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K-State eases past WVU

By Brady Bauman

The 15th-ranked Kansas State volleyball team set the tone immediately and its leading offensive player reached a milestone Thursday night in Ahearn Field House.

The Wildcats welcomed Big 12 newcomer West Virginia to Manhattan for the first time with a three-set sweep — 25-8, 25-19, 25-17.

Junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger led the match with 13 kills for the Wildcats and ended the night with 1,005 career kills. Pelger is now just the 16th player in program history to join the 1,000-kill club. She also had nine digs, a service ace and hit at a .600 clip for the night.

“It tells you she’s a good player,” K-State head coach Suzie Fritz said. “But, the thing I was most excited about tonight is something that no one really pays attention to and that was her passing,

“She got aced the first ball of the game and she came back and passed terrific the entire rest of the match. I thought she handled it great. They served a lot of balls at her, but she passed terrific.”

Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue posted her 30th double-double of her career with 38 assists and 11 digs. She also had two service aces and two kills. Junior outside hitter Dakota Kaufman was second in kills for the Wildcats with six.

Tristan McCarty and libero Kuulei Kabalis added nine digs apiece, defensively. McCarty also led K-State (14-1, 1-1) with three service aces.

“We served extremely well, which we wanted to get back to a little bit and have that be an identity of our team that we can put a lot of pressure from the service line,” Fritz said. “We were a little high error trying to do it. I thought we made some uncharacteristic misses, but I liked the aggressiveness.”

The Wildcats came out of the gate hot in the opening set with a 12-0 lead. Before long K-State led 22-5. K-State quickly closed the set out, after a quick three points from WVU.

While the Mountaineers were able to keep up more in the next two sets, the tone had been set and the Wildcats never trailed, able to keep WVU at a comfortable distance all night.

West Virginia (8-8, 0-2) was led by freshman outside hitter Nikki Attea with six kills and was followed by Elzbieta Klein and Evyn McCoy with five each.

In the first-ever meeting between the two teams, the Wildcats out-hit the Mountaineers .368 to .062 for the match. In the first set, K-State attacked with a success rate of .565, while WVU was -.133.

Pelger said the energy of the home crowd had her team ready to play.

“We came out and kind of felt like the very first match of the season,” she said. “We were talking (in the locker room) about how great our fans are the energy they bring.

“I think they make the other team on the other side of the net a little nervous because they are so loud and in your face, and we feed off of them.”

Pelger said Donahue has been key for her reaching the 1,000-kill mark.

“It’s pretty awesome (to join the 1,000-kill club),” Pelger said. “Donahue and I have a great connection and she gives me so many opportunities. It’s a great accomplishment.”

The Wildcats have a quick turnaround as they hit the road today to take on the Baylor Bears Saturday at 7 p.m. K-State will be looking for its first win at the Ferrell Center since 2008. The Bears are currently 13-4 and 0-2 in conference play.

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