Tuesday, December 1, 2015

No. 14 Cats handle No. 22 Cyclones

Though the Kansas State volleyball team swept its opponent for an NCAA-leading 14th time this season Wednesday night in Ahearn Field House, Wildcats head coach Suzie Fritz has rarely felt too satisfied with the results after any of them.

That wasn’t the case last night, though.

K-State — ranked 14th — was dominant against No. 22 Iowa State and swept the Cyclones 25-15, 27-25, 25-17. It is the first win over Iowa State for the Wildcats since 2007.

It’s a statement win for K-State (16-1, 3-1 Big 12), which had been swept by the Cyclones (8-6, 2-2) in seven straight matches leading into Wednesday night’s match.

“I felt pretty good about that one,” Fritz said. “I thought we played really well. I told myself I’m going to enjoy it for the next 15 minutes, and we’re about five minutes in. I thought we played extremely well.

“(Assistant coaches Jeff) Grove and (Jeff) Hulsmeyer had a nice plan in terms of areas we felt like we could attack and did a tremendous job of executing those things.”

K-State junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger led the way with a match-high 16 kills and fellow junior Lilla Porubek followed with 10 kills. Senior middle blocker Alex Muff added eight kills and seven block assists.

“Our coaches prepared us really well and we were really excited from the get-go,” Muff said. “I think we were well prepared and knowing what they were going to throw at us, so there were not any surprises. We were ready for just about anything they were going to throw at us.”

The Wildcats opened the match by hitting .632 in the first set and hit .417 overall. Pelger led the team in hitting percentage at .556. Iowa State, meanwhile, hit .148 as a team.

“It was a great win and Iowa State is a great team,” Pelger said. “We came out and had a game plan. We did it and we played great.

“Everyone is out to get us, and we’re out to get everyone, so it’s a battle in the Big 12. (The Cyclones) are a great team and we haven’t beaten them. I haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here,  so it’s a great win.”

While K-State cruised in the opening set it wasn’t as easy in the second one.

Iowa State jumped out with a 10-5 lead and led in the late stages of the set 18-14. K-State — with its back against the wall — responded with a 5-1 run that would tie it at 19-19. The Cyclones answered back with two unanswered points that would regain the lead for Iowa State at 21-19, but the Wildcats took control again with a 3-0 run before eventually winning 27-25.

“I think it was really key for us when we got down there and had to work our way back up,” Muff said. “We are a team that sometimes gets in ruts, so it was a good sign for us to be able to work our way out of it and find a way to win that set.”

Iowa State was led by sophomore outside hitter Victoria Hurtt with 10 kills. The Cyclones’ kill leader, freshman Mackenzie Bigbee, was held to just one kill.

“We felt like we had to contain Bigbee and we did such a good job, we got her subbed out of the match,” Fritz said. “She has been leading their team in kills. We did a nice job touching and controlling quick attacks.

“I thought we ball handled really well and played tremendous defense.”

Defensively, K-State was led in digs by senior setter Caitlyn Donahue with 10. Donahue also added a match-high 38 assists and a service ace.

Defensive specialist Tristan McCarty and Pelger were also key with nine digs apiece. As a team, the Wildcats out-blocked Iowa State 9-4.

K-State will continue play Saturday against No. 9 Texas — a team the Wildcats haven’t defeated since 2003. The match will be at 7 p.m. in Ahearn Field House.


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