Wildcats sweep Neb-Omaha

By Brady Bauman

Three days after suffering its first loss of the year, the 11th-ranked Kansas State volleyball team rebounded in dominating fashion on Saturday afternoon against Nebraska-Omaha. The Wildcats swept the Mavericks 25-14, 25-16, 25-21 to improve to 13-1.

K-State’s execution was nearly flawless, as the team averaged a .433 hitting percentage and totaled six service aces. It was a needed rebound after getting swept by Oklahoma on Wednesday in the Wildcats’ Big 12 opener in Norman. In that loss, KSU only connected on attacks at a clip of .155.

“We worked on things and regrouped,” K-State head coach Suzie Fritz. “We think offensively we just need to be who we are. We are not somebody who runs all over the place offensively. We run a relatively basic offense and try to run it at a really high level. We wanted to get back to that, and I thought that’s what we did.

“When we pass well, we can sideout very well. When our passing breaks down, that’s where I think we have to really see a bigger amount of growth. We have to be good when it’s bad, and that’s a really hard thing to do.”

Overall, though, the Wednesday loss is a distant memory, according to Fritz.

“It was Wednesday. It’s Saturday now… so I’m over it,” she said. “We didn’t play well (against OU) and when that happens, your chances of winning matches are going to diminish greatly, of course.

“I thought we played well tonight, and that’s the thing we are most concerned about. We’re going to keep looking forward and trying to get better.”

Junior outside hitter Lilla Porubek led the Wildcats with 11 kills and teammate — and fellow junior — Kaitlynn Pelger added 10. Porubek hit .474, while Pelger, the middle blocker, was a dig away from posting a double-double. Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue was 6-of-7 on the attack and led the match in assists with 35. She also had three digs and a service ace.

K-State was anchored defensively by senior libero Kuulei Kabalis, who registered a match-high 14 digs.

“It was really important to come back (from Wednesday) and focus on exactly what we wanted to get done,” Donahue said. “We did set goals before Oklahoma, like we usually do, but we just didn’t execute them to the best of our abilities, so it was really important for us to come back and rebound.”

K-State plowed through the Mavericks in the opening set and set the tone early by building a 17-10 lead. It was more of the same in the second set, where the Wildcats took an early 9-3 lead after a Pelger kill and cruised on from there. While the third set was more competitive in the closing points, it was mainly due to the fact K-State used it as an opportunity for younger players to see the floor — much to the delight of Fritz.

“We were able to get a lot of people in and out of the match, and we do that because they earn opportunities,” Fritz said. “They are battling everyday and the environment we have in practice is very competitive.

“So, I felt like as people were rotating in and out of the match that there wasn’t any significant drop-off, which is what we are looking for. We want to maintain a level of play no matter who is in and out of the match, and I thought we did a nice job of that.”

Donahue agreed.

“I was really excited that we got to get a lot of our players in,” she said. “We have a lot of depth, and a lot of girls that can come in and play for us. I’m really happy that they got in this evening.”

K-State will return to conference play Thursday in Ahearn, where the Wildcats will host new Big 12 member West Virginia at 7 p.m.

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