Cats Open 2022 Season Friday at K-State Invitational

MANHATTAN, Kan. (Kansas State Athletics) – K-State officially opens its 2022 volleyball season Friday at the K-State Invitational, as the Wildcats will take on Sam Houston, NC State and Florida A&M over two days at Bramlage Coliseum.

K-State, who opens the season at home for the first time since 2012, will begin its campaign with a Friday doubleheader against the Bearkats (12 p.m.) and Wolfpack (7:30 p.m.). The weekend concludes Saturday at 12:30 against 2021 SWAC champion Florida A&M.

The Wildcats earned a five-set victory over Wayne State last Friday in its lone exhibition match of the preseason. In the match, Elena BakaAliyah Carter and Ava LeGrand each registered double-doubles.

The Wildcats are coming off a season in which they qualified for their 18th all-time NCAA Tournament, and 13th under 22nd-year head coach Suzie Fritz. It marked K-State’s first postseason bid since the 2016 season.

The team retains seven letterwinners from the 2021 squad, including starters in Sydney Bolding, Carter, Kadye FernholzLoren Hinkle and Mackenzie Morris. K-State also added six newcomers, including five freshmen and one transfer in Baka.

All three contests during the opening weekend will be broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ with radio coverage on News Radio KMAN (93.3 FM, 1350 AM). Fans can stream Rob Voelker’s call all weekend online at K-StateSports.com/Watch or on the K-State Sports app.

Tickets start at $5 when purchased in advance online at K-StateSports.com/Tickets, by calling 800-221-CATS or by stopping by the K-State Athletics Ticket Office at Bramlage Coliseum.

MATCH #1
K-STATE (0-0, 0-0 BIG 12) vs. SAM HOUSTON (0-0, 0-0 WAC)

Friday, August 26 // 12 p.m. // Bramlage Coliseum // Manhattan, Kan.
Watch: Big 12 Now on ESPN+
Radio: News Radio KMAN // Rob Voelker
Listen: K-StateSports.com/watch // 1350kman.com
Live Stats | Tickets

MATCH #2
K-STATE (0-0, 0-0 BIG 12) vs. NC STATE (0-0, 0-0 ACC)

Friday, August 26 // 7:30 p.m. // Bramlage Coliseum // Manhattan, Kan.
Watch: Big 12 Now on ESPN+
Radio: News Radio KMAN // Rob Voelker
Listen: K-StateSports.com/watch // 1350kman.com
Live Stats | Tickets

MATCH #3
K-STATE (0-0, 0-0 BIG 12) vs. FLORIDA A&M (0-0, 0-0 SWAC)

Saturday, August 27 // 12:30 p.m. // Bramlage Coliseum // Manhattan, Kan.
Watch: Big 12 Now on ESPN+
Radio: News Radio KMAN // Rob Voelker
Listen: K-StateSports.com/watch // 1350kman.com
Live Stats | Tickets

K-STATE AT A GLANCE

  • K-State is geared up for its 49th season of volleyball, as the Wildcats begin the season Friday at the annual K-State Invitational.
  • Over two days, the Cats will take on Sam Houston, NC State and Florida A&M at Bramlage Coliseum – marking the first time K-State will begin its season at home since 2012.
  • The Wildcats are coming off their 18th postseason appearance in program history and the 13th under head coach Suzie Fritz, who enters her 22nd year at the helm.
  • It was the Cats’ first NCAA Tournament bid since the 2016 season, as they were ousted in the first round by Florida State in Lincoln, Nebraska.
  • K-State retains seven letterwinners from last year’s postseason squad, including four starters in addition to libero Mackenzie Morris.
  • Other returning starters include Sydney BoldingAliyah CarterKadye Fernholz and Loren Hinkle.
  • The seven returners are joined by six newcomers, which are comprised of five freshmen and one transfer in senior Elena Baka.
  • K-State hosted Wayne State in its lone exhibition contest of the preseason on Friday, with the Wildcats earning a five-set victory over WSC.
  • In the match, Baka, Carter and Ava LeGrand each carded a double-double, with Carter leading the way with 18 kills.
  • Baka totaled 17 kills to go with 13 digs while LeGrand, a freshman, handed out 34 assists while posting 11 digs.
  • Morris led all players Friday with 33 digs and two aces.

