The Kansas State volleyball team clashed with the Kansas Jayhawks Wednesday night in Ahearn Field House, and just like the previous meeting this year in Lawrence, it was a tight battle all the way.
And just like before, it was KU who came away with the edge.
Although K-State (20-5, 7-5 Big 12) dominated the opening set, the 23rd-ranked Jayhawks battled back the rest of the way and upset the 17th-ranked Wildcats 3-1. KU won 13-25, 28-26, 26-24 and 27-25.
While KU (21-5, 9-3) was never in contention in set one, the two teams couldn’t have been more evenly matched the rest of the way with 30 ties and 12 lead changes.
“My initial thought was that it could have gone either way. We had pretty evenly matched teams. I think that everything was in the details,” K-State head coach Suzie Fritz said. “When it is like that it becomes what we call a red-zone game. We rehearse them as much as we can in practice, 23 all or 24 all, so we can have the courage to take some risks in those situations. KU was better at that today than we were.”
Juniors Courtney Traxson and Kaitlynn Pelger led the Wildcats with 13 kills a piece, while three other teammates were also in double-digits. Junior outside hitter Lilla Porubek totaled 12 and seniors Kathleen Ludwig and Alex Muff tallied 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Pelger and Ludwig were also in the double-double category with 10 and 15 digs, respectively.
The Jayhawks were led by sophomore Sarah McClinton, who led the match with 16 kills. Manhattan High product Catherine Carmichael followed with 14 kills while teammates Caroline Jarmoc and Chelsea Albers each had 11.
“It’s a big rivalry, K-State/KU and you always want to beat them,” Muff said. “I think when two teams match up well, that’s when you have games won and lost by two points, which is kind of how it was in those last three sets. They came out playing those last three and we did the same thing. It just didn’t go our way.”
The Wildcats opened the match hitting .444 as a team in the first set but the Jayhawks adjusted and it was a roller coaster ride from then on for K-State, who owns the series lead against KU 62-42-1. While the Wildcats were able to gain leads throughout the match, the Jayhawks would never go away.
In the third set a 19-14 KSU lead was erased by an 8-2 KU run that put the Jayhawks in the lead 22-21 late in the set and although the Wildcats took an early 8-4 lead in the fourth set, KU again rallied back to make it anyone’s match at the end.
“KU is a good volleyball team, no doubt about that,” said Traxson, who had a season best in several categories. “I am very proud of our team and how hard we worked. We were in it the whole time, but there were some key points here and there. It was kind of rough, but we will learn from it.”
Last time in Lawrence, the Wildcats were severely out-blocked 18-5. Last night K-State was able to even up that stat 11-11, but KU won the advantage in hitting percentage every set after the opening one. The Wildcats did have a better serving night with six service aces and four errors – while KU had just four aces and 10 service errors – and K-State out-dug the Jayhawks 63-59, but, the points didn’t come in crunch time, where KU excelled.
“One match is not going to define our season,” Muff said. “I think we are having a good year overall. It is a tough loss but we can take things away and learn from this.”
It was just the third time since 1993 that KU defeated K-State in Ahearn Field House and just the second time in the same span the Jayhawks swept the Sunflower Showdown.
The Wildcats will look to rebound this weekend with another home match in Ahearn, this time against TCU at 3 p.m.