After the 14th-ranked Kansas State volleyball team dominated its second set in a row, fans in Ahearn Field House were gearing up to see the Wildcats notch their 15th sweep of the season. Besides, K-State was facing the struggling Texas Tech Red Raiders, who recently broke a nine-match losing streak with a victory at West Virginia. The Mountaineers, by the way, have yet to win a Big 12 match and are 8-13 overall.
Another sweep didn’t happen. The K-State faithful had to watch a few more sets than they thought they would see. They saw five sets.
Still, the Wildcats held off the upset-minded Red Raiders 25-13, 25-14, 20-25, 23-25 and 15-9.
“I did not think we were coming together. I did not think we looked loose,” K-State head coach Suzie Fritz said. “This team plays really well when they are having fun. You get to mid-October and we are grinding it out pretty well. You forget sometimes that volleyball is supposed to be fun. I did not feel as though we were as loose and we were not communicating as well. Some of it was self-inflicted. Once we settled down a little bit we were fine.”
The Wildcats (18-3, 5-3) were led by junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger, who posted a double-double with 18 kills and 18 digs. Senior middle blocker Alex Muff was also big for K-State with a career-best 17 kills. More impressively, Muff hit at an efficiency of .593 – the fourth-best hitting percentage in school history for a five-set match. Junior outside hitter Lilla Porubek was also in double-digits with 11 kills.
Texas Tech (12-12, 1-7) was led by freshman Meghan Stacy who totaled a match-high 19 kills. Sophomore outside hitter Breeann David followed with 12.
It seemed like K-State, who left Lawrence frustrated Wednesday night after losing to No. 21 Kansas in four sets, had taken that anger out on the Red Raiders in the first two sets and that the Wildcats would continue to fire away in the third. Fritz then decided to change personnel and according to her, it backfired.
“I made some personnel changes in the third, in hopes we can get some people some time, and we lost our rhythm in there and it took us some time to get it back,” Fritz said. “And I take some responsibility for that. We were up 2-0, we were playing well enough and I felt like we could do some things.
“When you do that it is generally disruptive. The people that were put in the match were people that had earned some opportunities to give it a go. And it’s not to the fault of the people that came in, it’s just different, but we adjusted as we went.”
Texas Tech took advantage and took an early lead but the set tightened towards the end. Errors bit K-State, though, and a kill by Stacy forced a fourth set. The Wildcats were again flat, and the Red Raiders led 18-13 late. K-State again was able to rally to tie the set 22-22 after a Pelger kill, but Tech kept fighting and more Stacy kills forced a fifth set.
There, the Wildcats regained their composure. K-State took a quick 3-0 lead and although the Red Raiders tied the match 9-9, the Wildcats were finally able to pull away to win the match.
Muff credited her career day to K-State senior setter Caitlyn Donahue.
“I thought that Caitlyn Donahue set me tremendously today and we had a really good rhythm,” Muff said. “I think that is something that helps me a lot. (Texas Tech is) a decent volleyball team and I think being able to connect with your setter is a huge key to being able to hit well and I am finally starting to get that with Caitlyn.”
Overall, the Wildcats hit .318 as a team, while the Red Raiders hit .147. K-State also out-blocked Texas Tech 12.5-9.