SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – K-State volleyball coach Suzie Fritz recorded her 250th career win as the Wildcats swept Missouri State 3-0 (25-17, 25-21, 25-17) in the John Q. Hammon Student Center in Springfield on Sunday. K-State had 15.5 team blocks, including career-highs from junior middle blocker Taylor Johnson (9) and redshirt freshman setter Katie Brand (8), to help power the Wildcats’ fifth sweep of the season.
In her 13th season as head coach of the Wildcats’ volleyball program, Fritz does not view the milestone victory as simply hers.
“It means it I am blessed to have had the opportunity to coach a lot of good people over several years,” said Fritz. “Those wins don’t belong to me; they belong to the 13 years of Wildcats that have come through and worked hard for us as well as the coaches who have put in their time and efforts. It’s not a one-person show. It’s a team effort and there are many people who have contributed to the success of our program over that span.”
Sunday’s successful match was the fourth straight and sixth match overall this season in which the Wildcats (12-1) had 10 or more team blocks. The 15.5 team blocks were also the most for K-State in a three-set match since September 5, 2012 when the Wildcats had 16 blocks against the familiar Missouri State.
Senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger had five blocks to go along with her sixth double-double of the season. Pelger had team-highs in kills (11) and digs (10) as well as two assists and an ace. She had one error on her 23 attempts, giving her a season-best .435 hitting percentage against the Bears (8-5).
Johnson paired her career-high in blocks with nine kills and a .438 hitting percentage. Brand had 29 assists, eight digs and two kills to add to her eight blocks.
“What we are excited about is that it is someone different [each match],” said Fritz about the Wildcats’ depth. “At some point over the course of the [nonconference schedule], every player has been tremendous. Each one has had their match or two or three matches. We also have some people who are pretty consistent. I like our depth and versatility.”
A night after recording 12 aces, the Wildcats had six more on Sunday. Tristan McCarty and Lilla Porubek each had two aces.
A pair of big runs for the Wildcats helped fuel the 25-17 win in the first set. K-State came out of its own timeout firing with a 7-0 run to make it 15-10 Wildcats. During the run, Porubek had two kills while Gina Madonia contributed an ace. Missouri State closed within 16-14 later in the set, but another run, this time a 5-0 burst, extended K-State's lead to seven points. Consecutive kills from Johnson and Pelger ignited the run.
“One thing that we asked them for [after Saturday] was consistency,” said Fritz. “Can we have these little runs or races to five points, 10 points, 15 points and so on. The team took that to heart. We managed our emotions really well and were consistent from start to finish.”
The Wildcats also had 5.5 team blocks in the first set, with Pelger and Brand contributing three blocks apiece. For the second set, K-State had 4.0 blocks before breaking out for four more in the final set.
For the second set, a quick 5-0 spurt for the Wildcats, started by a tandem block from Dakota Kaufman and Pelger, provided K-State with a 6-3 lead. The two sides were locked in a 13-13 tie, but three straight points, including a kill and solo block by Johnson, made it 16-13 K-State. Later, a 5-0 run, highlighted by a kill and ace from Porubek, provided K-State with its largest advantage of the second set, 21-16. Porubek eventually sealed the 25-21 set victory with her sixth kill of the match.
The Wildcats opened up a 13-7 advantage in the third set when McCarty snuck in her pair of aces, her fourth and fifth over the last two matches. Consecutive blocks by Johnson, including a solo block on the first, gave K-State its largest lead in the third set, 20-13.
The win was also the fourth road victory for K-State this season. It is the first time since 1988 that the Wildcats have four or more road wins against nonconference opponents in a season.
Before starting Big 12 play on Friday at West Virginia, K-State will welcome the Italian U-23 National Team to Ahearn Field House for a 7 pm match on Tuesday, September 24. The match against Italy is an exhibition but will serve as the final tune-up for K-State as it enters its 16-match conference schedule.