Entering the week, the Kansas State volleyball team was in a five-game tie for fourth place in the Big 12 Conference. K-State, West Virginia, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech all sat with a conference record of 3-5. Now, after a sweep of Texas Tech (13-10, 3-7 Big 12) on Wednesday and Thursday, the Wildcats (14-7, 5-5 Big 12) are in sole possession of third place in the conference.
With the Wildcats playing a few days earlier than the rest of the conference this week, there is a chance K-State could find themselves in another tiebreaker by the end of the weekend.
The sweep against Texas Tech looked as if it was a return to form for the Wildcats. The team has not performed a sweep since the Omaha Challenge in mid-September. The sweep of the Red Raiders consisted of a five-set, 3-2 (25-23, 25-20, 24-26, 18-25, 15-12) victory on Wednesday and a four-set, 3-1 (21-25, 25-18, 25-19, 25-19) victory on Thursday.
“That’s a good volleyball team in Texas Tech,” head coach Suzie Fritz said following Thursday night’s victory. “They’re gritty. They dig like crazy. You think you’re going to put a ball down, and then it comes back again. You’ve gotta be really patient, and I was just thrilled.”
On Wednesday evening, the Wildcats were in the perfect position to pull off a series-opening sweep of the Red Raiders, up two sets to none with a 24-23 lead late. However, a fiery Red Raider team would not go away quietly. Battling off the first match point, Texas Tech managed to score the set’s final three points and take a 26-24 set-three victory and force a fourth set.
The match seemed to be slipping away from the Wildcats after Texas Tech took the fourth set and held an 11-10 lead in the decisive fifth set.
Cue Aliyah Carter and Kadye Fernholz.
The sophomore duo showed just why they are two of the top players on the team, recording four straight kills to take a 14-11 lead into match point, followed by an Aliyah Carter kill to finish things off for a 15-12 fifth-set victory. It wasn’t just the duo of Fernholz and Carter that helped the Wildcats to the five-set victory, though. Redshirt junior Holly Bonde racked in a career-high 21 kills, tying the match-high with Carter who also had 21 kills on the night.
“Savvy and smart. [Bonde] was hitting it where they weren’t and not trying to necessarily always overpower, but her skill set and her strength is in her ability to hit with a tremendous amount of range,” Fritz said after Wednesday’s match.
The 21 kills on the night for Carter was part of a double-double effort, also recording 10 digs. The performance between the two sophomores helped the Wildcats to a 70-58 edge in kills on the night.
K-State hit at a .190 clip (70 kills, 31 errors, 205 attacks), while Texas Tech upped the Wildcats in efficiency, hitting at a .194 clip (58 kills, 23 errors, 180 attacks) on Wednesday.
On Thursday, it seemed like the effort from Texas Tech’s final three sets had carried over into the next match. The Red Raiders took a 1-0 lead in the match after getting off to a hot start early, taking down the Wildcats 25-21 in the first set. However, it was as if a flip was switched for K-State the rest of the way.
Four Wildcats reached double-digit kill marks as K-State dominated the rest of the way, winning the final three sets by a combined 19 points. Carter and Bonde continued their impressive performances into Thursday, recording 13 and 12 kills, respectively.
Junior Sydney Bolding and senior Haley Warner were the other two Wildcats who had double-digit kill performances, recording 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Bolding’s night was especially impressive, as the junior turned in a match-high hitting percentage, committing just one error on 18 attacks for a .556 clip.
As a team, K-State improved its hitting percentage from Wednesday night’s performance, hitting at a .223 clip (56 kills, 23 errors, 148 attacks), while the Red Raiders stumbled, hitting at a .173 clip (50 kills, 24 errors, 151 attacks).
The victory against the Red Raiders is K-State’s third-straight victory, putting Wildcats’ record at 14-7 and 5-5 in Big 12 Conference play going into its second and final bye of the season next week.
K-State opens up its final six matches of the season on the road at Iowa State on Thursday, Nov. 11, and will not return home until the annual Sunflower Showdown with Kansas on Friday, Nov. 26.