A slow start by the Kansas State volleyball team in the third set made its match with TCU interesting at the end, but a four-point rally by the Wildcats dashed any hopes the Horned Frogs had of extending the contest.
K-State, ranked 17th in the nation, swept TCU 25-17, 25-16, 26-24, Saturday afternoon in Ahearn Field House. The sweep is the Wildcats’ 16th this season, which is good for third-most in the NCAA.
“That’s the way that it is in this league,” KSU head coach Suzie Fritz said. “All of the teams are capable teams and all the teams are good. I think if you lose your focus like we did in the first part of the third game we are going to make it interesting for ourselves. I was very pleased with the fact that we came back, and it was a very difficult gap to close.
“I strongly believe that the margin for error between victory and defeat is very, very slim, and you have to be able to handle some of the minute details that come and go throughout the game. We handled those details well when it mattered.”
K-State (20-5, 8-5 Big 12) opened the third set flat and were in an 11-7 hole midway through. The Wildcats regained the lead 15-13 after a block from junior Courtney Traxson, but back-to-back plays from TCU’s Stephanie Holland — a kill and a block of her own — tied the set.
Both teams continued to exchange points to a 20-20 tie, but then the Horned Frogs (14-11, 3-9) began to pull away. Consecutive attack errors by K-State put TCU at set-point with a 24-22 lead, and it looked as if the Horned Frogs had all the momentum it needed to force the match into a fourth set. But, a kill by Wildcat senior co-captain Alex Muff momentarily held off TCU and brought the serve back to K-State. With junior outside hitter Lilla Porubek at the serve, Muff again posted a KSU kill and tied the set 24-24.
The momentum continued for K-State after a TCU timeout. Porubek stepped up in a big way with a service ace that put the Wildcats in the lead 25-24 and an attack error by the Horned Frogs sealed the set and the match.
“I just went back and didn’t think about the score,” Porubek said about her service ace. “I knew it was 24-24, but I didn’t think about it. I just went with my safety serve. I knew it was an important serve, but I didn’t want to over-think it.”
Fritz didn’t think the serve was as “safe” as Porubek believed, and was happy it wasn’t.
“That was huge,” Fritz said. “That’s not generally how you expect that to go, that you have to serve an ace to get yourself back in it, but it was certainly a critical point. That serve had some stuff on it. For her to go back and have the confidence to take that sort of risk says a lot.”
Junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger led the Wildcats with a match-high 15 kills and Muff followed with nine. Porubek and Traxson each had seven, while senior Kathleen Ludwig and junior Dakota Kaufman rounded out the rest of the scoring with six and two kills, respectively. Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue posted a match-high 40 assists.
TCU was led by junior middle blocker Yvonne Igodan with 13 kills. Sophomore Stephanie Holland was second with 7 kills, but left the match in the third set with a leg injury.
Defensively K-State’s Tristan McCarty led the way with 12 digs, and four of the Wildcats’ service aces came from both Ludwig and senior libero Kuulei Kabalis. K-State hit .321 as a team in the match, with Pelger and Muff hitting .500 and .429, respectively.
K-State has just three more matches left in the regular season, with trips coming up at Iowa State and Texas Tech before ending it back in Ahearn against Oklahoma November 24.