The Kansas State volleyball team’s seven-match winning streak to start the season was snapped Thursday night as the Wildcats were swept by Santa Clara 3-0 (25-18, 25-17 and 25-17) at the Haas Pavilion in the Cal Invitational.
K-State’s 24 kills and .115 hitting percentage in the match trailed the 53 kills and .256 attack percentage of the Broncos. The speed in which the Broncos (4-3) offense came out firing, kept K-State(7-1) from answering back.
“Santa Clara is a very high-octane offense,” K-State coach Suzie Fritz said. “And to play with them, you have to match them, which we simply did not do. We didn’t manage their speed very well.”
Santa Clara opened the match with a 6-2 lead, benefitted by .625 hitting percentage on its opening swings. K-State trailed as much as 12-4, but the Wildcats went on a 6-0 run, featuring a Dallas Gardner ace and Courtney Traxson kill. Three straight attack errors by Santa Clara closed out the run and made it 12-10 Broncos. The two sides traded points to make it 14-12 Santa Clara, but the Broncos finished the set with an 11-6 advantage. K-State hit at .053 percent in the first set.
“I don’t think anybody goes into the match thinking, ‘We want to start slowly,’” Fritz said. “Volleyball is such a game of momentum, that if you don’t get enough momentum shifts in there, then it is tough. It feels like it is getting away from you. (Santa Clara) started by firing on all cylinders, and it took us a game-and-a-half to get going.”
In the second set, K-State pulled within one at 9-8 on a block by Katie Brand. Four straight points for Santa Clara, though, forced the Wildcats to call a timeout. After the break, the Wildcats were only able to close the gap to three points, with a kill by Kaitlynn Pelger making it 17-14. Santa Clara scored five of the final six points to close out the set.
Pelger led the team with seven kills on 15 attempts with two errors for a .333 hitting percentage. Dakota Kaufman was second on the team with five kills.
As was the story in the first two sets, K-State never led in the third set. Chelsea Keating entered when the Wildcats were trailing 7-3, and she quickly put herself in the score sheet with her first kill of the match on her first swing.
Pelger and Keating combined for a block, and Keating added another kill to make it 8-6 Santa Clara. It was 16-11 Broncos before a 4-0 Santa Clara run, capped by back-to-back aces, put the Wildcats down 20-11. A Traxson kill briefly halted the run and ignited a short 3-0 surge for K-State before Santa Clara closed out the match.
While the Wildcats were outmatched on being terminal, K-State did keep its errors to a minimum, including just two attack errors in the final set. The Wildcats had 13 attack errors and 22 errors total in the match compared to Santa Clara’s 20 attack errors and 27 total errors.
The Wildcats were set to play against in the Cal Invitational on Friday with a 6:30 p.m. match against Cal Poly.