2014 Review: Youth, Seniors Lead Wildcats
2014 Review: Youth, Seniors Lead Wildcats
The 2014 season for K-State volleyball was a surprise to some on the outside as the group of Wildcats were only returning seven letterwinners, lost six seniors from a season ago and were coming off an 18-11 season that consisted of no NCAA Tournament appearance.
However, the group of Wildcats, with a majority of underclassmen but key seniors who played significant roles, jumped out to one of its best starts in program history (13-1) and reached the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four years and 15th time in program history.
Along the way, there were some All-American performances (Katie Brand and Kylee Zumach were honorable mentions), a trio of All-Midwest Region honors (Brand, Zumach and honorable mention Katie Reininger) and three All-Big 12 selections (once again Brand and Zumach along with honorable mention Natali Jones). For all those highlights, check out the final notes package here or watch the season highlights here. For some more additional highlights and notes, read below.
YEAR OF THE BREAKOUT
First up, Chelsea Keating. The right-side hitter entered the year with 165 kills, 86 digs, 65 blocks and 8 aces in 131 career sets. In just 2014, Keating went off for 247 kills (1.5 times her previous career total), 266 digs (3 times), 92 blocks (1.4 times) and 28 aces (3.5 times). Not only did the totals trump all of her previous career-highs, but Keating finished as the only player in the Big 12 with 240+ kills, 250+ digs, 90+ blocks and 25+ aces.
The second senior to shine was Natali Jones. Similar to Keating, Jones had low totals in several statistical categories. The Skyline High School and Pratt Community College product had 37 kills, 30 blocks and a .176 hitting percentage in 37 career sets through 2013. Jones went on to dwarf those stats with the 2014 season as she finished with 174 kills (4.7 times career total) and 146 blocks (4.9 times) while hitting .245. The middle blocker even became just the fourth Wildcat in school history to earn AVCA national player of the week honors when she hit well over .600 in back-to-back matches with 12 kills in each contest in mid-October.
Other breakout standouts for the Wildcats included Katie Reininger, who came off a redshirt year in 2013 and finished second on the team with 130 blocks; Kersten Kober, a sophomore who assumed the libero position and became the first Wildcat in three years to total 400+ digs; and Brooke Sassin, who transferred to K-State in the spring after a freshman season at Mississippi State and finished second on the team with 312 kills.
STELLAR FRESHMAN CAMPAIGN
YOUTH, ONLY BY NAME
DOWN 0-2? NO PROBLEM
This year, K-State faced a 0-2 hole eight times. Out of those eight times, the Wildcats were able to force a fifth set three times and come away with a win twice. Simple math: 25% of K-State's wins when down 0-2 in the last 14 years took place over two weeks in 2014.
The first 0-2 comeback was on November 1...at home...against Texas Tech...in a not-so-typical 1 pm Saturday conference match. The Wildcats dropped a narrow first set and were put away easily in the second, but with 25-23 and 30-28 wins in the third and fourth, respectively, K-State overcame the slow start to beat the Red Raiders for the second time this season after a 15-9 win in the fifth. The victory against Texas Tech was the first 0-2 comeback win for K-State since Nov. 5, 2011. (Watch highlights here).
While it took almost exactly three years between 0-2 come-from-behind wins, the Wildcats did it again just two weeks later, this time on the road at Baylor. It was the first time since 2008 that K-State had a pair of 0-2 comeback wins in a single season (side note: the Wildcats' two 0-2 comeback wins in 2008 were also exactly two weeks apart: Oct. 11 and Oct. 25).
The Wildcats' last eight rallies from a 0-2 hole were two in 2014, one in 2011, two in 2008, one in 2005 (Oct. 15) and two in 2003 (Oct. 29 and Nov. 12...two weeks apart, of course)
BLOCK ON BLOCK
In the match against the Maize and Blue, K-State had just 2.0 blocks in the opening set loss. Thereafter, the Wildcats went off, tallying 7.0 in the second, 8.0 in the third and 6.5 in the fourth. In addition to Brand, Katie Reininger (13 blocks) and Natali Jones (10) had double-digit blocks while Chelsea Keating (4), Kylee Zumach (4) and Brooke Sassin (3) also placed their names on the block ledger.
The 23.5 blocks went on to help K-State finish with 333.0 blocks over the entire season, its most since setting the program-record with 357.0 in 2007.
UNBLEMISHED AT BRAMLAGE