In an international exhibition between the Italian Under 23 national team and the K-State Wildcats (12-1), the Wildcats lost a hard fought match in five sets. After losing the first two sets, the Italian national team rattled off three dominant sets to win the match.
Both teams tried different combinations of players throughout the exhibition.
“We went out their to have fun,” said Chelsea Keating, K-State junior outside hitter.
K-State utilized strong defense with a determined net presence in order to claim the first set with a score of 21-17. Junior middle blocker Taylor Johnson led the Wildcats with four kills during the set, while the Wildcats defense had two total blocks.
The strong defensive showing continued from the Wildcats in the second set, as they won 21-18. Senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger added two blocks to her total as she led the Wildcats with three by the second. The Wildcats’ senior outside hitter, Lilla Porubek, left in the middle of the set with an apparent foot/ankle injury.
After the intermission following the second set, the Italian squad came back to the court firing on all cylinders.
Italy won the third set comfortably 21-16. Poor net presence by the Wildcats allowed the Italians to gain a 68 percent hitting percentage. The Wildcats defense showed glimpses of their toughness during the tail-end of the set, recording three straight scoring blocks before the Italians won the set. The Wildcats tied the Italians six times in early on in the set, but a streak by the Italians had them down for the rest of the set.
The fourth set was much the same as the third. Italy had their foot on the pedal and led all the way through, allowing the Wildcats to gain only six kills during the period. The shuffling of K-State’s lineup during the set may have put them into bad positions on defense. Keating led the Wildcats in the period with two kills in the set. The Italians won the set 21-14.
The fifth and deciding set was won by the Italians in a closely contested 15-11 victory. Freshman setter Katie Brand led the team in the shortened period with five assists, helping her team stay close to the streaking Italians.
Brand led the Wildcats in assists with 30. Pelger led the team in kills, recording 12, as well as block-assists, with six.
The Italian play had the Wildcat defense on their heels throughout the game.
“We had to slow down some of the aspects of the defense,” head coach Suzie Fritz said. “We started the season against teams who wanted to push the envelope and focus on speed. [The Italians’] style of [slow] play did resemble some Big 12 schools.”
The Wildcats travel next to Morgantown, W. Va. to begin their Big 12 season against West Virginia on Friday.