We lead with the VolleyCats, because this is big news. Kansas State is parting ways with longtime volleyball coach Susie Fritz. The school will immediately initiate a national search for her replacement.
Over 22 years, Fritz led the Wildcats to a Big 12 title (2003), 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, 12 seasons as a nationally ranked squad and a .599 overall record in that time. To quote AD Gene Taylor, “we will forever be grateful for her leadership and advancement of K-State Volleyball.”
This is probably as good a time as any to make this change. The current season aside, the energy of a realigned Big 12 conference, the popularity of the sport on streaming platforms, and a brand new Kansas State volleyball facility can create real buzz and provide a potential launchpad for success for the progran under a new head coach.
What a grand time to be a Kansas State fan! A 14th consecutive win over our less fortunate cousins from down the Kaw is always cause for celebration, but this time, it also clinched a spot in the Big 12 title game for the Wildcats, and helped send off this year’s seniors in style.
There is nothing I have to say about the game that Drew Schneider’s excellent recap does not already say. Credit where it’s due: Kansas played really well and should be a tough opponent for the Wildcats from here on out. The Jayhawks showed up ready and willing, and unlike in years past, did not just give up at the first sign of difficulty. They were helped in this from some sloppy play from Kansas State, and especially with tackles being missed all day,. But the Wildcats remain at least three scores better than their arch rivals, and that is exactly as it should be,
Let’s talk about Chris Klieman though. Not everyone was pleased when he was hired to coach the Wildcats, but four seasons on, he has proven at least his credentials as a manager-style coach. In Joe Klanderman and Collin Klein, he has two coordinators he trusts to do the Xs and Os part of the job with competence and even creativity. He’s a player’s coach who understands how to motivate the team and also has enormous loyalty to his players. He’s done a good job managing media expectations and telling beat reporters mostly what they want to hear. Kansas State is even getting respect from national poll voters and talking heads now. He’s winning the dang day, and we’re all here for it.
Let’s talk too about Will Howard. Dismissed early on in his career in purple, he has come a long way. He’s now the toast of Kansas State fandom and possibly the Big 12’s best quarterback right now (at least statistically). His rhythm and passing mechanics have improved at lot, but I’m more impressed by how much his on-field leadership has improved. He’s now a general who understand the flow of the game, who can see the playbook unfold in front of him. I don’t know how or when it happened, but Klein has somehow mind-melded with Howard and watching him play reminds me so much of what Klein did in 2012, not with his legs but with his on-field persona.
There’s still business to be done, of course. There is the small matter of a Big 12 title, followed by a possible Sugar Bowl appearance against Alabama.
Kansas State ran off seven straight victories for one of its hottest starts, but the streak finally came to an end at the Paradise Jam in St Thomas. The 25th-ranked Wildcats lost to Arkansas 69-53 behind a season-low shooting percentage of 27.3 (15-of-55) and a season-low mark for points in the first half (26).
Jaelyn Glen led the team with 14 points, Serena Sundell had 13, and Brylee Glenn added 11. Gabby Gregory was named to the all-tournament team, averaging 20.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.
The team is back in action next Sunday, hosting Houston at Bramlage Coliseum.