K-State Volleyball Opens 2016 Season with Official Practices

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The K-State volleyball team, coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, officially started its 2016 campaign today with the first team practices.

Over the next two weeks, the Wildcats will take part in 12 days of practice before departing for its season-opening trip to Hawaii for the Wahine Invitational in Honolulu. K-State takes on fellow 2016 NCAA Tournament participants Arizona, Hawaii and Wisconsin from August 26-28.

The Wildcats, led by 16th-year head coach Suzie Fritz, return 11 letterwinners from last year’s team that recorded its highest finish in the Big 12 standings (T-4th) in four years. Among the double-digit returners are four seniors: Katie Brand, Kersten Kober, Katie Reininger and Brooke Sassin.

A two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-America Honorable Mention and All-Big 12 First Team selection, Brand will lead the team from the setter position. The Grand Island, Nebraska native is coming off a campaign in which she had career-highs in assists/set (11.10), digs (332), kills (133) and points (188.5). Brand also competed with the USA Volleyball Collegiate National Team in China this past summer.

Sassin was named All-Big 12 Second Team last year after ranking fourth in the Big 12 in kills (3.52) and points (3.92) per set. The San Antonio, Texas native turned in the first Double-300 season (378 kills, 324 digs) by a K-State outside hitter since 1999 as she played six rotations for the first time in her career.

Kober, the 2015 Big 12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year, had a personal-best 500 digs last season along with 12 aces. The Southlake, Texas product finished third in digs per set with 5.16 in Big 12-only matches and fourth in overall contests. She enters the upcoming campaign as the Big 12’s active leader in career digs.

An all-region honorable mention in 2014 and All-Big 12 Second Team selection last season, Reininger returns to the middle blocker role after tallying a career-high 271 kills in 2015. The Colorado Springs, Colorado native also led the Wildcats in blocks with 106 and was second in kills.

Other returners include All-Big 12 Freshman Team honorees Macy Flowers and Alyssa Schultejans; opposite Bryna Vogel, who had a breakout year in 2015; defensive specialists Mattie Batchelder and Devan Fairfield; middle blocker Zsofia Gyimes; and outside hitter Kylee Zumach, the 2014 Big 12 Freshman of the Year and All-America Honorable Mention who had her 2015 season cut short due to injury in the first weekend.

The Wildcats return all six of their starters and libero for the first time since 2012, a team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

Joining the 11 returners are six newcomers, a group that includes sophomores Cheyenne Hooper (former K-State women’s basketball player) and Sarah Dixon (transfer from Arizona) as well as freshmen Elle Sandbothe (middle blocker), Maureen Schick (defensive specialist), Rachel Stark (outside hitter) and Peyton Williams (middle blocker).

After the first three matches in Hawaii, the Wildcats open their home schedule and a stretch of seven consecutive matches at home with the K-State Invitational September 2-3. The home opener is slated for September 2 against Michigan, who reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year.

K-State’s home slate also features Tennessee State, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Miami, Loyola, Creighton and the eight other Big 12 teams.

Season tickets for all 15 home matches are available now and can be purchased by visiting www.kstatesports.com/tickets, calling 1-800-221-CATS (2287), or stopping by the K-State Athletics Ticket Office in Bramlage Coliseum. Single-match tickets for the entire home campaign are also available.