After Friday’s close loss to Iowa State, Kansas State head coach Suzie Fritz knew this season’s team could be special. The Wildcats bounced back to send the match to five before losing in that winner-take-all fifth set on Friday.
Fritz appreciated her team’s fight. Iowa State brought back five starters and 13 letter winners from a season ago — a season in which the Cyclones made the NCAA Tournament. For the Wildcats skipper, she knew her team had the fight in them to make this series competitive.
“That shows a lot of what’s inside of them [her players],” Fritz said after the loss on Friday.
However, on Saturday, the Wildcats were the ones who jumped on the Cyclones early – and they wouldn’t look back. K-State would go on to beat Iowa State in four sets, 25-16, 25-23, 14-25, 25-23.
“It feels great,” redshirt sophomore Abigail Archibong said. “I feel like, especially with last night how we basically beat ourselves, to just come out tonight and prove that we deserve to win feels amazing.”
The Wildcats owned the first set on Saturday, led by a burst of energy from true freshman Aliyah Carter on offense and from Archibong on defense. Carter, who struggled early in her debut the day before, settled in late on Friday and continued to play efficiently on Saturday. She went on to record 15 kills on .229 hitting.
“Yesterday, was definitely first time jitters,” Carter said. “Today, I knew what to do and play my game and everything would be fine … I have high expectations for myself, so I don’t know, I kind of just play to be the best I can be.”
The second set of the match went right back to Fritz’s comments on her team’s fight. The Wildcats found themselves down 14-9 early before going on a 11-5 run to take the lead 20-19. From there, the two teams would go back-and-forth before K-State came out on top.
Similarly, in the third set, the Wildcats saw themselves in a hole early, but ultimately could not overcome a late 9-0 ISU run. But the fight continued for K-State. In the match deciding set, the Wildcats didn’t let the Cyclones nine-point run get to them and jumped out to the early lead – a lead they wouldn’t give up until going down 22-23.
The Wildcats would go on to win the next three points to win the match. True freshman Mackenzie Morris said the message in the huddle after the set was to just stay focused.
“It was to just take it one play at a time,” Morris said. “To not overthink it and just play.”
The win against the Cyclones marked the first win of the season for the Wildcats, and is also the first time a K-State team has beaten them in four years. The program’s last win against Iowa State came on Sept. 21, 2016.
“It felt like a long time, but I didn’t realize it was that long,” Fritz said. “It feels great. I’m kind of at the point though where I don’t care who it is. The wins are just icing on the cake, we want to keep our expectations high, but yeah, it feels pretty good.”
For the match, Iowa State led in almost every statistical category outside of points. The Cyclones tallied more kills (57-53), assists (53-50) and digs (59-56). But K-State would capitalize off of 24 ISU hitting errors and utilize their .236 hitting percentage to win the match.
Individually, redshirt junior Brynn Carlson and Carter would lead the Wildcats in kills with 15 apiece. Morris led the team with 13 digs.
Junior Brooke Andersen and sophomore Annie Hatch would pace Iowa State offensively with 12 kills each. Senior Izzy Enna went on to record 16 digs, leading the team.
On Oct. 1 at 6 p.m., K-State will play West Virginia for a weekend series. The first match will be streamed on ESPNU.