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K-State volleyball set for home match with West Virginia

By Nicolas Wahl

The Kansas State volleyball team will look to rebound from a midweek loss as its gets set to host West Virginia for a 7 pm match on Saturday at Ahearn Field House. 

K-State (15-8, 3-7 Big 12) saw its two-match win streak snapped when the Wildcats dropped a four-set tilt at Texas Tech on Wednesday. Though K-State has struggled on the road this season, the team has seen more success at home. K-State has posted a 7-2 record in the “Purple Pit,” and upset then-No. 25 Oklahoma in its most recent home match last Sunday.

Both the Wildcats and Mountaineers have seen promising nonconference records decimated by the Big 12 slate. Neither team lost more than a match entering conference play, but sit tied for seventh in the nine-team Big 12. 

West Virginia (17-9, 3-7) won this season’s first meeting — topping the Wildcats 25-16, 18-25, 25-22, 25-22 on Sept. 27 in Morgantown, W. Va. — in what was the Big 12 opener for both squads.

The Wildcats blocked West Virginia 10 times in that loss. But, in their first game without Lilla Porubek — who suffered a season-ending injury — the offense struggled and registered just a .077 hitting percentage and 31 attack errors.

K-State, ranked last in the Big 12 hitting percentage, will look for the rejuvenated attack that posted 45 kills and a .266 hitting percentage against Oklahoma to return against the West Virginia. The Wildcats hit just .144 in the loss at Texas Tech this week. 

Key to this will be the play of the K-State front.  Reigning Big 12 offensive player of the week, middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger recorded 17 kills on 27 attempts against Oklahoma, but was held to just six kills and a .065 hitting percentage in the loss at Tech. 

Outside hitters Courtney Traxson, Dakota Kaufman and Chelsea Keating have stepped up of late. Traxson is coming off of back-to-back games with 13 kills of her own, and K-State will need that balance to pick up a win. West Virginia has allowed Big 12 opponents to post a .230 hitting percentage, ranking sixth in the conference.

The defense has been a strength for K-State as it ranks fourth in the Big 12 opponent’s hitting percentage. 

This has been buoyed by an average of 2.74 blocks per set, which ranks second only to No. 1 and defending national champion Texas. Both Pelger and junior middle blocker Taylor Johnson rank in the top 10 in individual blocks per set. The Wildcats blocked Texas Tech 13 times, with a career-high 10 coming from Johnson.

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