The Kansas State women’s volleyball team clawed its way back from a six-point deficit in a must-win fourth set, en route to defeating TCU for its first Big 12 win of the season.
The Wildcats (13-3, 1-2 Big 12) found themselves trailing TCU (11-6, 1-3 Big 12) 14-17 midway through the fourth set. It was around that time the head coach Suzie Fritz barked some encouragement to her team.
“Our motto has been ‘breathe, believe and battle,’” Fritz said. “Very near that time I was reminding them that here is where we want to be. It’s easy to be that way when things are going your way. It is not easy to breathe, believe and battle when things are not going your way, but that’s the time we need it the most.”
From there, her team responded.
K-State went on an 11-4 push to finish off the Horned Frogs 25-21 and force a fifth and final set. The Wildcats, who relied heavily on All-Big 12 selection Kaitlynn Pelger early in the match, searched for balance at the time, and in doing so opened things up for their star player as well. K-State got kills from four different players in the comeback.
It was senior outside hitter Courtney Traxson who notched the final kill on a smash from the left side that kept the Wildcats alive in the match.
“I think when we have that momentum, it is easy to stay on that ride,” Traxson said. ” It’s just the times when things aren’t going our way that we need to turn it around faster.”
They rode that momentum to a nearly flawless fifth set to bring home the win.
Pelger put the team on her shoulders as the Wildcats reeled off the 15-7 win to earn their first conference win of the season. Pelger led the way with 4.5 total points in the frame. She had three kills and defended with two blocks in the set. As a team, K-State posted a whopping .444 hitting percentage and committed zero attack errors during the fifth set to down the Horned Frogs.
Pelger led all scorers with 27.5 total points in the match. She notched a double-double with 23 kills and 11 digs, and also led the Wildcats with five solo blocks. K-State was balanced defensively with five Wildcats collecting 10 or more blocks. Katie Brand tallied a match-high 59 assists.
Pelger talked about the adjustments in the absence of senior Lilla Porubek who is out with an injury.
“The seniors and all the hitters out there, we each have to grab one or two more kills,” Pelger said. “We’re just trying to keep good rhythm and get better.”
The Wildcats outscored TCU 10-5 down the stretch of the first set as they turned what had become a 15-15 tie into a 25-20 set victory. Pelger was large down the stretch, notching three kills in the stanza, while Johnson helped hold the Horned Frogs to frigid .000 hitting percentage in the set. Two big blocks by Taylor Johnson gave K-State set point before she finished the set off with a kill.
The second set saw the Horned Frogs turn the tables on the Wildcats. TCU posted a .333 hitting percentage for the set and was aided by 11 attack errors from K-State. The Wildcats, who managed just a .073 hitting percentage for the set fell behind by as much as six points early, when Fritz called a timeout with her team trailing 6-12.
K-State regrouped, cutting the TCU lead to just three when back-to-back kills from Johnson ignited a short 4-2 run that freshman setter Katie Brand capped off with a block to pull the Wildcats to within 16-19. The Wildcats though, would never get closer as TCU’s Yvonne Igodan finished off the set with a hard kill over the middle to sink K-State 21-25 and pull even in sets.
TCU came out much the same way in the third set, putting K-State in a 4-8 hole early, but this time Traxson took it upon herself to bring the Wildcats back into contention. The senior ran off four straight kills to pull K-State even and an attack error by TCU gave the Wildcats their first lead of the set at 9-8. The momentum was short lived, however, as the Horned Frogs rallied for three straight points. From there, TCU would grow their lead to as much as four as they matched the score from the second set for the 21-25 win and to a 2 to 1 lead in sets.
The Wildcats next travel to Ames, Iowa, to take on Iowa State on Wednesday. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m.