Filled with a crowd still pumped from its football team’s dominating victory earlier in the day, the Kansas State faithful had more reason to cheer Saturday night in Ahearn Field House.
The 22nd-ranked K-State volleyball team beat Utah State in three sets and broke a school record for best start in program history. The Wildcats won 25-22, 25-23, 25-18.
Now at 9-0, K-State has bested previous record starts of 8-0 in 2005 and 1988.
It wasn’t pretty, though.
The Wildcats were pressured by Utah State’s serving early and often, and K-State had to rally from deficits in the second and third sets. Still, a record start is a record start.
“It’s awesome to have a 9-0 start,” said junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger, who posted her 18th career double-double. “But, we still want to get better. We didn’t play to our best ability tonight, which sounds funny because we won in three games, but we want to do more than just win. We want to be us… we want to be better.
“This coming week we are facing some tougher teams, so we are super excited to see where that goes.”
Pelger led the game with 11 kills and had 12 digs, while teammate Lilla Porubek was second in scoring for K-State with nine kills and five digs. Senior opposite Kathleen Ludwig followed with seven and hit with the highest percentage in the game at .667.
Going into the night’s match the Wildcats’ strength had been in their ability to pressure the opponent with their serve. Utah State knew that trick, too, and it frustrated KSU. So much so, the Aggies notched seven serving aces in the match, while the Wildcats – who usually rack up some themselves – had a doughnut in that column.
“I’m unsatisfied, as always,” K-State head coach Suzie Fritz said. “I think we have to play cleaner. (Utah State) put an enormous amount of pressure on us with their serving. Saint Mary’s (from Thursday) night did the same, so we felt like we were prepared for that. But, when it came right down to it, we weren’t as prepared.
“I think in the long run, that will be good for us — to have somebody get after us and have to respond to that and have to recover from that. (The Aggies) served the right people, they served it with incredible pace and it took us a while to make an adjustment.”
Fritz was happy with the relatively mistake-free volleyball her team played, though.
“We did a nice job of staying low error, for the most part,” she said. “It didn’t look pretty, but we didn’t hurt ourselves too often. We just kept playing and kept playing till we found some momentum, and I thought we didn’t catch some momentum till the third.”
The Wildcats and Utah State played each other close in the first and third sets and were often tied in the late points, however K-State eventually pulled away late both time.
KSU looked to have control in the third set and led 16-13, but the Aggies went on a 5-0 run that took away the Wildcats’ lead and comfort. Three straight kills by Pelger changed all that, though, and K-State regained its composure and finished out the match with a 9-5 run.