SE: New Life: K-State Volleyball Heads to NCAA Tournament

The K-State volleyball team was in for a surprise on Sunday evening. 

With a regular-season ending loss to Baylor last Saturday, the team was uncertain if it was on its way to the postseason, but sure enough, “K-State” popped up on the screen during Sunday evening’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show.

The team was elated. 

“We were not expecting to make it in,” said All-Big 12 Second Team recipient Katie Reininger. “There was a slim, little sliver of hope, so when we saw our names on the screen it took us a second to realize that was us - that we were in the tournament, in a good spot in the tournament. There were a few seconds of absolute silence before we started clapping. We’re all really thrilled.”

K-State (17-11, 9-7 Big 12) opens NCAA Tournament play with a matchup against Wichita State (26-8, 15-3 MVC) tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 p.m., in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Wildcats and the Shockers are among four teams at the Lincoln sub-regional, as they are joined by No. 4 national seed Nebraska and first-time tournament participant Harvard. The two winners from Friday will face off in the second round on Saturday at 7 p.m.
 
“I think there was some uncertainty,” said K-State head coach Suzie Fritz after Tuesday afternoon’s practice. “We felt as though with a Baylor win we were in and with a Baylor loss, we were putting ourselves at the mercy of the selection committee. So we knew we were going to be right on the edge of it, in or out. It turned out, based on RPI and some different factors, as it came out we weren’t one of the last teams in.”

With the opportunity to continue the season after believing it was all but over, K-State has a good mindset going into this year’s tournament. 

The team has nothing to lose but everything to gain. They’re thankful for the opportunity and playing with a newfound energy. 

“We have this new life in us; we’ve noticed it in practice the last few days,” said All-Big 12 First team recipient Katie Brand. “We talked about how all 64 teams left now are all 0-0. Nobody has lost. Nobody has won. It doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past. It’s a whole new season.”

Tomorrow evening’s appearance in the NCAA Tournament will mark the 16th in the history of K-State volleyball and will be the fourth trip to the tournament in the past five years.

The game is taking place at Lincoln’s Devaney Center, an environment K-State volleyball is quite familiar with as the Wildcats will open postseason play in the arena for the second straight year. K-State has made all of its last four tournament-opening trips to Lincoln, with 2011 and 2012 being played in the Nebraska Coliseum.

“I love going back to Nebraska,” said Brand, a native of Grand Island. “Last year we went there, my [true] freshman year we went back there [in 2012], so obviously we have a history of going there for the NCAA Tournament, and I’m excited for it. I’m excited to see all my family, and I think we can pull some fans there and have a good fan base.”

Added Fritz about playing in the Devaney Center, “It is one of the premier volleyball venues in the country. It’s a wonderful place to play. Great fans, great atmosphere, great facility, so I think it’s an exciting opportunity for us.”

This year’s Wildcat volleyball team finished tied for fourth with TCU in the Big 12 Conference, behind fellow tournament participants Iowa State, KU and Texas. Despite playing in such a tough league, the Wildcats had five players garner All-Big 12 honors with Brand earning her second-career first team honor, Reininger and Brooke Sassin being named to the second team, and Alyssa Schultejans and Macy Flowers picking up all-freshman honors. 

A roster filled with youth and no seniors, playing in the NCAA Tournament is a big opportunity for this year’s young Wildcat team. 

“I think it’s a really great experience,” said Schultejans, one of seven freshmen on the Wildcats. “We get to play with the best, with the top 64 teams. It’s a really great experience for anyone, but especially coming in as a freshman to be surrounded with that competition is going to make me a better player and make us a better team.”

It’s a new season for the Wildcat volleyball team, and with a blank slate ahead, anything is possible. 

“Coach Fritz said we should be really appreciative of this second chance; that we can do well,” said Reininger. “We’re starting over from scratch, and we are a team that’s going to fight, go out there and do great.” 

Tomorrow’s match can be heard on News Radio KMAN (93.3 FM/1350 AM) as well as streamed online. For watch and listen links, head to www.k-statesports.com.

For game notes, stats and more information on this weekend, please click here.

 

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