K-State volleyball loses to Iowa State, falls to 1-3 in Big 12 play

K-State senior, defense specialist and libero, Tristan McCarty, bumps the ball during the match against TCU at Ahearn Field House on October 5, 2013. The Wildcats beat the Horned Frogs, winning 3 out 5 sets.

The K-State volleyball team traveled to Ames, Iowa with intentions of getting their conference season straightened out. Instead, the Wildcats left with even more issues. K-State, now 13-4, was swept by Iowa State and dropped to 1-3 in conference play. Going in, Wildcats head coach Suzie Fritz said she knew that the Cyclones were a good team, but Iowa State proved to be one of the best teams K-State has faced this season.

K-State played their best during the first set, battling back multiple times to tie the score, and even take the lead late, before eventually losing 26-24. The first set loss seemed to be a tough pill to swallow for the Wildcats, and they never fully recovered. K-State dropped the next two sets 25-19 and 25-18. In both games, the Wildcats were never really in contention and seemed outmatched.

The stats from the contest mirrored the outcome.

In nearly every statistical category Iowa State dominated K-State. The Cyclones finished with 47 team kills, and swung with a team kill percentage of .211. By comparison, the Wildcats finished with only 30 kills and swung only .091.

Going into the match, the Cyclone’s serving was a concern for K-State. Iowa State finished with only three aces, and recorded seven service errors. The Wildcats did a good job on serve receive, committing only three errors.

Senior outside hitter Courtney Traxson, who finished with eight kills, led K-State. Redshirt freshman setter Katie Brand added three kills, 25 assists and 11 digs. The Wildcats finished with seven players recording three or more kills, but failed to have any player post double digits. K-State continued to struggle with playing terminally, hitting with minimal errors but not finishing hits with kills. The Wildcats were 50 percent – 37 for 74 – on the evening on side outs, compared to 61 percent by the Cyclones.

Morgan Kuhrt, Mackenzie Bigbee, and Ciara Capezio led Iowa State all evening long. The “three-headed monster” accounted for 30 of the team’s 47 kills. Big 12 digs leader Kristen Hahn was at it again, recording a match high of 20 digs. Setter Jenelle Hudson posted a double-double, finishing with 35 assists and 10 digs. Capezio added 12 digs, allowing her to finish with a double-double as well.

The match took only 90 minutes, and was played in front of nearly 2,700 fans. Hilton Coliseum is notorious for being one of the most difficult sports venues in the Big 12 for road teams to find success, and last night was no different. The win moved Iowa State to 3-1 in the Big 12, and 9-5 on the season.

The Wildcats return home to Manhattan for a quick rest before hitting the road again as they will travel to Norman, Okla., to face the Oklahoma Sooners on Oct. 12.

While the competition has certainly increased as K-State has moved into Big 12 play, it hasn’t been the sole reason for the recent string of losses. The Wildcats just aren’t playing like they did during the preseason. The defense has held steady throughout, but at times, the offense is totally anemic. Trying to mesh a redshirt freshman setter with seasoned hitters can be a tall task, but the progression seemed well on its way during the preseason nonconference matchups.

Perhaps even more concerning is the Wildcats slow decline in hitting percentage. The number of swings has stayed consistent; but quite simply, K-State has failed to convert the swings into points.

The defense is very good, but not so good that it can keep the Wildcats afloat for the entire match. If K-State wants to turn their season around, the offense has got to find a spark. With such a deep bench and a large group of seniors, the options are there. It will be up to Fritz and associate head coach Jeff Grove to figure out a rotation that will produce points and lessen the load on the defense.

The loss puts a large dent in K-State’s dreams of winning a conference title, but a 20 win season and an NCAA tournament birth are still real possibilities. If the Wildcats can get a little momentum, things could turn around in a hurry. After the Oklahoma game, K-State will play four of their next six games at Ahearn Field House.