Before Wednesday night, things had not been going quite right for the volleyball team, with five straight losses and just one victory in Big 12 play.
Going into the third set of their match against rival Kansas on Wednesday night in Ahearn Field House, it looked like things might keep going downhill, but the Wildcats weren’t ready to call it quits.
Down two sets, Kansas State rallied thanks to a season-high 75 total team kills and defeated KU in the Sunflower Showdown for the third straight time in five sets.
Four players recorded double-digit kills on the night for the Wildcats. Freshman outside hitter Anna Dixon matched a career-high 21 kills, redshirt sophomore outside hitter Brynn Carlson had 15, redshirt junior middle blocker Peyton Williams had 13 and sophomore opposite Gloria Mutiri with 12.
The first two sets were battles with 10 lead changes and 29 ties. The first set ended 33-31 in favor of the Jayhawks, as both teams had four set-points before KU ended things with a kill after a 3-1 run.
Both teams also had their lowest hitting percentage of the night in the first set, as KU finished with a .150 while K-State finished with a .146.
The Jayhawks took a more routine, but tight set in the second, 25-22. The Wildcats were within one point at 22-21 late in the set, but another 3-1 run sunk K-State and put them in a 2-0 hole.
After having two sets of hitting percentages under .200, K-State showed determination to hit over .300 for the rest of the match while holding the Jayhawks to .200 or below, only trailing once in the final three sets.
K-State jumped to an eight-point lead in the third set and didn’t look back, as five kills by Dixon and a .303 hitting percentage gave the Wildcats their first set victory at 25-22.
Looking to force a fifth set, the Wildcats had another big start in the fourth set, opening up to a seven-point lead. K-State once again took the set 25-22 and this time had an even better hitting percentage of .324 to force a decisive fifth set.
K-State played some of their best volleyball of the season in that fifth set, earning 13 kills and hitting at a .400.
Thanks to a quick start by Carlson, earning four straight kills, the Wildcats started out with an 8-3 lead as the teams switched sides. KU tried to rally, but it was too little, too late as the Wildcats recorded four of the final five points to take the decisive set 15-9.
Overall K-State hit .257 with 75 kills and 27 errors on the night compared to KU’s .191 with 54 kills and 24 errors. The win for the Wildcats increases their series lead over KU to 66-52-1, while also making it 30-19 all-time at home against their in-state rival.
K-State heads to Ames, Iowa, on Saturday to take on Iowa State (12-7, 3-4) at Hilton Coliseum. That match is set to start at 8 p.m. and can be seen on Cyclones.TV and heard on KMAN.