Wildcats Dominate Cyclones in Straight Sets
MANHATTAN, Kan. – K-State made a statement on Wednesday night as the No. 14-ranked Wildcats defeated the No. 22 Iowa State Cyclones in straight sets in commanding fashion. The Wildcats posted their 13th sweep of the season in winning 25-15, 27-25, 25-17 to also mark their third win over a ranked opponent.
The Wildcats jumped on top of the Cyclones early and dominated the first set. Junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger posted five kills on six swings to lead the way. Senior Alex Muff and junior Lilla Porubek both tallied three kills as the Wildcats had 13 kills to Iowa State’s seven in the opening frame. K-State hit a strong .632 to start the match compared to Iowa State barley posting a positive number at .053.
With the win, K-State (16-1, 3-1) sets up a match that will hold a lot of value early in the conference season against No. 9 Texas on Saturday. Before K-State turns its focus to Texas, Head Coach Suzie Fritz said she and her team will enjoy its first win over Iowa State since 2007.
“I felt pretty good about that one. I thought we played really well. I told myself I’m going to enjoy it for the next 15 minutes, and we’re about five minutes in. I thought we played extremely well.” Fritz said. “Coach Grove and Coach Hulsmeyer had a nice plan in terms of areas we felt like we could attack and did a tremendous job of executing those things.”
Iowa State (8-6, 2-2) could not find a way to slow the Wildcats down all night. K-State’s worst hitting percentage for an individual set was .311 as the Wildcats combined to hit .417 for the match. It was the first time this season a team has hit .400 or higher against the Cyclones.
“Our coaches prepared us really well and we were really excited from the get-go,” Muff said. “I think we were well prepared and knowing what they were going to throw at us, so there were not any surprises. We were ready for just about anything they were going to throw at us.”
Pelger led the Wildcats with 16 kills on a .429 hitting percentage and was key on defense with nine digs. The offense was evenly distributed again for K-State as senior setter Caitlyn Donahue guided the offense with 38 assists and got every player involved on offense.
Porubek reached double digits with 10 kills and hit .391. Muff was impressive on both sides of the net as she hit .500 with eight kills and shut down the Cyclones with seven blocks. Courtney Traxson kept her hot hand after coming off the bench at Baylor on Saturday and posting 10 kills in two sets. Traxson had six kills on 14 swings on Wednesday to hit .429. Four of K-State’s five attackers hit higher than .390.
One turning point in the match came in the second set when the Wildcats battled from a large deficit to come back for the win. Iowa State held a lead as large as five points, and even held onto an 18-14 advantage late, but K-State clawed back in. A 5-1 run would tie it at 19-19, and down 19-21 K-State would take control again with a 3-0 run before eventually winning 27-25. Muff said that was an important step for the Wildcats to take.
“I think it was really key for us when we got down there and had to work our way back up,” Muff said. “We are a team that sometimes gets in ruts, so it was a good sign for us to be able to work our way out of it and find a way to win that set.”
Iowa State hit just .178 for the match as the Wildcats found a way to slow down senior middle blocker Jamie Straube and freshman right side hitter Mackenzie Bigbee. Bigbee entered the match leading the Cyclones in kills this season and she was limited to only one kill and a negative hitting percentage for the night.
“We felt like we had to contain Bigbee and we did such a good job, we got her subbed out of the match,” Fritz said. “She has been leading their team in kills. We did a nice job touching and controlling quick attacks. I thought we ball handled really well and played tremendous defense.”
Victoria Hurrt had 10 kills to lead Iowa State and Straube had six to go with fellow middle blocker Tenisha Matlock’s five. Kristen Hahn again led the Cyclones defensively as she tallied 18 digs after being named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for a third straight time earlier this week.
The defense was strong for the Wildcats thanks to the blocking upfront from Muff and Kathleen Ludwig. The back row also played a key role in the victory, and Fritz said one of her specialists held the team together on defense in particular.
“I think Tristan McCarty played great defense,” Fritz said. “She made some really key plays for us in the middle back that I thought we huge. I thought she passed extraordinarily well.”
The Wildcats will take on No. 9 Texas on Saturday as K-State stays at home to host the Big 12 favorite at 7 p.m. in Ahearn Field House. Saturday’s match against Texas is part of a Wildcat Weekend with $3 tickets available to fans who show their ticket stub from Saturday’s football game.