K-State's Season Ends with Four-Set Loss to Wichita State




17-12 (9-7 Big 12)

27-8 (15-3 MVC)

Brooke Sassin: 18 kills, 14 digs, 1 ace
Kersten Kober: 24 digs
Katie Reininger: 8 kills, 5 blocks

Abbie Lehman: 20 kills, .500%, 4 blocks
Katie Reilly: 15 kills, .333%, 6 digs
Dani Mostrom: 23 digs

TEAM 1 2 3 4 5
K-State 22 25 18 20 --
Wichita State 25 17 25 25 --

LINCOLN, Neb. – K-State had its season come to a close on Friday as the Wildcats could not slow down a Wichita State offense that hit .400 or higher in the last two sets and lost to the Shockers, 3-1 (25-22, 17-25, 25-18, 25-20), in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Devaney Center.

K-State (17-12), playing in its fourth NCAA Tournament over the last five years, overcame a first-set loss to the Shockers (27-8) by winning the second behind a stout defense, which limited them to a .044 clip. However, Wichita State had 19 and 23 kills in the third and fourth sets, respectively, to snap K-State’s nine-match winning streak against the Shockers.

For the match, K-State was out-hit by Wichita State, .282-.238. It was the fourth straight match in which the Wildcats were out-hit.

“We didn’t handle first contact well enough to be a great offensive team,” said K-State head coach Suzie Fritz. “We probably could have survived at a .250 [offensive] effort had we been able to slow them down a little bit. We didn’t ball handle well enough to be a high-efficiency team. We didn’t dig well enough, we didn’t pass well enough. So, in turn, you have to be better on the other side. You have score points faster when you’re serving, blocking, and I didn’t think we were on task – didn’t do a good job of holding them down.”

While Wichita State had four attackers with double-digit kills, junior Brooke Sassin was the only Wildcat in double-figures as she had 18 on 54 swings (.222 attack percentage). The outside hitter also had 14 digs to record her career-best 16th double-double of the year.

K-State finished the match with 82 digs, led by junior Kersten Kober who had 24. The effort, her ninth match this season with 20 or more digs, helped her finish the season with 500 digs, the most by a Wildcat since 2010.

Redshirt junior Katie Brand had 12 digs along with 45 assists to register her 20th double-double to match her career-high. The setter also added five kills, an ace and a block.

The Wildcats did out-block the Shockers, 9.0-4.0, with five of their blocks coming over the first two sets. Redshirt junior Katie Reininger had a match-high five stuffs as well as eight kills. 

K-State trailed for much of the first, down by as much as 17-12, but it managed to tie the score at 21-all after a kill by Brand, block by Macy Flowers, and kill by Sassin allowed the Wildcats to score three straight points. Wichita State, however, notched four of the last five points in the set, helped by three kills by Abbie Lehman, who finished the night with a match-high 20.

The second was knotted up at the 13-13 mark, but K-State went on to score 12 of the final 17 points to even the match. A kill by Sassin allowed the Wildcats to side out at the 13-13 point, but six Wichita State attack errors, including two on Wildcat blocks, helped K-State pull away. Over the burst, four different Wildcats recorded a kill, including two apiece from Sassin and Reininger.

“We talked a lot about serving and passing, and in that second set, we out-served them and out-passed them,” said Brand. “Throughout the match, that’s where it kind of got away from us. In the second set, we had that under control, getting them out of system.”

After never leading in the third and allowing the Shockers to .436, K-State kept it close in the fourth up to the 17-15 mark. A double block by Zsofia Gyimes and Alyssa Schultejans brought the Wildcats within two, but back-to-back kills by Wichita State helped the Shockers reestablish a four-point lead, 19-15. K-State was only able to close it to three on four different occasions thereafter, but kills by Katie Reilly made it 24-19 and 25-20 to close out the match.

K-State only had one attacking error in the fourth, hitting .326, but the Shockers had 28 of their 85 digs from the match during the set. The Wildcats used 46 swings to notch their 16 kills.

“They knew, a lot of the time, where the ball was going to go,” said Sassin. “They played kind of with a chip on their shoulder - that they were going to go for everything.”

Despite losing in the first round, K-State, which has no seniors on this year’s roster, still came away with its 16th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament and a fourth-place finish in the Big 12.

“I think progress,” said Fritz about her biggest takeaway from the season. “There were times that this young team was really coming together. But there are some inconsistencies there for us, and we’re hopeful we can grow out of those inconsistencies.”

Kersten Kober is just the fourth Wildcat in program history to have 500 digs in a season. The last to do so was Lauren Mathewson (540) in 2010. Kober’s 500 digs are the seventh-most in a single campaign in school history while her average of 4.67 digs per set is the fifth-best clip.

Kober also moved up K-State’s career digs list as she is now eighth with 1,126.

With 20 double-doubles this season and last year, Katie Brand now holds or a share of the K-State record for most double-doubles by a sophomore and junior. The setter has 51 career double-doubles, the third-most in school history.

The loss dropped the Wildcats to 14-16 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 11-5 in the first round.