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Wildcats upend No. 10 Minnesota

By The Mercury

TULSA, Okla. — The Kansas State volleyball team faced its toughest test of the season on Friday night, and the Wildcats were up for the challenge, defeating the No. 10 Minnesota Golden Gophers in five sets at the Golden Hurricane Classic 13-25, 25-22, 16-25, 25-19, 15-7.

The victory extended K-State’s best start to open a season at 11-0 and marked just the sixth time the Wildcats have defeated a team ranked in the Top 10 of the AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll.

The Wildcats (11-0) used their experience in five-set matches last season to jump on Minnesota in the final stanza early and never let off the gas.

The Wildcats got back-to-back blocks from Dakota Kaufman to grab the momentum and three kills from Kaitlynn Pelger during a 5-0 run gave K-State an early 6-1 lead.

Minnesota (8-2) would not score consecutive points in the fifth set and the Wildcats continued to apply pressure on the Gophers, hitting .818 in the final set without any errors.

One player in particular who played well was fifth-year senior Kathleen Ludwig, as she pounded out 16 kills on a .324 hitting percentage.

Middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger also tallied 16 kills on the night and just missed another double-double with nine digs. Lilla Porubek joined Ludwig and Pelger in double digits with 10 kills as she found her rhythm late.

Donahue had one of her better matches of the season with 49 assists and 10 digs as she guided the Wildcats to hitting .192 overall. Her setting helped the Wildcats roll in the sets they won, posting hitting percentages of .345, .417 and .818.

Minnesota entered the match with the highest hitting percentage in the nation at .366 and was held to .239.

The Gophers also brought the No. 1 attacker in the nation in Tori Dixon. Dixon came into this week’s tournament hitting .551, and the Wildcats limited her to just .091 with seven kills. Katherine Harms led Minnesota with 17 kills and 13 digs.

The last time K-State and Minnesota tangled on the volleyball court was the season opener in 2009 at the Runza/AVCA Showcase in Omaha, Neb. That match also was a five-setter with No. 11 Minnesota getting the victory over No. 22 KSU.

To open the match the Golden Gophers jumped on K-State early with a 4-0 run to take a 9-3 lead. Another run of six straight points would extend the lead to 10 at 15-5 for the Gophers.

The Wildcats would not be able to get its offense into a rhythm hitting negative for the set. Pelger tallied three kills, but not other Wildcats could get more than one to add to the scoring.

The Wildcats weren’t able to slow Minnesota down in the second set, but did find their own offense, hitting a strong .345 in getting the win to even the match at 1-1.

K-State rebounded from a poor offensive performance in the opening frame and saw Porubek tally a handful of kills along with Ludwig and Pelger.

Late in the set, the Wildcats were able to overcome an ace by Minnesota that was originally ruled out by a line judge but over-ruled by the head official. That ace put Minnesota ahead 20-19, but the Wildcats responded well with a 4-1 run. A block by Donahue and Pelger made it set point and a rare error by Minnesota’s Dixon gave K-State the win.

The third set was all Minnesota as the Wildcats hit negative again, plus two service errors and a net violation on a joust play at the net to give the Gophers 10 points. Minnesota rolled with as the Wildcats were able to score back-to-back points only once in the set to fall 25-16.

K-State again rebounded in the fourth with a .417 hitting percentage to get the win 25-19 and force a pivotal fifth set. Porubek took control late with three kills during a run to go ahead 19-15.

Pelger took over down the final push with three kills of her own to close out the set and even the match up. Minnesota hit .286 in the fourth set, but could not overcome K-State and only three errors by the Wildcats.

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