SE: Sunflower Showdown Awaits K-State

September 23, 2015
By Kelly McHugh-Stewart
Tonight will be an exciting one for the Wildcat volleyball squad. 
Not only is the team kicking off its Big 12 season, but the Wildcats are also beginning their conference season with a trip down I-70 for the Sunflower Showdown. 
K-State (8-4) opens its Big 12 slate tonight in Lawrence, to take on the undefeated No. 15 Kansas Jayhawks (12-0) at 6:30 p.m., in the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. 
“I grew up a K-State fan. I’ve been a K-State fan my whole life, so I know that this is a big rivalry; it’s huge,” said K-State sophomore outside hitter Bryna Vogel, a Wichita native who was raised in Clearwater. “KU and K-State have always been a rival, so any time we get the chance to play them, everyone gets really into it... Everyone goes all out. It’s always a great game between the two of us.”
Tonight’s match marks the 111th all-time meeting between K-State and KU, and the Wildcats hold the lead in the series, going 63-46-1 since their first match in 1974.
Always a close competition, K-State and KU split the Sunflower Showdown season series in 2014 with the Wildcats winning in Lawrence and the Jayhawks taking the win at Ahearn Field House. 
As a matter of fact, eight of the last 10 meetings between K-State and KU have required four or more sets, showing both sides will show up ready to compete and not make it easy for the other side.
“I think being that it’s a rivalry game, it’s obviously going to have a lot of hype and it’s going to be a game we’re going to show up to compete at,” explained junior outside hitter Brook Sassin. “But I think we need to have that mentality for every match at this point, and especially (tonight) because this is our first Big 12 match. We really need to show up and play our game.”
While it may be a night with some added hype, for Wildcat head coach Suzie Fritz, every match has equal importance; a message she has relayed to her team. 
“To me it’s just the next match,” Fritz said. “Kansas is a very good team. They’re very capable, and they’re probably as good of a Kansas team as I have seen since I’ve been here, and I’ve been here a while. They’re very, very good, but I like to think we’re very good. There is an excitement simply because it’s the next match, but I don’t want to approach it differently and I don’t want our team to approach it differently.”
While Kansas enters tonight off to its best start in program history, K-State arrives in Lawrence coming off three consecutive losses. Despite a solid start to the non-conference season, the Wildcats fell to No. 11 Wisconsin (3-1), Arkansas (3-2) and Creighton (3-2) this past weekend at the Creighton Classic and are now ready to put the past behind them. 
“They’re coming off the weekend a little bit frustrated,” said Fritz about the Cats. “They want more, and I think that’s a good thing. Down the road, that’s going to help us a lot. They didn’t like going 0-3, and I like that about them.”
With its non-conference schedule in the past and Big 12 play fresh on its mind, K-State is ready to begin this next chapter of the 2015 season on a high note. 
“Our last tournament, there were a lot of good teams in it, a lot of tough competition. We fought really hard, we matched up with those teams well, it just didn’t go our way,” said Sassin. “It’s been a quick turnaround – we had Monday off and just one practice before (the KU match) – but we’re focusing on the Big 12, on KU. We want to start the Big 12 off with a bang.”
For game notes, television/radio listings and more information on tonight’s Sunflower Showdown, please click here
It’s another competitive year for volleyball in the Big 12 Conference.
While No. 2 Texas (10-1) may lead the Big 12 and rank highly in the national polls, Kansas is the conference’s only undefeated team as Texas’ lone loss came at the hands of No. 5 Florida.
The Jayhawks and Longhorns are the two Big 12 squads ranked in the latest AVCA Coaches Top 25, but Baylor (10-2), TCU (10-2) and Texas Tech (11-3) join the pair as the five conference teams with 10 or more wins so far this season.
“We like to break up the season into several segments,” explained Fritz, “and when we get into conference play, we like to think of it as kind of new life. So, no matter what’s happened previously, whether you like it or you don’t, the preseason is over and now we need to focus on the first half, these first eight matches of Big 12 play.”
While the Wildcats open Big 12 competition tonight on the road against Kansas, the team returns home to Ahearn Field House on Saturday, Sept. 26, to take on the Baylor Bears at 7 p.m. 
Saturday evening’s match against the Bears is K-State volleyball’s annual ‘Pack the Field House’ promotion with all tickets and hotdogs sold for just $1.
For more information on the Pack the Field House, please click here, or to check out the full K-State volleyball schedule, you canclick here

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh-Stewart, or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.