LAWRENCE — The Horejsi Family Athletics Center sold out within two hours for the Sunflower Showdown and for good reason.
It was the first time the Kansas and Kansas State volleyball teams faced each other while both were nationally ranked.
It was the 21st-ranked Jayhawks who ended Wednesday night with smiles on their faces.
The 14th-ranked Wildcats lost to the the rival Jayhawks in four sets — 28-26, 15-25, 26-28 and 20-25.
K-State lost the battle in two key categories. The Cats were out-blocked by the Jayhawks 18-5 and K-State committed 10 service errors. KU had just four.
“(Kansas) played really well at home,” K-State head coach Suzie Fritz said. “I don’t think we underestimated anybody. We’re disappointed because we feel we didn’t play our best. Eighteen blocks tells a little bit of a story and 10 service errors tells another story. We weren’t making good decisions.”
K-State (17-3, 4-3 Big 12) was led by senior Kathleen Ludwig, who was one short of tying a career high with 17 kills. Kaitlynn Pelger, Lilla Porubek and Alex Muff also tallied double-digits with 15, 12 and 10 kills, respectively. Setter Caitlyn Donahue posted a match-high 53 assists.
Defensively, the Wildcats were led by senior libero Kuulei Kabalis with 17 digs. Junior Tristan McCarty was also in double figures with 13.
Sophomore Sarah McClinton led the Jayhawks with a match-high 19 kills. She also hit at a .545 clip. Junior Caroline Jarmoc followed with 11 kills and 11 block assists — including a solo stop.
Former Manhattan High standout Catherine Carmichael, a junior middle blocker, had nine kills for the Jayhawks (18-3, 6-1). She also assisted in seven blocks and like Jarmoc, also had a solo block.
“We’re disappointed and frustrated,” Ludwig said. “We played hard, but we didn’t do what we needed to do to win. We missed 10 serves and got blocked 18 times. That’s very uncharacteristic of us. We knew (KU) would come out hard against us and they did.”
The Wildcats opened the match strong with a 14-9 lead in the first set, but the Jayhawks didn’t make things easy for K-State after that.
A kill by Jarmoc — plus back-to-back attack errors and a service ace by Kansas setter Erin McNorton — had the Jayhawks back in the thick of it.
The Jayhawks later led 18-16, but a Pelger kill tied the set and it was a back-and-fourth fight the rest of the way with four different set-points until another Pelger kill finally sealed it for K-State at 28-26.
Errors decimated the Wildcats in the second set while KU surged for a 25-15 win to tie the match.
K-State looked as if it was pulling away late with a 19-16 lead, but consecutive kills by McClinton kept the Jayhawks alive. An attack error sent the Wildcats to a timeout tied at 22, and it looked like beneficial one as a Carmichael attack error put K-State back in the lead coming out of the break.
The former Indian quickly rebounded, though, and came back with a kill on the following point to tie the set. A kill by Muff put K-State in set-point, but just like in the first set, KU kept answering. While kills by Ludwig kept the Wildcats in a position to take the set, back-to-back errors — one on the attack and one on ball-handling — gave the set and match lead to the Jayhawks.
The bad mojo continued for K-State in the fourth set, as the Wildcats found themselves in an early 15-11 hole. Though a 5-1 K-State run forced the Jayhawks into a timeout when the gap closed at 17-16, the Wildcats’ 10th service of the night killed the momentum.
An attack error gave KU a three-point lead, a lead the Jayhawks never surrendered the rest of the way.
It was just the third time since 1995 that K-State had lost in Lawrence, just the fifth time overall in that span.
“We couldn’t slow them down,” Fritz said. “They had a left side hit .550 and when you have a left side hit .550, you’re going to be hard to beat. We didn’t put any pressure on them.”
The Wildcats will continue play Saturday in Ahearn Field House when they will host Texas Tech at 3 p.m.