The Kansas State volleyball team beat both the heat and the competition Saturday afternoon, cruising to its third straight sweep and winning the Wildcats’ home tournament.
Tournament MVP Katie Brand notched 27 assists to lead the Wildcats to Saturday’s three-game victory over Siena 25-11, 25-0 and 25-15 inside a sweltering Ahearn Field House. K-State improved to 6-0 on the season, while Siena fell to 1-5 overall.
“It’s hot — it’s real hot, but we train in it every day,” K-State head coach Suzie Fritz said. “So, we’re in pretty good shape. Just coaching in it, you get a good sweat going.”
Not only did the Wildcat players and coaches brave the heat for the win, but the “purple pit” of 1,856 K-State fans stuck it out as well.
“I also want to say how much I appreciate the people that came out and sat through it,” Fritz said. “You see them up in the stands with their fans trying to get some air moving around. We appreciate that so much.”
The three straight sweeps made for a quick weekend for the Wildcats, who opened the season last weekend with three straight five-set matches at the UNLV Invitational in Las Vegas.
Brand set up the Wildcat for a .258 hitting percentage, as three K-State hitters tallied seven or more kills with Courtney Traxson and Kaitlynn Pelger with eight apiece. Lilla Porubek had seven.
“Winning MVP was amazing, but I think, more than anything, coming out and playing well as a team is what I look forward to most,” said Brand, who was named the Big 12 Co-Freshman Player of the Year this year.
While still working out some kinks, the Wildcats showed some improvement from a week ago. Fritz said she wanted her team to find a killer instinct after going the distance three times in Las Vegas.
“Today we were pretty good in our transition offense,” Fritz said. “But, our first-string offense, I don’t think, is where we need it to be. So that is just something we will continue to work on.”
Gina Madonia anchored the back end of the defense for the Wildcats, chasing down 16 digs in the match as K-State forced the Saints into 28 non-service errors on the day. Chipping in with nine digs of her own and joining a group of four Wildcats to post three blocks, was Dakota Kaufman, who garnered all-tournament honors.
“We rely on our block a lot,” Kaufman said. “We have really good eyes and that is one of the things that we take pride in — blocking and serving.”
The Wildcats jumped out to a 17-7 lead en route to earning the first-set victory over the Saints. Taylor Johnson was big early, notching three big blocks and posting two kills, including the game winner in the opening stanza.
Siena battled for much of the second set, taking advantage of some early K-State miscues, and gaining a four-point advantage quick. The Cats settled though, taking the set 25-20.
Porubek and Pelger, who had four kills apiece in the game, led the Wildcats’ response. They fueled eight straight points to turn a 12-8 deficit into a 16-12 K-State lead. The Cats cruised the rest of the way, finishing the match on a 17-8 run.
K-State jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the third and final set, as it finished off the sweep on a dual block from Kaufman and Natali Jones to give the Wildcats the 25-15 win victory and their second straight K-State Invitational title.
The Wildcats return to action Tuesday when they host Tulsa at 6 p.m.
WILDCATS TAKE TWO
K-State turned in its second sweep of the day with a 3-0 (25-13, 25-18, 25-17) victory over Southern Illinois on Friday night in Ahearn Field House.
The Wildcats’ offense carried the tide on Friday as K-State registered a season-best .500 hitting percentage over the three sets. Kaufman had 11 kills on a .529 clip while Porubek had 11 kills on 20 swings with one error for a .500 hitting percentage.
Porubek and Kaufman each had five kills in the opening set, as the team overall registered a .654 hitting percentage.
Brand had a season-high nine kills, on an errorless 10 attempts, to also contribute to the impressive K-State offense.