Equestrian Kicks off Spring on the Road
"This team is on fire," said head coach Casie Maxwell earlier this week. "We're definitely very ready to get back at it. It's hard to be off for so long, but the team has been back in practice for three weeks now and they're very ready to get back on the road and start being productive."
K-State is opening its spring season with a trip to Martin, Tennessee, and will take on No. 9 Georgia at 10 a.m., today and Tennessee-Martin at 10 a.m., tomorrow at the Ned McWherter Agricultural Pavilion.
No stranger to either team, K-State defeated Georgia, 13-7, at home and Tennessee-Martin, 10-8, on the road last year.
"Georgia has kind of the same roster. They didn't graduate a lot of people so they're a very experienced team; they've very good," explained Maxwell. "They were the Reserve National Champions last year, but they've bobbled this year. There's a lack in their consistency, so we're just trying to focus on the things that we need to focus on. We're definitely a team who can beat them, we just have to get our mentality right on the road.
"Then, UTM, they're at home, so I wouldn't drop our guard about going up against them," continued Maxwell. "They're preparing for two tough teams to come in this weekend, so I think they'll be well prepared."
The Wildcats went 5-4 during the fall season. The team opened the fall winning five-straight meets at home but finished on a four-match losing skid, all coming on the road.
Maxwell said while having five straight home meets was a confidence booster, having four-in-a-row on the road was difficult for the young team to adjust to.
"I think we learned a lot of things during the four road meets we had in November," said Maxwell. "They were a learning experience for us, and we definitely hit some bumps, but we've spent a lot of time talking about those. Now we're ready to go out and show what we learned."
With just five seniors and six juniors this year, the roster is filled with youth. Competing on the road is no easy task, especially for a young team like K-State, but Maxwell did say she saw improvement from her team with every road competition during the fall. She said the team has been working to carry that improvement over to the spring season, and that she's happy with the mindset of her 2014-15 team.
"I think the whole upperclassmen as a group, this group of seniors, they're very motivated," said Maxwell. "There's so few of them, so they have really banded together. The 11 of them have really become a tight-knit group and have brought the younger two-thirds of our team along. That's been really neat to see."
But it's not just the upperclassmen who have stepped up as team leaders.
"I also have to hand it to our sophomores because they have grown up fast," added Maxwell. "Having 20 freshmen coming in underneath them, they've just really shown a lot of leadership that we don't expect for another year or so. So overall, the whole group of returners is really close and that's brought the freshmen along quicker than we typically would have expected."
Excited for the spring season, the Wildcats have a blank slate ahead that they are eager to fill.
"This team has become really close as a unit and that's motivated everybody," concluded Maxwell. "They're acknowledging that we're heading into the championship part of our season, and they know what it's going to take. Every step that we take, every meet, is heading towards (the NCEA National Championship). We're not trying to get ahead of ourselves, but we are trying to be on a consistent path until April."
Following this weekend's matches, K-State will travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma, on February 7, to take on Oklahoma State before returning home for back-to-back meets against TCU (Feb. 20) and Baylor (Feb. 28).
For a complete look at the Wildcats' spring schedule, please click here.