Late-set points proved hard to come by for Kansas State volleyball Wednesday night in a 25-15, 25-23, 23-25, 25-23 home loss to Oklahoma.
The Wildcats (14-12, 5-8 Big 12) had late leads in three of the match’s four sets, including a 23-21 advantage in the second and a 20-19 edge in the fourth. Both sets were also tied at 23-23 before the Sooners (15-11, 5-9 Big 12) stole the final two points.
“You’ve got to make plays when it matters,” said K-State head coach Suzie Fritz. “Twenty-three-all is a good place to be. I think when you get two really good teams playing against each other, a lot of the matches are going to look like that. They’re going to be two points here, three points there. You’re just trying to be two points better than the other guys. There are some things there at the end of that one that certainly would’ve liked to have back.”
The Wildcats started the first set strong, building up an 8-6 lead before Oklahoma went on an 11-3 run to flip things in its favor.
The Sooners hit an eye-popping .533 in Set 1 thanks to 16 kills and zero attacking errors. K-State, meanwhile, hit just .194 with 13 kills and seven attacking errors.
“Sometimes it’s just a good game; sometimes a team is just really grooved in,” Fritz said. “Certainly there are things you can do. You can hit your way into better situations, you can serve them into bad situations, hit them into bad situations to where you can slow things down a little bit. I think some of that is just making better choices.
“That’s where I just felt like we were too high-error. We would make one really good play and then we go back and we’d miss a serve. We would have one really good pass and then we would hit a ball out of bounds. That connectedness — you’ve got to have three consecutive touches that help you play long.”
Oklahoma came back down to earth offensively in the second set, hitting .214 while the Wildcats remained consistent at .195.
The two squads battled through Set 2, swapping leads back and forth. The Sooners eventually scored four in a row to steal it and take a 2-0 lead.
To its credit, K-State responded with a dominant performance in the third set. The Wildcats jumped out to an early 11-4 advantage and never trailed, although they had to fend off a furious Oklahoma comeback after leading 23-19.
They outhit the Sooners .176 to .077.
Both offenses came to life in Set 4, as Oklahoma hit .371 to K-State’s .353. The Wildcats led by as many as four at 9-5 and after a 3-0 Sooners run put them ahead 22-20, K-State battled back to knot things up at 23-23 before eventually falling.
“For this part of the season, the inconsistencies — the one good play, the one bad play; the ebbs and flows that you naturally feel in volleyball — should probably be diminished,” Fritz said. “I think that’s the hard part, right? We, as their coaches, have to take responsibility for developing consistency, so that’s what we’re trying to do. Good over time is way better than great one time.”
Aliyah Carter led the Wildcats with 18 kills, three aces and three blocks. Sydney Bolding had 11 kills and seven blocks while hitting .417, and Elena Baka hit .563 and tallied 11 kills, two blocks and an ace.
Loren Hinkle had 52 assists and two aces and libero Mackenzie Morris had a team-high 18 digs.
“Mack Morris just continues to be really special from a ball-control perspective,” Fritz said. “I thought Elena came in and gave us a nice little boost as well. Bolding was super terminal when we could get her the ball. It’s hard sometimes to set your middles enough, but I thought she was really good there.”
Oklahoma outhit K-State .301 to .229 in the game. Morgan Perkins paced the Sooners with 15 kills, while Alexis Shelton had 14 and Megan Wilson had 13.
With the win, Oklahoma split the season series with the Wildcats. K-State won the first matchup 3-2 in Norman, Oklahoma, after falling behind 2-0 on Oct. 19.
The Wildcats now have three games left of the regular season. They will travel to play at TCU on Saturday before returning to Bramlage Coliseum for their home season finale against Texas Tech on Wednesday.
They will wrap up their conference slate with a trip to Waco, Texas, to face Baylor on Nov. 26.
“At this rate, we’re trying to win them all,” Fritz said. “We’re in a little bit of a dogfight. Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 look about the same in the conference. Coach says it a lot: Win today, win tomorrow, try to win Saturday. … It doesn’t get easier from here.”