The Kansas State volleyball team was firing on all cylinders as they swept West Virginia 25-13, 25-15, 25-14, Saturday night in Ahearn Field House.
“We played extremely well in all phases,” head coach Suzie Fritz said. “We stayed low-error, which is true to who we want to be. We were really good, on both sides of the ball.”
The Wildcats posted season-bests offensively with a .317 hitting percentage, and defensively by posting 13.5 total team blocks, marking the most team blocks by any Big 12 team in a conference game this season. But it was K-State’s resurgence on offense that had Fritz most pleased.
“I was probably more excited about our first swing offense,” she said. “We hit over .300 in first-swing, and it’s been a little bit inconsistent for us. Anytime we can hit over .300 I think we have a chance to win.”
K-State seemed to have West Virginia off-balance all night in their serve-receive, which helped lead to both the block numbers and the efficient offense.
Fritz praised freshman setter Katie Brand, who had 34 assists on the night. She said when her teammates hit like that, it makes her job easy.
“I think that’s all credit to our serving though,” Brand said. “It really kept them out of system, and we got a lot of free balls and tips. I was basically able to just stand there and set and let my hitters go do the work.”
And go to work, her hitters did.
Senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger led the way with 16 kills on a whopping .619 percentage, while outside hitters Courtney Traxson and Chelsea Keating had seven kills apiece on .467 and .364 hitting, respectively. Dakota Kaufman had five blocks for the Cats.
“That’s what I live for,” Brand said of setting up her teammates. “I love seeing everybody have great games.”
While K-State found its offensive rhythm, the WVU offense went the opposite direction.
The Wildcats dug West Virginia 44 times in the match, with freshman libero Kersten Kober logging a match-high 12. Fritz said the Mountaineers run an aggressive serve, and she thought her team handled it quite well.
Taylor Johnson led the aforementioned block party with eight, while Pelger and Brand each had five. The Wildcats kept West Virginia in negative hitting all night (-.059) and forced 29 attack errors on the Mountaineers for the match.
The first set saw K-State break free from the errors that plagued them Wednesday at Texas Tech. The Wildcats committed just three attack errors and hit a robust .348 for the set.
Keating opened up the service for the Wildcats, and she wouldn’t leave until she had run off the first seven points of the match. Pelger scored three straight kills to cap the run, K-State continued to apply pressure, building a 13-2 lead and forcing a WVU timeout.
The Mountaineers responded with a five-point run, but after a Fritz timeout, the Cats immediately built the lead back to nine. Traxson opened the run with a kill, and Johnson assisted on two straight blocks to boost the K-State lead to 16-7.
A Kaufman block gave the Wildcats set point, and Johnson ended it with a kill at 25-13.
Set two was much the same, but this time the big K-State run didn’t come until the Wildcats found themselves down 6-5 early. Pelger started things off with a kill to tie it, as the Wildcats ran off eight straight to take a 17-7 lead on an ace serve from senior libero Gina Madonia.
K-State got back-to-back blocks, first by Johnson and Kaufman, and then by Traxson to take the big lead of the set at 20-9. After an attack error by WVU’s Jordan Anderson gave the Cats set point, Brand and Pelger put it away with a block at 25-15.
The third set was devoid of big runs, but the result was much the same, as K-State slowly built to its 25-14 clinching win.
Keating started off the four-point run that ended the game with a kill. Pelger followed with one of her own, on a play where she feigned a set then went for the spike. Brand notched a block with Pelger and Keating finished off the Mountaineers for good with a kill on a set from Tristan McCarty.
Looking forward to K-State’s next match, Keating just wants to keep attacking, both offensively and on defense.
“I just know that’s what my team needs,” she said. “Just hit it. I’m not going up there trying to tip it anymore, just going up and swinging really hard.”
K-State’s next action is set for Saturday, as they’ll head to Lawrence to take on No. 24 Kansas. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m.