The K-State Volleyball team completed their nonconference schedule this past week at the Razorback Invitational and a Sunday road match against Missouri State. The Wildcats entered the weekend 9-1 and returned to Manhattan Sunday evening 12-1.
Here’s a recap of K-State’s three games this past weekend.
The Wildcats opened up the Razorback Invitational on Friday evening after not playing for four days. The short break rejuvenated K-State, and against Arkansas, it showed. The Wildcats swept the match, winning 25-23, 25-28, 25-17. It wasn’t the sweep that was impressive, but how K-State dominated nearly all facets of the game. The Wildcats held the Razorbacks to a sub .100 hitting percentage, and did so with great play at the net. Senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger had a season high 9 blocks in the match. Senior outside hitters Courtney Traxson and Dakota Kaufman added six and five blocks respectively. Head coach Suzie Fritz pointed to her team’s blocking as a key reason the Wildcats were so effective, adding that their offense fed off the defense the entire match. Offensively, Kaufman, who had nine total kills, with seven of those nine coming in the second set, led K-State. Kaufman was perfect in that second set, swinging 1.000 for the set, and .263 in the match. Pelger added seven kills and ten digs.
The Wildcats committed to the Razorback Invitational under the assumption that they would be playing two games on Saturday. Their first opponent was supposed to be South Alabama, but earlier this week they were forced to withdraw from the tournament due to excessive team injuries and sickness. This left K-State with only one game on Saturday, against Saint Louis. Less than 24-hours before, the Wildcats had beaten up on Arkansas and showed they arrived in Fayetteville, Ark. on a mission. K-State continued that against the Billikens, winning the match 3-1 and taking home another preseason tournament title. The Wildcats won the first two matches 25-19, 25-11, and then dropped the third set 20-25. K-State bounced back, clinching the match with a fourth set 29-27 victory. After the win, senior outside hitter Lilla Porubek was named the tournament MVP. Porubek registered 15 kills, eight digs, and two aces in the win over Saint Louis. The senior has been a fixture in the Wildcat’s offense this season, with the ability to produce by playing smart and with experience, and has been a steady figure whenever K-State faces adversity. In addition to Porubek, Traxson and Pelger were named to the all tournament team. Traxson registered a season-high 14 kills against the Bilikens, and hit .448 for the match. Pelger added a double double, recording 10 kills and 15 digs.
The Wildcats wrapped up their weekend by traveling north from the University of Arkansas to Missouri State. It turned out to be a memorial weekend finale, as K-State swept Missouri State and Fritz recorded her 250th career victory with the Wildcats. As was the theme throughout the weekend, K-State won the match with stellar defense. For the fourth straight match, the Wildcats posted 10 or more team blocks, finishing Sunday’s match with 15.5. For the second straight game, Pelger posted a double double, this time recording a team-high 11 kills and 10 digs. She hit .438 for the match, which was a season high. Junior middle blocker Taylor Johnson recorded nine blocks, and added nine kills. She was joined at the net by redshirt freshman setter Katie Brand, who added eight blocks. Brand also had 29 assists for the match and eight digs. The win pushed the Wildcats to 12-1 on the season, and completed their nonconference competition.
So far this season, the balance and discipline of the Wildcats have been the main reasons for success. K-State doesn’t rely on any one superstar to carry them, and works to involve five, six, sometimes seven hitters in any one match. Defensively, the Wildcats take pride in being in the right position, and work extremely hard at making the opposing hitters uncomfortable. If K-State can continue meshing as a unit, and becoming more comfortable with Brand as setter, the Wildcats could be a force moving into conference play.
K-State will play an exhibition match on Tuesday at 7 p.m. against the Italian Under-23 National Team. The game does not count towards the Wildcat’s record, but will serve as a great barometer for what K-State needs to tune up before beginning Big 12 play.