NCAA Volleyball: Kansas State vs Texas Tech

Kansas State opposite hitter Gloria Mutiri goes up for a block during the match against Texas Tech at Ahearn Field House last November.

Suzie Fritz didn’t think her Kansas State squad played its best volleyball Saturday night.

The good news for the Wildcats was that they still played well enough to win.

K-State dispatched Central Arkansas, 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-15), completing a 3-0 K-State Invitational over the weekend at Bramlage Coliseum.

“I thought we were a little flat,” Fritz said. “We got better as we went, which was kind of a hallmark of the weekend, I think, for us. As the matches got longer, we got better, which I think is, in the long run, a pretty good sign for us.”

On the offensive front, K-State (4-2) was led by outside hitter Brynn Carlson and middle blocker Peyton Williams, who registered 17 kills each, and opposite hitter Gloria Mutiri, who added 11.

That isn’t a coincidence, either.

“We call them our three-headed monster,” Fritz said. “Those three, they are the most experienced. They have the capacity to generate kill production. They are in the rotation all opposite of each other — they’re in a triangle in the rotation. So at any point, we’ve got one — and sometimes two of them — available in the front row.”

In part, the trio helped the Wildcats avoid a fifth set for the first time all weekend. On Friday, K-State dug itself out of a 2-0 match hole and knocked off Clemson, 3-2. A day later, the Wildcats alternated sets with Omaha to another 3-2 win.

K-State was able to avoid a fifth game on Saturday night, but even so, Fritz said she doesn’t think of matches through the lens of how long they go.

“We don’t really think about how many games (we play),” Fritz said. “We just try to put them in a position to try to win the one they’re in. The hard part about being in a fifth game is that it’s a little bit of a coin flip. There’s only so many points there, so you’ve got to really get off to a great start, or it’s going to get away from you in a hurry.”

Another reason why K-State, which hit .300 in the victory, was able to win in four sets on Saturday: Sarah Dixon, the team’s starting setter whose five-match double-double streak ended — but just barely.

The senior logged 44 assists and nine digs.

Aside from her on-court production, though, Fritz noted she brings other qualities to a team lacking in the experience department.

A look at the Wildcats who played Saturday night reveals that much: freshmen Anna Dixon, Loren Hinkle, Teana Adams-Kaonahi and Dru Kuck all saw the floor on Saturday.

Add the rest of the underclassmen to that list — Mutiri, Megan Vernon, Holle Bonde, Jacque Smith, Kenzie Smith and Abigail Archibong — and you’ll begin to understand how young this team really is.

“Stability, consistency, leadership — those are probably the first things that come to mind,” Fritz said of Dixon. “She’s very reliable. You have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to get from her every night. She’s been very, very selfless with a young team in regards to being patient with them and allowing them to grow up. She’s doing a lot of things right.”

In any case, the Wildcats have now won three straight, the team’s most in nearly a calendar year.

K-State’s road ahead won’t be at home, and it won’t get much easier — the club will head to Missouri State on Thursday to kick off a three-match MSU Invitational — but the momentum from winning doesn’t hurt the WIldcats.

“Our first-swing offense, I thought, was relatively productive,” Fritz said. “We hit well over .300 in that one, a little bit of which I think is positive. Our hitting efficiency is fine. We’re having a little bit of trouble getting stops in transition, and that’s where I think we’ve got to spend some time this week.”

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