Balanced Effort Helps Wildcats Bounce Baylor in Straight Sets
MANHATTAN, Kan. – K-State volleyball’s staunch defense, which held Baylor to a sub-.100 hitting percentage and tallied 13.0 blocks, fueled a sweep of the Bears (25-17, 25-17, 25-17) on Wednesday in Ahearn Field House.
Six different Wildcats (17-9, 5-8 Big 12) recorded at least one block, led by six apiece from Kaitlynn Pelger and Katie Brand. Taylor Johnson, the team’s leading blocker entering the match, had five while Courtney Traxson (3), Dakota Kaufman (3) and Chelsea Keating (2) also registered their names in the block column.
K-State forced Baylor (12-18, 4-10 Big 12) into 23 attack errors as the Bears finished with a .074 hitting percentage for the match. Baylor hit .194 in the first set – outdone by the Wildcats’ .538 clip – before hitting .026 and .000 in the second and third sets, respectively.
The Wildcats’ offense did its part to back up the defense, led by eight kills each from Johnson and Traxson. Pelger (7 kills, .429 hitting percentage) and Kaufman (7, .417) added seven kills and .400+ hitting percentages.
Pelger also had eight digs and a team-best three aces. The middle blocker’s six blocks gives her 102 stuffs this season. Paired with her 295 kills and 229 digs on the year, Pelger has notched her third career Triple-Triple campaign (100+ kills, digs and blocks), becoming just the third Wildcat in program history to do so.
Katie Brand had 25 assists to go with three kills, three digs, an ace and the six blocks. Brand now has 966 assists this season, the third-most by a K-State freshman in program history.
“I like the way we are playing,” said head coach Suzie Fritz. “We have been talking a lot about consistency, trying to put consistent stretches together, and we were good in a lot of areas tonight.”
The win was the third straight sweep for the K-State at home, a first for the Wildcats since 2003. K-State improves to 9-2 in Ahearn Field House this season.
“We are trying to get as many wins towards the end to fight our way into the NCAA tournament,” said Pelger. “We came in and had a great practice on Monday and Tuesday. Our mindset was just that we have nothing to lose right now, so just to play our hearts out and play hard.”
The Wildcats broke away from a 2-2 tie early in the first set with a 7-1 run, capped by a duo block by Keating and Johnson, to make it 9-3. Baylor pulled within five, 11-6, with a kill, but the Wildcats did not allow the Bears to narrow their lead any closer. K-State led by as much as 10 when Kaufman powered down a kill to make it 19-9 and eventually closed it out on another kill by Kaufman, her fifth of the set.
The two sides were locked in a close second set in the early going. K-State trailed 9-8, but the Wildcats did not look back after using a 3-0 run to make it 11-9 Wildcats and force the Bears to call a timeout.
Baylor tied it on two different occasions coming out of the timeout, but a pair of service errors and back-to-back tandem blocks by Pelger and Brand helped make it 18-14.
The Wildcats made it 22-16 on a solo block by Brand – the only solo block for K-State on the night – before Traxson clinched the set with her fifth kill of the match.
K-State once again pulled away from a 2-2 tie by using a 7-0 run in the third – all with Keating on the service line. The junior had two aces and a block over the burst, helping the Wildcats establish a 9-2 advantage.
The Bears made it 11-8 on a duo block by Laura Jones and Adrien Richburg, but the three-point margin was as close as the Wildcats would let Baylor get. Johnson used two of her three kills in the third set to score the Wildcats’ final two points.
K-State heads to Austin, Texas for a match against #1 Texas on Saturday, November 23. The contest against the Longhorns starts at 4 pm.