Volleyball wins five-set thriller against West Virginia with help of true freshman players

K-State true freshman Jayden Nembhard attempts to hit the ball past two West Virginia defenders in the Wildcats five-set win over the Mountaineers on Thursday night. (Photo Courtesy of Rylan Nemesh | The Daily Athenaeum)

The volleyball team handed West Virginia their first home opener loss since 2014 on Thursday night, defeating the Mountaineers in five sets, 25-21, 17-25, 25-27, 26-24 and 15-13.

The Wildcats lacked part of their offense as redshirt junior Brynn Carlson would not make the trip to Morgantown, West Virginia, for the series, according to the ESPNU broadcast. They did not say why she was absent.

Even with Carlson gone, K-State was able to replace her production with a breakout performance from true freshman Jayden Nembhard. Nembhard, who only played in one set prior to this match, led the offensive attack with 24 kills on the night — the most individually by a player on either team.

“I think the biggest bright spot coming out of tonight was definitely Nembhard and being able to put two freshmen on the left side,” head coach Suzie Fritz told K-State Sports. “There’s just nothing that can prepare a young player for competition except for competition. I thought her, in her first match, really stepped up for us.”

True freshmen Aliyah Carter and Kadye Fernholz also performed well. Carter added 16 kills and Ferholz six. Of the Wildcats 62 kills, true freshmen made 46 of them.

The Wildcat defense recorded 15 blocks. K-State recorded just four blocks in their win against Iowa State last weekend. Redshirt Sophomore Abigail Archibong helped with the defensive success, recording 10 total blocks of her own.

Overall, K-State hit .238 on the night that included 62 kills and 23 errors compared to West Virginia’s .215 which included 72 kills and 32 errors.

K-State plays the Mountaineers on Friday for the second match of the series. The match is set to start at 5 p.m. and can be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ with live audio on KMAN radio.