Bye Weekend Gives Wildcats Time to Rest

MANHATTAN, Kan. - For the first time in more than six weeks, the K-State volleyball team will have a weekend off. Unlike the last Saturday the Wildcats had away from an actual match--August 23--K-State enters the upcoming weekend on a high note, riding a three-match winning streak in conference play.

After dropping a five-set match at home against Baylor to start the Big 12 schedule, K-State (16-2, 3-1 Big 12) has bounced back with wins at KU and Texas Tech as well as this past Wednesday's 3-1 victory over Iowa State in Ahearn Field House. The defeat to the Bears did not bring down the now surging Wildcats. 
"I'm glad that we turned around and used [the Baylor loss] to fuel our fire," said redshirt sophomore middle blocker Katie Reininger, who leads the team with 83 blocks and a .300 hitting percentage. "We went out and took two on the road, which is pretty hard in this conference, and then [against Iowa State], we took our home back."
Reininger had 14 kills, seven blocks and an ace in the win against Iowa State, K-State's third in a row against the Cyclones in Manhattan. Reininger had eight of her Big 12 career-high 14 kills in the first set, helping the Wildcats take an early 1-0 lead in the match.
The Wildcats go beyond one player, though, as evidenced by four players reaching double-figures in kills against Iowa State as well as six different players notching a block. Redshirt sophomore Katie Brand matched Reininger for the team-lead in blocks with seven while Brooke Sassin (13 total kills) and Chelsea Keating (10) combined for nine of K-State's 12 kills in the decisive fourth set.
With the balance on both sides of the net for K-State, the opportunity to rest is needed. The "bye week" could not come at a better time.
"We need an emotional break, a physical break...some recovery time," said K-State head coach Suzie Fritz. "We've been very fortunate to keep them healthy to this point, but we have to keep it that way."
The Wildcats will take the extra few moments this weekend to rest, having played 18 matches in the last 41 days, but even with time for a break, the opportunity to get a little better every day still exists.
"I never feel good - ever," said Fritz. "It's just how it is. I think we're pleased with the results, and yet, with every opportunity you play, the list gets longer of the things your team has to improve on." 
The Wildcats have reached this point of the season with a 16-2 overall record based on the fact that the blend of youth and veterans has allowed the team to overcome deficits in sets and matches. K-State has won four of the five matches this season when it dropped the first set, and, like in the first set at Texas Tech when the Wildcats trailed 15-3 but came back to win, K-State never says quit in tough sets.
"Our team is resilient," said Reininger. "That is our keyword - the coaches say it all the time to us. We will just be out on the court and look at each other, say we got the next one, and keep plucking away at it."
With 12 matches on the docket for the remainder of the regular season, K-State's resiliency will no doubt be tested more than once the rest of the way. For players like redshirt senior Keating, whose team-leading 24th ace of the season gave K-State match point against Iowa State, this weekend's rest will be fuel saved for the next few weeks.
"It's going to be nice to get our bodies rested a little bit," said Keating, "but after three wins - including two road wins - we are feeling pretty good."
K-State returns to action on Wednesday, October 15 at TCU. The Wildcats were swept by the Horned Frogs last November, the only K-State loss in the all-time series against TCU (3-1).
The Wildcats' next home match is Saturday, October 18 vs. No. 2 Texas, which is the Pack the Field House promotion. Tickets are $1 while hot dogs are also $1, while supplies last. The Longhorns earned a pair of wins this week--on Tuesday at Baylor and on Thursday vs. Texas Tech--but do not play again until next weekend's match in Manhattan.
This year marks the second time in the last three seasons K-State has started its Big 12 schedule with a 3-1 record (last: 2012; finished 8-8 in the Big 12).