By Mark Janssen
Kansas State volleyball coach Suzie Fritz knew that it would be a season of "challenges," and it was just that.
The Wildcats won just 12 of 31 matches, which included a 6-14 record in Big 12 play with a roster that included just two seniors, no juniors and 15 underclassmen.
K-State opened the volleyball year with a 5-5 non-conference record. It was an early point in the season where Fritz said, "We actually thought we were further along than anticipated with such a young team. That probably led us to set higher expectations as to what this team could do."
The Wildcats opened the Big 12 season with wins over Kansas and Texas Tech, and closed the year with league victories over Kansas and Colorado. But in between the Wildcats won just two of 14 matches, which included a 1-8 month of October.
"The Big 12 is a very competitive conference and it didn't take long to figure out that our lack of experience was going to put us at a major disadvantage with the other teams in the league," said Fritz.
K-State lost six straight league matches 3-0 in October when Fritz admitted, "Not only were we losing, but we were not playing very well. There were some winnable matches where we just didn't take advantage of the opportunities."
"I wouldn't say that any of us were shocked with what happened because they hadn't been there before," said Fritz. "Until you've done it, until you've been there, until you've seen it, you don't know what to expect."
But when the calendar flipped to November, the Wildcats went 3-4 and won 12 out of 29 games.
"The wins over Kansas and Texas Tech at the end were significant," said Fritz. "What really stood out was through the second round of conference play we were a better team and we were putting up better numbers. You could see that we were a better team through the film even though we weren't winning all the matches. We feel strongly that we made improvement, but we are not where we want to be as a program, or as a team."
On the one missing component with her 2010 team, Fritz said, "We weren't terminal enough. We didn't kill enough balls. When you're playing teams of this caliber, you have to take more risks and end rallies sooner. That was probably the area where we struggled the most."
With that in mind, Fritz says the highest recruiting priority in filling two available scholarships will be replacing Lauren Mathewson at Libero, plus JuliAnne Chisholm as an outside hitter.
"We need to continue to recruit better athletes, which includes players who can play higher and hit harder," said Fritz.
Including current redshirt freshmen middle blocker Taylor Johnson and outside hitter Chelsea Keating, next year's roster makeup could include up to four freshmen, eight sophomores, five juniors and no seniors.
"We'll have more experience, but we'll still have a bunch of young ones," Fritz said of her potential 2011 roster.