FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — Senior outside hitter Lilla Porubek was named the Arkansas Invitational MVP after she registered 15 kills, eight digs and two aces in the K-State volleyball team’s 3-1 win (25-19, 25-11, 20-25, 29-27) win over Saint Louis on Saturday at Barnhill Arena. The victory gave the Wildcats the Arkansas Invitational title with a perfect 2-0 record.
Porubek’s two aces were among 12 for K-State (11-1), a season-high for the Wildcats. Redshirt freshman setter Katie Brand had six of the 12 aces, the most by a Wildcat in a four-set match since Liz Wegner had six on September 7, 2001 against Arkansas.
“We were taking a little bit more risk in our serves, especially in game two,” said head coach Suzie Fritz. “We were serving strategically a little bit better. We were getting the serves on somebody that we felt like we would get an advantage.”
The aces for Porubek increased her season total to six. It was Porubek’s veteran presence, though, that provided the edge for the Wildcats.
“Lilla plays with so much experience,” said Fritz. “She takes smart swings and sees things at such a high level. She plays like a really experienced player, like a senior should. That’s what we need from her.”
“It was a team effort,” said Porubek. “Our whole team was deserving of being the most valuable. It feels good personally, but more importantly, it is a feeling of I have a team around me that is helping me out. I have good support.”
Seniors Courtney Traxson and Kaitlynn Pelger were named to the all-tournament team. Traxson had a season-high 14 kills and .448 hitting percentage against Saint Louis (4-8) while Pelger had a double-double with 10 kills and 15 digs. Both Pelger and Traxson had four blocks apiece on Saturday after the two combined for 15 blocks on Friday night against Arkansas.
K-State notched 10.5 team blocks, which was the second straight match and fifth match overall this season the Wildcats have recorded 10 or more blocks.
The Wildcats were forced to battle for the match victory after they captured the first two sets soundly. K-State overcame a 10-5 deficit in the first set, fueled largely by a 7-0 run. Tristan McCarty had back-to-back aces to knot up the set at 10-10, and two errors by Saint Louis gave K-State its first lead of the match, 12-10. The Billikens closed within 15-14, but one of Porubek’s four kills in the first set spurred a 10-4 run for the Wildcats to end the set.
The Wildcats limited Saint Louis to a .083 hitting percentage after the Billikens built their 10-5 lead in the first set with an errorless .455 hitting percentage on their first 11 attempts. K-State, meanwhile, had no errors in their final 18 attacks.
The Wildcats had the second set in complete control from the outset. Traxson recorded seven kills in the set on eight errorless attempts for a .875 hitting percentage. As a team, K-State had a .478 hitting percentage.
An 8-0 run early on, ignited by Pelger’s third kill of the match, tilted the second set heavily in favor of the Wildcats. Brand had two aces in the run that stretched it to 8-1. Later in the set, Brand added three consecutive aces to clinch the set 25-11.
The Wildcats dropped the third set after they could not stop a Saint Louis offensive attack that had 15 kills on a .393 hitting percentage and five aces. K-State used a 4-0 run, featuring kills by Natali Jones and Pelger, to pull within 18-17, but the Wildcats were never able to lead in the set.
A 6-0 run erased a four-point lead for Saint Louis in the fourth set as the Wildcats grabbed a 14-12 advantage with a block by Pelger and Traxson. K-State was up against set point, 25-24, but a kill by Pelger tied the score. The Billikens were once again within one point of winning the set, but Porubek evened it with her 15th kill of the match. Back-to-back kills by Brand and Traxson ended the set and match.
Traxson was in the starting lineup as a left side hitter in part to rest fellow senior Dakota Kaufman. Fritz knew she could trust the senior from Cheney, Kan. to step up.
“The fact that Traxson can play one position and then the next day play another position speaks a lot about her abilities and how far she has come from where she started,” said Fritz.
K-State will wrap up the weekend on the road with a nonconference match against Missouri State in Springfield, Mo. on Sunday, September 22 at 1 pm. The match can be heard live on k-statesports.com as well as KMAN 1350.