Wildcats win season opener for Mansfield’s first victory

Before the match begins, then-junior outside hitter Aliyah Carter tosses a mini volleyball into the stands as the starting lineup is called before playing Iowa State on Oct. 2, 2022. Carter recorded her 1,000th career kill in the match against Portland State on Aug. 25, 2023. (Archive photo by Macey Franko | Collegian Media Group)

First year head coach Jason Mansfield and the 2023 Kansas State volleyball team secured their first victory in the season opener. The Wildcats took down Portland State on the road in four sets (15-25, 28-26, 25-20, 25-16).

Although winning 3-1, the Wildcats started the night dropping the first set. K-State fell early but managed to tie the set at 5-all. Portland State took the lead with a six-point run and never looked back in the set. Sophia Meyers led the Vikings in the set with her seven set kills.

Portland State took another early lead on K-State in the second set. This time, the Wildcats came back. Crawling back down six, K-State brought the score to 22-20, losing by two. Outside hitter Aliyah Carter scored back-to-back kills to even the score and later win the set. Carter’s back-to-back kills were a part of her 10 kills on the night. She entered the match with 994 kills and became the 19th player in program history to reach 1,000 career kills.

“She’s a Wildcat through and through,” Mansfield said about Carter after the match. “She’s going to leave this program as one of the all-time greats, and so hopefully she’s going to get more kills this season goes on.”

The third set featured more back-and-forth play with five tied score changes occurring until both teams reached 12 points. K-State went on a 4-0 run to go up 16-12 and eventually took the set 25-20 to leave just one set left to win. Outside hitter Liz Gregorski contributed heavily to the set, recording five of her 10 kills in the set in her K-State debut.

Gregorski was not the only Wildcat to shine on her debut Friday night. Setter Izzi Szulczewski helped K-State go up 7-1 with a pair of early aces. The Vikings brought the lead down to three but another Wildcat run sealed the deal in K-State’s largest set victory on the night of 25-16.

K-State’s opening night featured major moments and standout performances. Szulczewski’s Wildcat debut was more than two aces. She finished the night with 41 assists and led defensively with 22 digs to record her first double-double for the program.

“She’s [Szulczewski] just such a special athlete,” Mansfield said. “She’s been around the game her whole life, both parents played and she’s somebody that is just deceiving at the net. She makes you think that you can hit over her, around her because she’s small, but you’re going to pay for it.”

K-State finishes its early season trip in Oregon with a 3 p.m. match against San Diego State on Saturday followed by a 12:30 p.m. match on Sunday against Cal State Fullerton. The trip will lead to the Wildcats home-opener and first ever match played in its new Morgan Family Arena at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1.