LAWRENCE — The Kansas State volleyball team grabbed the first set in convincing fashion, but after being narrowly outdone in the second, the Wildcats fell in four sets to Kansas (19-25, 26-24, 25-14, 25-18) on Saturday in the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
After hitting .333 and .412 in the first and second sets, respectively, K-State had 16 errors and hit below .100 over the final two sets. The Jayhawks hit .315 for the match — including a .533 clip in the third — to deal K-State its fourth straight loss in the series. The defeat also drops K-State to 0-6 in Big 12 road matches this season.
Senior Courtney Traxson had a career-high 19 kills, including six in each of the final two sets, to lead the Wildcats offensively. Senior Kaitlynn Pelger added 16 kills to join Traxson as the only two Wildcats in double digits.
Redshirt freshman Katie Brand had 51 assists — falling two short of matching the season-high for a four-set Big 12 match — to go along with two kills and a block.
Pelger and junior Chelsea Keating led the Wildcats with three blocks apiece, but as a team, the Wildcats were out-blocked by the Jayhawks, 13.0-6.5.
The two sides were locked in a close first set until back-to-back kills by Taylor Johnson gave K-State a 15-12 lead entering a media timeout. The Jayhawks used the halt in momentum to pull within one, 15-14, but a pair of attack errors by Kansas that sandwiched a kill by Dakota Kaufman gave the Wildcats an 18-14 advantage.
Despite a KU timeout, the Wildcats did not relent as they opened it to a six-point lead on a duo block by Keating and Pelger. Pelger later gave K-State set point with her seventh kill of the set.
Brand sealed the first set for the Wildcats with a dump kill, giving K-State its first set win over the Jayhawks this season.
Both sides showcased strong attacks in set two, not letting either side pull away any farther than two points. The Wildcats, who hit at a .412 clip in the second set, grabbed a 14-13 lead on a powerful cross-court kill from Keating. After the Jayhawks quickly tied it up, Kaufman dropped in a kill to give the Wildcats a 15-14 advantage entering the media timeout.
Later in the second, a triple block — featuring Kaufman, Keating and Pelger - stuffed a Sara McClinton attempt and put the Wildcats ahead 21-20. McClinton and Pelger would go on to trade kills before a kill by Manhattan native Catherine Carmichael gave the Jayhawks set point. Pelger stunted the KU rally, though, with her 12th kill of the match before back-to-back kills by the Jayhawks, who registered a .381 hitting percentage in the second, tied the match at 1-1. The second set featured 22 ties and five lead changes.
There was only one lead change in the third set, which came when KU got back-to-back kills by Caroline Jarmoc to make it 3-2. The Wildcats defense could not stop the KU attack in the third as the Jayhawks had a .533 hitting percentage — 17 kills and one error — over the entire set. In comparison, the Wildcats turned in a .118 hitting percentage and had seven attack errors, five of which were on blocks by the Jayhawks.
The fourth set had 13 ties and eight lead changes, but the Jayhawks closed out the set with a 12-4 run.
Trailing 13-12 in the fourth, a kill by Kaufman tied it up before a KU attack error gave the Wildcats’ a 14-13 lead. KU responded, though, with four kills and two blocks to help it open a 20-16 lead and force K-State to call a timeout. The attempt to halt KU’s momentum did not work, as Jarmoc eventually clinched the set and match with her 12th kill of the night.
The Wildcats return to action on Wednesday when they take on Baylor at 7 p.m. inside Ahearn Field House.