MANHATTAN, Kan. – With a combined 30 kills from seniors Kaitlynn Pelger and Courtney Traxson, the K-State volleyball team swept No. 25 Oklahoma (25-22, 29-27, 25-22) in a makeup match in Ahearn Field House on Sunday. The match, originally scheduled for October 30 but canceled due to travel complications for Oklahoma, was the second win for K-State over a ranked opponent this season.
Pelger led the Wildcats (15-7, 3-6 Big 12) with 17 kills on a .481 hitting percentage while Traxson added 13 kills on a .391 clip. For Pelger, it was the third time in the last five matches she had 15 or more kills. Traxson, meanwhile, is averaging 2.94 kills per set in conference-only matches.
“I think we had a little fight in us from the get-go,” said Pelger. “We had that extra time to practice and rejuvenate our bodies a little [this week]. We have not played like [we did tonight] for awhile and we finally got that fight back.”
The Wildcats had five aces and 11 blocks, outpacing Oklahoma’s three and nine, respectively, in each category. Junior Chelsea Keating had a career-high five blocks. Pelger and senior Dakota Kaufman had four apiece. Pelger also led the team with two aces.
Redshirt freshman Katie Brand had 38 assists and a team-high eight digs. She contributed two kills, two blocks and an ace.
“We set five goals for ourselves for the rest of the season and one of them is first contact and killing more balls, which we put into effect tonight,” said Traxson. “Katie Brand put us in great situations, and the hitters were seeing the block or using the block and finding the holes.”
The win snapped a three-match losing streak for K-State against Oklahoma (18-6, 6-3 Big 12). Prior to Sunday, the last win for the Wildcats over the Sooners was November 9, 2011 in Manhattan.
“Everything happens in a split second,” said head coach Suzie Fritz, “so your ability to make those fast decisions is important. Being willing to make extraordinary effort to keep the ball in play is critical. It is that play to win mentality; we saw it in our offense especially [tonight].”
Both sides turned in over-.400 hitting percentages in set one, but the Wildcats claimed the winning result, showing no rust from their longest layoff in a season – nine days – since 2002. K-State trailed 11-9, but five straight kills by Pelger – part of her seven in the opening set – provided the Wildcats with a 14-11 advantage. After five lead changes in the early going, K-State never trailed after opening a 14-11 lead.
K-State had one attack error in the opening set on 34 attempts while Oklahoma had three errors in 31 attempts. Pelger was errorless in her nine attacks, turning in a .778 hitting percentage.
Set two saw seven lead changes and 16 ties. The Wildcats grabbed a 5-1 lead after a Taylor Johnson kill, but the Sooners responded with a 6-0 run.
K-State tied it at 12-12 with Keating’s first kill of the match, preceding a kill by Pelger to return the lead to the Wildcats, 13-12. Oklahoma once again jumped ahead with another burst, though, capped by a block from Kierra Holst and Sallie McLaurin. McLaurin went on to finish the night with a match-high nine blocks.
The Wildcats need four set point opportunities to eventually clinch the second. Tied at 27-27, a kill by Kaufman put K-State ahead while Keating stuffed a Julia Doyle attack to claim the set in extra points.
K-State led for the entire third set. The Sooners were within one, 14-13, but the Wildcats, sparked by a powering kill from Traxson, went off on a 5-0 run. Over the spurt, Traxson had three kills, helping her tally four over the entire set.
Oklahoma made it interesting on K-State’s set point. Leading 24-16, the Wildcats relented six straight points to the Sooners before a kill from Pelger ended the set and match.
“I think more than anything I was proud of the way we fought,” said Fritz. “We played to win every single point. That is the team we need to be and the team they are capable of being. First match of the second half of the season [was tonight], and we have every intention of improving.”
Pelger also had 17 kills in the first match of the season against Oklahoma on Oct. 12. Meanwhile, Pelger’s two aces moved her into sole possession of ninth place on K-State’s career aces list. The Olathe, Kan. native now has 121 career aces.
The Wildcats head to Lubbock, Texas on Wednesday, November 6 for a Big 12 match against Texas Tech. The match starts at 7 pm.