Volleyball battles No. 5 Nebraska, falls 3-1

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Wildcat setter Shelby Martin sets the ball up for a teammate during the March 14, 2021 volleyball game against Saint Louis University. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Almost 10 years have passed since the Kansas State volleyball team has traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, one of the toughest environments in all of college volleyball. On that fateful day almost 10 years ago, the Wildcats defeated Nebraska for just the fourth time in school history, knocking the Cornhuskers out of the NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats (1-1) visited Lincoln on Saturday in an attempt to dethrone the Huskers (2-0) in front of 7,952 fans during the Husker Invitational finale. While K-State gave the No. 5 ranked Huskers a test, Nebraska proved too much for the team, handing them their first loss of the season in four sets; 25-17, 27-25, 11-25 and 25-22.

“I thought we were significantly better today than we were yesterday,” head coach Suzie Fritz said to K-State Sports. “Our focus right now is on improvement. I thought we handled a difficult environment really well. We were able to withstand some of the ebbs and flows that come in an environment like that and against a team like that. I think there were far more positives than negatives with the exception of the outcome.”

Even with the loss, sophomore outside hitter Aliyah Carter has not lost her touch from this past season, recording double-doubles in the Wildcat’s first two matches of the year. Carter carded 14 kills and a career-best 16 digs as part of that double-double Saturday evening.

After going down 2-0 in the first two sets, K-State came out on fire in set three, going up 19-5 and making Nebraska break a sweat. Up 7-5 early, junior setter Teana Adams-Kaonohi came in to serve for K-State and made her mark on the match, helping the Wildcats into a 12-0 run.

During the run, K-State’s offense went for 15 kills on 27 attacks without an error for a .556 efficiency. Senior opposite Haley Warner totaled four kills in the set, while sophomore libero Mackenzie Morris totaled six digs.

Nebraska hit at an abysmal .054 clip in that third set, recording seven errors with just nine kills as the Wildcats took the third set by a score of 25-11. The 11 points scored by the Huskers were the lowest since their home, the Devaney Center, opened in 2013.

“Our serve-and-pass effort in games two and three was really good and our transition game was good,” Fritz said. “We were getting productive touches at the net, our dig effort was really good and we were able to convert points in transition. We separated ourselves in those areas at that point. Our serving was really good. Teana [Adams-Kaonohi] stayed back there for a really long time and that generally does not happen, especially against a really good volleyball team.”

While the Wildcats made a valiant effort to take the match to a fifth and decisive set, Nebraska proved too much for the team. K-State took a 15-9 lead over the Huskers in the fourth before Nebraska came back for the lead at 19-18.

K-State kept things interesting, however, staying on the tail of the Huskers and only trailing by one point multiple times in the final moments of the match. K-State ultimately fell in the final set 25-22.

K-State managed to hit at .196 efficiency as a team on Saturday, recording 49 total kills and 20 errors on 148 attacks. Nebraska outperformed the Wildcats in team efficiency, hitting at a .224 clip with 55 kills and 21 errors on 152 attacks.

K-State managed one more dig than Nebraska on Saturday, edging out the Huskers in that category 65-64. The Wildcats also had five more blocks than the Huskers, leading the way with 10.5 blocks on the day compared to Nebraska’s 5.5.

Opposites Holly Bonde and Haley Warner hit double-digit kills behind Aliyah Carter’s 14, carding 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Morris led the way in digs for the Wildcats, recording 19 on the day.

Sophomore middle blocker Kadye Fernholz led the way in blocks for the Wildcats, recording five block assists against the Huskers.

K-State stays on the road next week, competing in the Gaucho Invitational next weekend on Friday and Saturday. The Wildcats face Pepperdine at 5 p.m. on Friday before a doubleheader on Saturday against UC Santa Barbara at 2 p.m. and San Diego State at 6:30 p.m. to finish the invitational.

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Hey! I’m Cameron Bradley and I am the sports editor for the Collegian! I am a junior from Wichita, Kansas, and I am majoring in journalism. When I’m not working for the Collegian, I’m creating content and putting on broadcasts with K-StateHD.TV. I am also currently a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. I love sports, spending time with friends, family and doing everything that I do for the glory of God!