There are many reasons the Kansas State volleyball team is having a successful season.
Obviously, the returning experience has been key. But like many things, it’s more complex than that.
A team of seasoned veterans can master the little things, and for the 14th-ranked Wildcats, serving has turned into a strength.
It’s something K-State (16-2, 3-2 Big 12) hopes to continue to do well Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas, where the Wildcats will take on TCU (13-5, 2-3) at 1 p.m.
“At times, I think (our serving) has been really key to our ability to score points on defense,” K-State coach Suzie Fritz said this week. “If you can get somebody in a two-point pass situation, or a medium-pass situation, and you don’t have to defend three hitters, but just have to defend two, then it lessens your responsibilities.
“It lessens your assignments — your blocking assignments, your defensive assignments — because you’ve taken one hitter out of it.
And the first hitter to go is normally the quicker hitter.
“They require a more perfect pass to be able to hit it… you have a better chance, because you’ve slowed (the opponent) down, essentially,” Fritz said.
While the Wildcats use their serve as a defensive advantage, they also find ways to use it offensively, too. K-State has totaled 79 service aces so far this season, while its opponents have just 62 against the Wildcats.
Junior middle blocker and kill leader Kaitlynn Pelger leads the team in service aces with 21. Senior libero Kuulei Kabalis is second with 15.
Junior defensive specialist Tristan McCarty has 12. Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue and junior outside hitter Lilla Porubek are also in double-figures with 11 and 10 service aces, respectively.
Fritz said the many different type of serves the team utilizes has been an advantage.
“We feel like you have to have some diversity in your serving line-up,” Fritz said. “We are traditionally a team that serves a type of serve called a ‘jump-float,’ which means you take an attack approach from the in-line. But then you don’t actually try and attack the ball, like you would with a top-spin ball — you actually try to hit through the back of it, so the ball does not rotate in any way. It’s the most difficult ball to pass. It can move from side to side and can drop.
“It would be ideal if we could get everybody to float-serve around 35 miles-per-hour or greater, but that’s not always the case.”
Fritz continued with two schools of thought — for K-State, when it comes to serving, it’s all pace and placement, something the Wildcats like to combine.
“Tristan has traditionally been one of our placement servers,” Fritz said. “She has the ability to serve it where ever, when ever. She can serve short, she can serve deep, she can serve side-line, she can serve in-line.
“Caitlyn Donahue is another one. Pelger, in contrast, is a pace server. She goes back and serves it hard. Lilla is a little bit of a pace server. We want to get them around 38 miles-per-hour.
“If you can have diversity, where your opponent isn’t seeing the same thing over and over, in terms of how fast it’s getting on them, or how much the ball moves, or how it moves, that’s ideal.”
The Wildcats play at Kansas on Wednesday and return home on Oct. 20 to host Texas Tech in an afternoon match.