity to bounce back from a loss in the Big 12 opener over the weekend.
K-State will host rival Kansas tonight at 7 at Ahearn Field House, marking the 100th meeting between the two programs.
The Wildcats own the all-time advantage in the series, but an improving Jayhawks program swept the series with the Wildcats last year.
K-State (13-2, 0-1 Big 12), which dropped a four-set match at an improved West Virginia last Friday, returns home for its first home match in more than three weeks as the Cats prepare to face KU (11-3, 1-0 Big 12).
“We have motivation to bounce back,” K-State head coach Suzie Fritz said. “I think our goal right now is to just be the best volleyball team that we can possibly be — to continue to grow together and improve together.”
While deflecting the notion that facing their rival from Lawrence might be cause for any added motivation tonight, KSU senior libero Tristan McCarty said coming home again and taking advantage of the home crowd is the key, no matter the opponent.
“It’s harder when you’re in their environment, especially when it is like in Ahearn,” the Manhattan native said. “So, especially when we’re at home and we can use that to our best ability, why not? It’s crucial for us to be as comfortable as we an in our own place.”
Fritz said that playing at West Virginia on Friday rather than the customary Saturday gave K-State an important extra day this week, especially after such a long trip to east.
“We had a little extra time to regroup,” she said. “That’s time that we hadn’t really had — time for preparation, time for recovery and things like that.”
Kansas comes into the contest riding a seven-match winning streak, including a sweep over TCU in its Big 12 opener. The Jayhawks offer the most potent offensive attack in the conference thus far as they lead the Big 12 in kills (14.27 per set), hitting percentage (.262), and assists (13.35 per set), and will challenge the often defensive-minded Wildcats. K-State currently sits at No. 17 in the nation averaging 2.79 blocks per set.
“They’re good,” Fritz said. “Offensively, they’re very terminal. I think they’ve got good balance in their offense. They’re just good, they are playing extremely well. I think you can expect them to get after it, and we intend to do the same.”
The match-up between the front lines may prove pivotal as K-State senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger leads an experienced Wildcat line against a Jayhawk front that boasts the current Big 12 Offensive and Defensive Players of the week in sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery and senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc, respectively.
“They’re a good team,” McCarty said. “They’re getting better and better, but ultimately, it’s all on us. We control how we respond to whatever it is that comes our way.
The two teams do share one common opponent on the season. K-State swept Arkansas on the road on Sept. 20, while the Jayhawks split a pair of matches against the Razorbacks. KU lost in five games in Fayetteville, Ark., on Sept. 5, but came back to beat the Hogs two days later in five games in Lawrence.