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Cats drop Bears in four sets

By Brady Bauman

The Kansas State volleyball team used a balanced attack against Baylor and it worked Saturday night in Ahearn Field House.

The Wildcats — ranked 16th—  defeated the Bears in four sets, 25-16, 25-20, 23-25 and 25-17 in front of nearly 3,000 fans.

Senior opposite Kathleen Ludwig led the way for K-State with a match-high 15 kills. She also added seven digs, four blocks — one solo — and a service ace. Junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger added 12 kills and 15 digs, while senior middle blocker Alex Muff contributed with 10 kills.

Junior outside hitters Courtney Traxson and Lilla Porubek were also effective with nine and eight kills, respectively.

“I thought we played extremely well,” K-State head coach Suzie Fritz said. “We let Game 3 slip away from us a little bit there… We lost our focus in terms of our serving and passing for a short segment, but we gained some momentum back. We played really well (tonight) minus six or seven points.”

Fritz said K-State’s combination of transition play and setter Caitlyn Donahue’s distribution of the ball gave her team the edge.

“I loved our transition game,” she said. “I thought our blocking was tight and that we did a nice job of touching and turning balls in transition. I’m exceptionally proud of them for that because that’s something we’ve been working on a lot.

“(Scoring) was pretty balanced. Both middles were good, we got a lot of (Ludwig) offensively and Traxson had another nice performance. We had nice distribution. It’s a pretty good performance… I think Baylor is a very good volleyball team.”

The Wildcats (20-3, 7-3 Big 12) cruised in the opening set and put away Baylor (16-9, 3-7) with kills by Ludwig and Muff in Game 2. K-State looked to have a sweep on the horizon with a 15-8 lead in the third, but an 8-1 run by Baylor tied it up.

Both teams traded points from that moment on until it looked like the Wildcats were in position to end the night after back-to-back K-State blocks and a Bears attack error put the Wildcats ahead 23-20.

Baylor responded, though, and went on a 5-0 run to win the set with kills by Ari Nora and Zoe Adom, along with help from Wildcat attack errors.

Much of the fourth set was just as tight, but K-State pulled away after a 9-9 tie with a 7-1 run. The Cats kept the lead the rest of the way.

“I felt like I was in really good rhythm,” Ludwig said. “Caitlyn did a great job of balancing our offense, and not putting all the pressure on somebody’s shoulders — even if they are having a great night. It was great to get up in transition, everyone get their kills and big plays. I thought we covered really well and we were there for each other that way, as well.”

K-State was strong defensively, as well. Four players were in double digits in digs with senior libero and Hawaii native Kuulei Kabalis leading the Wildcats with 16. Donahue and junior Tristan McCarty totaled 11 digs apiece.

The Wildcats return to action on Friday at Texas.

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