SCOUTING THE FIELD

  • In the season’s opening weekend, K-State will take on Sam Houston and NC State in a Friday doubleheader before finishing against Florida A&M on Saturday.
  • Sam Houston was picked to finished fourth in the WAC preseason coaches’ poll after winning the WAC’s Southwest Division a season ago.
  • The Bearkats, who return 10 letterwinners, advanced to the first round of last seasons’ NIVC.
  • SHSU’s Hannah Baker was tabbed WAC Preseason Libero of the Year and was an All-WAC Second Team selection in 2021.
  • NC State finished the 2021 campaign with a 16-13 mark (10-8 ACC), good for a sixth-place tie in the ACC standings.
  • The Wolfpack lost their top three kill producers in Melissa Evans, Jade Parchment and Taylor Rowland.
  • Sophomore middle blocker Jada Allen returns, along with her 1.86 kills per set and 0.78 blocks a set.
  • Florida A&M qualified for last season’s NCAA Tournament after a 25-7 record (14-2 SWAC) and winning the SWAC tournament.
  • The defending SWAC champions saw four named preseason All-SWAC, including Preseason Player of the Year Dominique Washington, Preseason Setter of the Year Irem Ucar and Preseason Libero of the Year Jada Taylor.
  • Washington ranked third in the nation a season ago with 489 kills and fifth with 539.5 points.

INSIDE THE SERIES

  • K-State opens its season against Sam Houston and will mark the teams’ first-ever matchup.
  • In its history, K-State is 5-1 against teams from the Western Athletic Conference while Fritz is 4-0 in her career.
  • The Wildcats and NC State have split the two previous meetings, with the last coming in the 2019 season in Raleigh.
  • The Wolfpack claimed a four-set victory at Reynolds Coliseum, and this will mark the team’s first meeting in Manhattan.
  • The Cats are 17-10 against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference with Fritz boasting a 10-9 mark against the league.
  • K-State owns a 2-0 advantage in the all-time series with Florida A&M.
  • The sides last faced off in the 2015 season opener, with the Wildcats coming away with a straight-set victory in Miami.
  • FAMU is the only team currently in the Southwestern Athletic Conference that K-State has faced.

RETURN AISLE

  • K-State retains seven letterwinners, including five starters, from last season’s NCAA postseason team.
  • Returners include Sydney BoldingAliyah CarterKadye FernholzLoren HinkleMackenzie MorrisMolly Ramsey and Haley Warner.
  • Bolding, Carter, Fernholz, Hinkle, Morris and Warner each started over half the matches during the 2021 season.
  • Carter was the team’s leader in kills (431) and points (478) while Fernholz paced the front line with 106 blocks.
  • Hinkle led the Cats with 34 aces while Morris was K-State’s digs leader for the second straight season with 423.
  • Warner was second last season with 233 kills from the right side.

NEW CATS

  • In addition to the seven returners, K-State welcomes in six newcomers to the 2022 roster in Elena BakaAniya ClintonAva LeGrandShaylee MyersBrenna Schmidt and Dalia Wilson.
  • Baka, LeGrand and Myers each saw time in last Friday’s exhibition win against Wayne State, as Baka and LeGrand each registered double-doubles.
  • Baka, a senior transfer from Saint Mary’s, matched her career high with 17 kills while also logging 15 digs.
  • LeGrand, a freshman setter from Papillion, Nebraska, handed out a team-best 34 assists to pair with 11 digs.
  • A high school all-American, LeGrand saw action in four of five sets while splitting time with Hinkle.

1K IN A HURRY

  • Juniors Aliyah Carter and Mackenzie Morris are each approaching the 1,000 club in kills and digs, respectively.
  • After just two seasons, Carter has racked up 756 kills while Morris as accumulated 766 digs.
  • Each have played in just 49 career matches, including the shortened 2020-21 season which featured only 21 contests.
  • If both remain at their current pace, they would be the fastest players in K-State history in the rally-scoring era to reach the 1,000-kill and -dig milestones.
  • Currently, Carter’s career average of 4.06 kills per set is tops in program history during the rally-scoring era while Morris is second at 3.99 digs a set.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

  • Last season, the Wildcats went 9-2 when winning the first set and 7-1 when leading 2-0.
  • Head coach Suzie Fritz is 300-60 (.833) in her career when leading a match 1-0.
  • The Wildcats went 8-3 when splitting the first two sets and 12-1 when leading the match 2-1.
  • K-State hit over .300 three times last season, with two of those being five-set contests.
  • It marked the first time in program history (rally-scoring era) that the Cats posted two five-set matches with better than a .300 efficiency in the same season.
  • The last time K-State hit .300 or better in a five-set match was the 2017 season.
  • Last season, K-State was 13-3 when hitting .200 or better 12-1 when holding opponents under .200.
  • In her career, Fritz is 136-3 when her teams hit north of .300 and she is 71-0 when holding opponents under .100.

NEW HOME SWEET HOME

  • K-State will call Bramlage Coliseum home for the third and final season after moving from its traditional home of Ahearn Field House due health and safety considerations related to COVID-19 in 2020.
  • The Wildcats await the completed construction of their new facility, Morgan Family Arena, which is set to be ready for the 2023 volleyball season.
  • The Wildcats are 31-12 (.721) all-time when playing in Bramlage Coliseum, including a 6-5 record last season after an 8-4 mark in 2020.
  • The Cats have won 20 of their last 31 matches played at Bramlage Coliseum, going back to 2016.
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