LAS VEGAS — The Kansas State volleyball team was forced to five sets for the second time in as many matches Saturday, but the Wildcats defense carried them to a 3-2 win over Cal State Fullerton in the UNLV Invitational at the Cox Pavilion.
K-State won 25-20, 27-25, 21-25, 23-25 and 15-12.
The Wildcats (2-0) totaled 101 digs and 18 team blocks to hold off the Titans’ comeback. K-State captured the first two sets, but Fullerton (0-2) forced the fifth set with two consecutive wins of its own.
Senior Tristan McCarty recorded a career-high 27 digs to lead K-State. Five different Wildcats had 10 or more digs, with senior Kaitlynn Pelger tallying 10, to go along with her 11 kills and five blocks.
Taylor Johnson led K-State with seven blocks, while Katie Brand and Natali Jones each contributed five blocks.
Senior Lilla Porubek powered the Wildcats’ offense in the latter part of K-State’s 25-20 first-set victory when she came alive for five kills. Her first kill of the match made it 16-14, igniting an 8-3 run. Porubek’s fifth kill capped the run and gave the Wildcats a 23-17 lead.
In the second set, K-State trailed 15-13 but used five unanswered points to build an 18-15 lead. Four Fullerton errors helped the Wildcats gain the advantage. Kills from Chelsea Keating and Courtney Traxson opened a 22-17 lead for the Wildcats, but after a Fullerton timeout, the advantage dwindled to 22-20. The Titans went on to even the score at 22-22, but back-to-back kills from Traxson ended the 5-0 Titans run.
Consecutive blocks from Porubek and Jones ended the set in extra points, 27-25. The Wildcats had eight team blocks through the first two sets, matching their entire blocks output from Friday night against Portland.
The third set is where the match turned against the Wildcats. Seven straight points from Fullerton put K-State down 9-3, but the Wildcats went on their own run to bring it within two at 9-7. Johnson, a night after setting a career-high in kills, had two kills to help power the run. Strong net play, a theme for the Wildcats all day, sustained rallies during the 4-0 run.
Three straight blocks followed a Pelger set-tying kill to give the Wildcats a 13-10 lead. Pelger was involved on two of the three blocks, her first blocks of the match. Pelger had three kills and three blocks in the third set, while Johnson had four kills and two blocks.
Fullerton rattled off five points, though, to capture the third set 25-21.
After a hard fought fourth set in which the Wildcats lost 25-23, Kansas State grabbed a quick 4-0 lead in the fifth set. The Titans came back and led 11-10 before the Wildcats defense surfaced again. Johnson and Dakota Kaufman combined for a block to return the lead to the Wildcats 12-11 and later Pelger and Traxson made it 14-12 with K-State’s 18th and final team block of the match.
Hensley Alyse led Fullerton with 18 kills on 58 swings. She also had 21 digs and three blocks. The Titans had 12 blocks and 102 digs.
The Wildcats will wrap up the UNLV Invitational tonight at 9 against UNLV.
Cats win season opener
K-State team put away the Portland Pilots in five sets to open its 2013 season with a 3-2 victory in the UNLV Invitational at the Cox Pavilion — 24-26, 25-19, 25-23, 19-25 and 15-11.
New career-highs in kills from Johnson (13) and Keating (11), a mid-match substitute, provided the offense for the Wildcats.
Keating provided her 11 kills in three sets after she entered the match for the first time in the third set.
K-State fell behind 12-8 in the third, but four errors by Portland, as well as a service ace from Pelger, provided the Wildcats with a 13-12 advantage.
Later in the set, another service ace by Pelger broke a 19-19 tie and Portland once again committed three straight errors to give K-State a 23-20 lead before they won the set 25-23.
The Cats overcame a first set defeat with a 25-19 victory in the second.
K-State was once again forced to come back in the fourth set when consecutive kills from Traxson and Pelger followed by blocks from Brand and Pelger tied it at 8-8.
The Wildcats wasted little time grabbing an early lead in the decisive fifth set when they went up 5-2, behind a pair of kills from Porubek. The set came within 10-9, but two kills by Keating sealed the season-opening victory.