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K-State rattles off wins in final three sets to oust Oklahoma

After dropping a narrow first set, the next three were all K-State, and the Wildcats ran away with a win

K-State vs Cal-Poly, Cal Invitational

In the grand scheme of things, Susie Fritz liked what she saw Wednesday night. There was a lot to relish.

Four Wildcats finished in double-figures in kills, senior Brooke Sassin totaled her 1,000th career kill at K-State, the Wildcats hit .333 as a team, and most importantly, K-State beat Oklahoma in four sets, 3-1 (23-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-21) inside Ahearn Fieldhouse.

If there was one thing that troubled the head coach, though, it was her team’s defense in the first set. The teams grappled for the lead, and Oklahoma held on to a one-point advantage for most of the set.

After a lengthy, seesaw half hour, the Sooners took the set 25-23. But after cleaning things up on the defensive end, K-State used its many offensive weapons to put Oklahoma away.

“The combination of serve, block dig — that was probably the biggest upgrade,” Fritz said. “And the difference in regards to us slowing them down. They were getting away from us in the first one.”

When it came to how the Wildcats turned it around after dropping set one, the team remembered one principal in particular Fritz fancies.

“We talk sometimes in our locker room about almost being offended on defense when people score on you,” Fritz said.

The Wildcats were led in kills by sophomore Kylee Zumach’s 17, and the outside hitter said a week off helped K-State Wednesday.

“My coaches, after the long weekend, they had a lot of time. They worked with me a lot; I talked with them a lot,” Zumach said. “For me and as a team, I think we play really good when we’re super confident; loose; happy, and I think that really worked for us (tonight).”

Senior Katie Reninger added 11 kills, on top of 10 apiece from junior Bryna Vogel and senior Brooke Sassin. With such versatility on display Wednesday, Fritz likes her chances when so many players are contributing.

Freshman Elle Sandbothe chipped in nine kills as well.

“I thought Kylee stepped up. I thought both of the middles were really good,” Fritz said. “I think we could even get more of it, frankly. I think we could probably distribute even a little bit more.”

As Sassin nears the end of her illustrious career and senior campaign, her 1,000-plus kills only add to the legacy she will leave behind. She appreciated the accomplishment, of course, but the statistic, she said, was only that — a statistic.

Perhaps that speaks to her personality as well.

“I mean, I think it’s awesome. It’s a number,” Sassin said. “But to think of all the games, and all the teams and all the different girls I’ve played with that led up to it, it goes by so fast, like everyone says. It’s crazy to look back. It felt like my first game was yesterday.”

Her coach agreed. From the sideline, Fritz has seen Sassin both play her first game in a K-State uniform in August 2014 and become only the sixth Wildcat since 2001 to total 1,000 kills.

And after transferring to K-State for her sophomore year, she did it in only three seasons.

“From where she started and the progress that she’s made, it’s incredibly rewarding as her coach,” Fritz said. “That’s her. That’s her putting in her time; her learning fast and developing as a player.”

K-State can’t look back, now though. The Wildcats have a road matchup with No. 7 Texas to look forward to on Saturday.

“I think this team thinks they can win, period,” Fritz said. “Our focus is more on what we’re capable of doing, and I think we go into that match feeling the same.”