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K-State ready for Longhorns

By Brady Bauman

Although history goes against the Kansas State volleyball team as it travels to Austin to face the Texas Longhorns Friday night at 7, the Wildcats feel ready to take on a team they haven’t defeated on the road since 2001.

“I feel good,” K-State head coach Suzie Fritz said Wednesday. “We’ve had two really good days of practice. The bye weeks are really great for us. They give us, not only opportunities to rest, but continued opportunities to work and we find very few opportunities to work. We spend a great deal of time preparing for opponents and trying to get ready for the next match.

“When we have a couple of days we can just focus on us.”

The 16th-ranked Wildcats go against No. 7 Texas, which swept K-State 3-0 in Ahearn Field House last month. Still, the Wildcats played with the Longhorns and nearly won the second game, resulting in a 30-28 win for UT.

“We learned that we could definitely play with them,” senior setter Caitlyn Donahue said. “I think on our side of the net, specifically, we need to be more terminal in first swing and if we do get into transition battles, we need to be more terminal there, too.

“I definitely think this a team we can play with. (Texas) is very good… they are tremendous athletes. But I think if we do some things better on our side, we have a chance.”

K-State (20-3, 7-3 Big 12) is fresh off three straight wins and currently sit in a third-place tie with Iowa State in the conference. The Wildcats won in five sets against Texas Tech and then went on the road against West Virginia to capture their 15th sweep of the season. Most recently, K-State defeated Baylor in four sets Saturday night in Ahearn where senior opposite Kathleen Ludwig led the Cats with 15 kills.

Texas (18-3, 10-0) leads the Big 12 and haven’t lost a match since Sept. 14th, when it fell to Illinois in five games. The last three wins for the Longhorns have came against Iowa State in five sets, Baylor in four sets, and most recently on the road against Oklahoma in a sweep.

“We feel pretty good,” Donahue said. “We’ve had a nice little winning streak and our confidence is high. We’ve had two really good practices and we’re really excited for the opportunity to play them. It’s always a tough place to play at, in Texas… they have great fans and a great atmosphere.”

Donahue said she feels her team has progressed since the last time the Wildcats took on the Longhorns.

“I think all teams make improvement from the first half of the Big 12 season to the second half of it,” she said. “I’d say we’ve made some improvements. I think we’ve figured some things out, especially on our side of the net, so, we’ll see.”

Fritz said playing in the Gregory Gymnasium — which has a capacity of 4,400 — will be an electric floor to play on, but said it’s a situation K-State is familiar with. The Big 12 is a very strong volleyball conference and, after all, Ahearn Field House has a similar reputation.

“I think they are ready for it because they play in it all the time,” Fritz said. “We don’t go very many places on the road where it’s easy to play. That’s just the way it is. You have to take care of your 900-square-feet. I say the same thing over and over.

“But playing in an exciting environment with lots of people celebrating volleyball — even if it’s not necessary for you — is great. It’s great for volleyball and great for us. I think they get excited to play in an electric environment.”

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