Kansas University volleyball player Ashley Michaels, a native of Wathena, knows how important tonight's Sunflower Showdown against Kansas State is.
"This one is going to be serious for us," she said.
But Michaels, who picked the Jayhawks instead of the Wildcats in recruiting, swears her stance is because of the seriousness of this particular game, not siding against a team who she says she "really doesn't hate."
"I've never hated them because of who they are," Michaels said. "This game is important because it will have a lot of implications in the Big 12."
That it will. The 14-2 Jayhawks, who are off to their best-ever start in the Big 12 at 5-2, would like keep their third-place standing in the conference.
But in order to do that, Kansas will have to defeat K-State (9-6 and 5-2), one of the team's it shares that third-place spot with, tonight at 7 at the Horejsi Center.
And while Michaels' just-another-game attitude may be the refreshing view the Jayhawks need to end their 14-game winless streak against the Wildcats, Kansas coach Ray Bechard knows it won't be that easy.
"This is one of those games that our fans circle," Bechard said. "Our in-state players get pretty pumped up for this one."
So might Bechard, who has yet to beat Wildcat coach Suzie Fritz, who was Bechard's former setter at Barton County from 1990-91 when the pair led BCCC to back-to-back Final Four appearances at the NJCAA tournament.
"For us Kansans it's a pretty important match," Bechard said with a smile. "But all that's going to matter is who executes better tomorrow at 7."
Both teams are riding hot streaks.
While Kansas is undefeated at home with an 8-0 mark, Kansas State has won seven straight conference matches on the road.