Wildcats looking for first Big 12 win

By Brady Bauman

The 15th-ranked Kansas State volleyball team will welcome West Virginia to Ahearn Field House Thursday night at 7 p.m.

It will be the first time the Mountaineers will have played any major K-State team as a Big 12 member.

The Wildcats go into Thursday’s matchup with a 13-1 record and are coming off a week that saw its share of ups and downs. K-State suffered its first loss of the season in a three-set sweep to Oklahoma in Norman last Wednesday, and then came back Saturday to sweep Nebraska-Omaha.

“They are new to the conference and we don’t know too much about them,” K-State head coach Suzie Fritz said after Monday’s practice.

“But, we have an open film exchange in the league, and we’re learning what they’ve doing and day by day we know a little bit more.”

Fritz said there were lessons learned from last week.

“You learn with every opportunity, whether it’s winning or losing, and sometimes losing makes you learn faster,” she said. “We’re trying to get our out-of-system plan in place and we need to continue to tighten up our transition game. We felt like Oklahoma exposed some things in our passing game a little bit that we need to try to solve, and we need to get better at defending the right side attack.

“Right now, those are kind of our priorities.”

West Virginia comes to Manhattan 8-7 and 0-2 in Big 12 play. The Mountaineers most recently lost to TCU in five sets. WVU’s other Big 12 loss was a 3-0 sweep earlier in the season to Texas.

The Mountaineers are a young team. Freshman outside hitter Hannah Sackett leads the team in kills with 152 and Brittany Sample — another freshman — is the team’s setter.

Overall, there are seven freshmen on the roster, along with one sophomore, three juniors and just one senior.

K-State senior opposite Kathleen Ludwig, who is third on the team with 82 kills, said she is ready for Thursday night.

“We’re just excited to continue conference play, regardless of who it is,” Ludwig said. “But we’re excited. Both West Virginia and TCU are both really good programs and know that all the Big 12 teams have great teams and it can win any night.

“We understand that it’s our job to do what we do, and come in here and play the way we know we can in our own environment.”

Ludwig said Saturday’s bounceback against Nebraska-Omaha was important the team regaining its confidence.

“It was big-time,” she said. “To be out and to compete, and to feel like we were back in our groove and feeling like ourselves again — that was very big.  I think it would have been very difficult to wait a week, or over a week, to play West Virginia and not have that Saturday match, so it was good.

“We all got an opportunity to get out there and to contribute, and to feel in rhythm again and get back home.”

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