AUSTIN, Texas – K-State came into Gregory Gymnasium hoping to hand the No. 7 Texas Longhorns their first loss in Big 12 Conference play this season. The Wildcats kept it close with the Longhorns but could not come home with a victory falling in three sets 18-25, 22-25, 19-25.
The Wildcats could not find its offensive rhythm early but the combination of middle blockers Kaitlynn Pelger and Alex Muff gave the Longhorns trouble combining for 23 of K-State’s 41 kills for the match. Pelger led the Wildcats with 12 kills and hit .286 on the night while also adding four blocks. Muff hit .455 with 11 kills and was in on three blocks.
Texas held the Wildcats to hitting .207 for the match thanks to 10 blocks. Three Longhorns reached double digits in kills led by Haley Eckerman with 17. Bailey Webster tallied 13 and Molly McCage added 10, including two of the final three points of the match.
Defensively for K-State, senior libero Kuulei Kabalis led the way with 13 digs. Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue posted seven and had 36 assists. Texas had three players reach double digits in digs led by senior middle blocker Sha’Dare McNeal with 11.
The Longhorns (20-3, 12-0) were able to jump on the Wildcats (20-4, 7-4) quickly with a three kills and a pair of blocks to score the first five points of the match. From there, Texas continued to shut down K-State in the opening set with five more blocks and an efficient offense.
Texas would hit .400 in the first set to get the win 25-18. Muff was K-State’s top hitter in the opening set with four kills on five swings as K-State tallied a hitting percentage of just .103 due to UT’s block. The Wildcats did give Texas a push late in the set with a 5-1 run to pull within five points, but a quick 3-0 run by the Longhorns would extend the lead back to eight points. Another push by K-State would come up short as well.
The second set was much closer with both teams trading blows and not building a lead bigger than three points. K-State held a 4-3 lead early and then Texas reclaimed the lead and did not surrender it until a 5-1 run by the Wildcats late to go up 19-18.
From there Texas would use a 3-0 run to go back up 22-20 after an ace. A kill from Muff would again make it a one-point contest before a kill from McNeal and a block from the Longhorns grabbed the momentum and gave Texas set point. Out of a K-State timeout, McNeal would serve it long but Eckerman would kill the next point to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room.
K-State and Texas came out of the locker room and battled back and forth again in the third set. The Wildcats were able to slow the Longhorns early by touching a lot of balls on UT’s attack and serving strong. K-State was able to take advantage of that by forcing Texas in to a series of hitting errors to take a 12-9 lead. Texas fought back, however, with a 6-1 run to take a 17-15 lead.
After pulling within a point, Texas would post back-to-back kills and eventually extend the lead to four points at 21-17. Similar to the second set, neither team led by a large amount and the 4-point advantage represented the largest lead of the third set up until that point. Texas would use a 3-0 run to close the third set and win by six points 25-19.
The Wildcats return home next week to take on the No. 20 Kansas Jayhawks for the second volleyball edition of the Dillons Sunflower Showdown on Wednesday. First serve is set for 7 p.m. from Ahearn Field House. It will be 90’s Night and the first 250 students to the match will receive a free decade themed gift.