Kansas State will have to wait three more days to try to end the worst kind of trend.
K-State fell in straight sets to Oklahoma Wednesday night, 3-0 (20-25, 14-25, 17-25), to extend what is now a four-match losing streak that dates back to Nov. 9.
The Wildcats have lost six of their last seven matches.
“We’ve got to be more offensively productive,” K-State coach Suzie Fritz said.
Some of K-State’s problems came on offense, like they often have this season. The Wildcats’ leading scorer was sophomore Gloria Mutiri, who carded 10 kills in what Fritz called one of her best games this season.
Next in line: Sophomore Brynn Carlson, with seven.
That wasn’t enough to fend off Oklahoma, which hit a blistering .298 in the win. That easily outpaced K-State’s .119 figure.
The Wildcats (8-18, 3-11 Big 12) haven’t always struggled to find offensive production this year.
Actually, K-State entered Wednesday night ranked fifth in the Big 12 in that department, hitting .220 as a team. Freshman outside hitter Anna Dixon continues to come along, and opposite hitter Mutiri has pieced together an encouraging sophomore campaign.
Problem is, when the Wildcats need to generate kills at key moments, the team trends in the wrong direction.
That reality serves a couple purposes: It’s a good place to start in explaining the forgettable season K-State has produced to this point, and it’s a better way of examining the Wildcats’ loss Wednesday night.
Dixon recorded just six kills and swung .250, but Mutiri logged 10 kills and hit a sizzling .533.
“Gloria was tremendous when we could get the ball to her,” Fritz said, and Mutiri’s nascent development represents a brighter future for their team.
Her teammates just weren’t able to carry the rest of the load against Oklahoma (17-8, 9-5).
“Some of it, you’ve got to give credit to your opponent,” Fritz said. “They’re pretty good at the net, and maybe even better behind it. They are (second) in our conference in opponent attack efficiency. They make it very difficult to kill the ball. They’re good at the net. They’re good in the back row. They’re pretty tenacious defensively.”
In fairness, and speaking statistically: Oklahoma entered this match with the second-best defense in the conference, second only to No. 3 Baylor, and it’s hard to be better than Baylor on most any front.
The Sooners played like it Wednesday night. Their defense came to a head in Set 2, when K-State managed just a negative-.033 mark on swings.
Made things even harder on the Wildcats.
“I wasn’t necessarily under the impression that we would have an off-the-charts offensive night,” Fritz said. “But we needed to temper that with them not hitting .298. So somewhere in there, there’s got to be a balance between us being more offensively productive, but truly, we’ve got to point-score at a better level.”
K-State fell behind early.
The Wildcats dropped a 25-20 decision in Set 1, and even though they won five of six points during one crucial stretch, the Sooners responded with a 3-0 run. That gave the visitors a 22-17 lead in the set, and they never looked back.
The Wildcats already were in a 1-0 hole, a combination of occasionally porous defense and mostly inefficient offense to blame.
Not much changed in the next set. Oklahoma raced to a 10-4 lead, and after K-State battled back with a four-point run to pull within one, the Sooners closed out the set on a 7-0 run.
Oklahoma took the set 25-14, and the Sooners had all the momentum.
In the third game, K-State kept things close early. A kill from Dixon gave the Wildcats an 8-6 lead, even. But Oklahoma used another run, this one of the 7-1 variety, to pull away.
That was the nail in the coffin for K-State.
The road forward for the Wildcats doesn’t get much easier.
Next up for K-State: a home contest against 21-1 Baylor Saturday afternoon.
That’s a daunting task for any team, but for now, Fritz is taking a myopic approach.
One day at a time.
“I don’t know if it’s about confidence. It’s about execution,” Fritz said. “Our whole thing right now is focusing on the process of improvement, and just trying to get a little bit better every day. I think if you do that, the results will start to happen for you. That’s still where we’re at.”