MANHATTAN, Kan. – Six points from falling in four sets, the K-State volleyball team came from behind and finished off TCU in five sets (25-20, 21-25, 21-25, 25-21, 15-7) to earn its first Big 12 win of the season on Saturday in Ahearn Field House.
Senior Kaitlynn Pelger had a season-high 23 kills – her 15th career 20-kill match – as she was one of four Wildcats (13-3, 1-2 Big 12) with double-digit kills. Junior Taylor Johnson had 18 kills on a match-high .441 hitting percentage while seniors Courtney Traxson and Dakota Kaufman recorded 15 and 10 kills, respectively. Overall, K-State had 70 kills to TCU’s 53.
Redshirt freshman Katie Brand had a career-high 59 assists along with 15 digs for her seventh double-double of the season. Brand nearly had a double-double alone in the fourth set when she tallied 14 assists and nine digs in the momentum-turning game.
Defensively, five K-State players had 10 or more digs, led by 15 each from Brand and junior Gina Madonia. Senior Tristan McCarty had 14. Pelger also had 11 digs to record her team-best eighth double-double of the season.
The 79 team digs and 11.0 team blocks for the Wildcats helped them hold TCU (12-6, 1-3 Big 12) to a .160 hitting percentage for the night – including a .000 hitting percentage in the fifth set.
The five-set victory was the Wildcats’ fifth of the season and 19th in their last 20 since 2010.
“We seem to always win those fifth sets,” said Pelger. “You do not want to go to the fifth set when you are playing K-State volleyball. We just have this fire in us. It is unbelievable.”
Making it to the fifth seemed in doubt for the Wildcats as they trailed 19-15 in the fourth before closing out the set with a 10-2 run.
“Our motto has always been breath, believe, and battle,” said head coach Suzie Fritz. “I think [late in the fourth set], I was reminding them that here is who we want to be. It is easy to be that way when things are going your way. It is not easy to breath, believe, and battle when things are not going your way, but now is the time that we need it the most.”
The Wildcats used all their will power to climb out of the late deficit. A kill from Johnson ignited a 5-0 run for K-State that gave it a 20-19 lead and forced TCU to call a timeout. The trio of Johnson, Pelger and Traxson combined for six kills late in the set as K-State closed out the fourth by scoring 10 of the final 12 points.
Reaching five sets did not seem in the cards multiple times throughout the night. K-State had six blocks and forced the Horned Frogs into 10 errors, including nine attacking, to earn the win in the first set. The opening set featured five lead changes, but behind a kill from Pelger to tie it at 19-19, the Wildcats closed it out with a 7-1 run. Johnson had three blocks and the set-clinching kill during the run.
TCU controlled the second set from outset, grabbing a 3-0 lead and forcing K-State to call one if its two timeouts before the Wildcats scored a point. The Horned Frogs led by as much as six points on a few occasions, including a 17-11 advantage. The Wildcats clawed back in, though, with a 6-2 burst. Johnson had two kills during the run, and a block by Pelger and Brand closed it to 19-16 TCU before the Horned Frogs called a timeout. K-State could only pull within three before an Yvonne Igodan kill coming out of a TCU timeout tied the match at one set apiece.
The Wildcats fell behind early again in the third set, but four straight kills from Traxson erased a four-point deficit and evened the score at 8-8. The two sides traded points to 12-12, but TCU opened up an 18-14 advantage and did not allow the Wildcats to come any closer than two points. Traxson had six of her 15 kills in the third set.
The Wildcats never relinquished in the final set as they had eight kills on 18 errorless swings for a match-best .444 hitting percentage. TCU, meanwhile, committed six errors on its 21 attempts. Johnson had three kills in the fifth, including the match-point – which was her second set-clinching kill of the match.
K-State continues its Big 12 schedule by traveling to Iowa State to take on the Cyclones on Wednesday, October 9. It will begin a stretch of three straight road matches for the Wildcats.