Kansas State lost 26-13 to Oklahoma State in Stillwater last night, and honestly, the game was not as close as the scoreline suggests. The Wildcats showed up flat, did not execute well, and were never really in the game.
As Jon Morse notes in the official BotC recap, this game featured a number of dubious firsts. It was the first time the Pokes had beaten the Wildcats by more than 10 since 1988. There are various explanations for the performance, most focusing on a lack of depth, lack of talent, and the like, but I’m going to stick to just one: the coaching.
It’s plainly evident that Chris Klieman and company were outcoached by Mike Gundy, and that is not an indictment of Gundy who is deservedly counted among the league’s best. But Scottie Hazelton’s defense—as physical a unit as we’ve had in Manhattan in years—did not adjust to Oklahoma State’s versatility, and Courtney Messingham’s power offense seemed anything but for much of the night. That Kansas State didn’t lose by more, much more, is actually a small miracle.
This is not a head coach used to losing (or even to playing from behind, really), and this is not a staff used to making adjustments on the fly. That was made fairly clear by the inability to capitalize on the weather delay and change up the plan on either offense or defense. That the staff didn’t panic when down is maybe a point in their favor, but a strange lack of urgency permeated much of the game and combined with several communication miscues, suggested a lack of preparation.
Still, as with every dark cloud, there’s a silver lining here: it’s just one game. The Wildcats—and Skylar Thompson—were due for a loss against Oklahoma State, so maybe this was just the law of averages catching up to Kansas State and to Klieman, who hasn’t lost a game in dickety and may have forgotten what it feels like.
Taking a loss early in the season is good for the team. Now the coaching staff can take stock, correct mistakes, reassess strengths, and face the rest of the season with renewed purpose. Klieman preaches the importance of resilience, and the importance of maintaining a positive attitude. Let’s hope the team absorbs that and quickly gets over the disappointment of the season’s first loss.
Win the (next) dang day.
At the SMU Invitational in Dallas yesterday, Ioana Gheorghita won her first singles match to advance to the semifinals of one bracket, but dropped her next match. Teammate Rosanna Maffei was less fortunate and lost her first match in three sets. So far, the Wildcats players have notched a grand total of two match wins, one each in doubles and singles.
Finally, some good news this weekend! The VolleyCats opened Big 12 play with a four-set victory over TCU. Although Kansas State dropped the first set, they roared back to take the next three mostly thanks to a stifling defense that did not allow the Frogs to hit more than .170 in the last three sets, and forced 29 of 33 attacking errors from TCU.
Brynn Carlson led the team with 18 kills, while Peyton Williams had nine blocks, a career high on a day when the team managed the third-highest blocks total in school history.
Up next, the VolleyCats host Texas Tech for Kansas State’s Big 12 home opener.