MANHATTAN, Kan. – Senior Kaitlynn Pelger’s 15 historic kills helped power an all-round team effort by the K-State volleyball team (14-5, 2-4 Big 12) in its 25-19, 25-19, 25-22 sweep of Texas Tech (8-14, 1-6 Big 12) on Saturday in Ahearn Field House. Pelger – now with 1,408 career kills – becomes just the fourth player in K-State history with more than 1,400 as she passed Yolanda Young (1,394) on the Wildcats’ all-time list.
Pelger’s match-high 15 kills were among the Wildcats’ 49 kills on Saturday. Senior outside hitters Dakota Kaufman and Courtney Traxson had 10 and nine kills, respectively. Both Pelger (.406) and Kaufman (.450) hit over .400 in the match as K-State turned in a .266 hitting percentage as a team – its highest in a Big 12 match this season.
“I liked everything about my team tonight,” said head coach Suzie Fritz. “They served and passed at a high level. The transition game was tight. We are getting our kill-percentage up and becoming consistent. The coaches have been on them and asking more of them, so I am proud of how the team responded.”
The Wildcats’ response on Saturday was in front of a season-high 3,113 fans. Pelger and the players took notice.
“I absolutely love playing in Ahearn,” said Pelger. “It is unlike any other place that I have played at because our crowd really gets us going. It is just so rewarding that we have a crowd like that. I am so happy that we got the win tonight.”
Redshirt freshman Katie Brand had 40 assists, matching her season-high for assists in a three-set match last set on September 6 against Southeast Missouri State. The setter had 16 assists in the first set alone, helping the Wildcats turn in a .333 hitting percentage. Over the entire match, Brand also had four kills on a .333 hitting percentage as well as seven digs.
Defensively, K-State had 51 digs to Texas Tech’s 44. Junior Gina Madonia had a team-best 11 digs while Tristan McCarty had 10, her sixth straight match with double-digit digs. Freshman Kersten Kober contributed nine digs.
K-State had 19 kills in its first set victory and out-hit the Red Raiders .333-.147. The Wildcats trailed 12-9, but sparked by a kill from junior Chelsea Keating, K-State roared ahead with a 7-1 run that forced Texas Tech to call a timeout. Over the set-turning burst, five different Wildcats tallied a kill.
The Red Raiders closed within one, 19-18, later in the set, but back-to-back kills from Kaufman and Pelger made it 21-18 K-State and forced Texas Tech to use its final timeout. Two kills from Pelger and another from Keating gave the Wildcats three straight points to close it out.
In the second, K-State erased a quick 2-0 deficit by charging past Texas Tech. McCarty made it 9-5 K-State with the Wildcats’ only ace on the night. The four-point lead was as close as K-State allowed Texas Tech to get as the Wildcats forced the Red Raiders to make a match-high seven attack errors in the set. K-State, meanwhile, had a .267 hitting percentage in the second, behind .400+ attack percentages from Brand (.400), Traxson (.444), Kaufman (.500) and Pelger (.500).
The Wildcats held control of the third set after pulling away from an 8-8 score. A 5-1 run coming out of a K-State timeout, capped by a kill from Pelger, gave the Wildcats a 13-9 lead. Pelger had six kills in the third, the most by any player in a set all night.
Back-to-back blocks by K-State, both involving junior Taylor Johnson, made it 21-16 before Texas Tech attempted to halt the momentum with its final timeout. The Wildcats had eight team blocks on Saturday, with Johnson and Traxson leading the team with four blocks each.
Fittingly, Pelger clinched the match with her 15th and final kill. After hitting at a .500 clip in the second set, Pelger registered a .455 hitting percentage in the third.
The K-State win snapped a two-match losing streak.
“We needed [this win] badly, just to get our confidence level back up,” said Kaufman. “It always feels good to win, and we want to focus on how we play, but most of all, we just want to win.”
The Wildcats head to Baylor to take on the Bears on Wednesday, October 23 in Waco. It will be the first meeting between the two programs this season. Baylor was swept by Oklahoma on Saturday.