The Kansas State volleyball team (6-2) is no stranger to five-set matches, already playing in two before Saturday’s K-State Invitational finale against Fresno State (3-3). Winning 3-2 on Friday against Loyola Chicago, the Wildcats played to five for the second day in a row, defeating the Bulldogs 23-25, 25-10, 25-21, 18-25, 15-8.
“What I love about these guys is when their backs are against the wall, they are at their best,” head coach Suzie Fritz said to K-State Sports. “It’s really a great quality. If we can just figure out how to do that a little bit sooner, I think they can be pretty special.”
The victory for K-State capped an undefeated weekend in the K-State Invitational, defeating Ohio and Loyola Chicago before Saturday. After the match, sophomore middle blocker Kadye Fernholz and sophomore outside hitter Aliyah Carter (MVP) were named to the All-Tournament team.
Carter’s MVP award was well deserved, putting up double-double efforts in two of her three matches played in the invitational. Carter’s double-double on Saturday against Fresno State came from an impressive 16 kills and a career-high 20 digs.
Even with the 16 kills for Carter, senior opposite Haley Warner paced the Wildcats with 18 kills overall and a .455 hitting percentage.
After falling behind early and losing the first set 25-23, the Wildcats showed why they are on a five-game winning streak, dominating the second set 25-10. In that set, K-State hit at a flaming .423 percent, racking up 13 kills on 26 attacks with just two errors while holding the Bulldogs to a porous -.129 percent.
In that set, the Bulldogs had more errors (10) than kills (6) on 31 attacks.
K-State continued the solid play in the third set while Fresno State began to claw its way back into things, as the Wildcats took the third set 25-21 thanks to a match-high 14 kills in the set. However, Fresno State was not done yet.
The Bulldogs forced eight K-State errors in the fourth set while hitting at a match-high .385 percent to force a fifth set with a 25-18 victory.
“We were a little bit physically depleted,” Fritz said. “Travel last week and the cumulative effect of training and competition. There’s a lack of consistency, some mid-match consistency that we’ve got to figure out how to manage that a little bit better.”
K-State is a team that is too familiar with the decisive fifth set, winning seven of their last eight five-set matches dating back to this past season. That experience helped spearhead a dominant fifth set by the Wildcats.
K-State recorded 13 kills and no errors in the decisive set, hitting at a .591 clip while holding Fresno State to a .280 clip, giving the Wildcats a 15-8 set victory and the match.
While Warner and Carter dominated for the Wildcats, sophomore outside hitter Jayden Nembhard came off the bench and had a season-high match, recording 14 kills and a .393 hitting percentage.
Defensively, the Wildcats had three players with double-digit digs, including Loren Hinkle, who had a season-high 16 along with three service aces to her name. K-State also had 10 total team blocks, with redshirt junior middle blocker Kayley Hollywood leading the way with six to her name.
Overall, K-State hit .306 percent as a team with 67 kills and 18 errors on 160 attacks. Fresno State, on the other hand, was held below .200, hitting at a .188 percent with 53 kills and 23 errors on 160 attacks.
Next up for the Wildcats is a mid-week showdown with former Big 12 foe Missouri at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, before traveling to Omaha, Nebraska over the weekend. Tuesday’s match will be broadcasted live on SEC Network +.