K-State Drops Home Finale to No. 9 KU in Four Sets




25-2 (13-2 Big 12)

17-10 (9-6 Big 12)

Kelsie Payne: 23 kills, .241%, 6 blocks
Tayler Soucie: 11 kills, .310%, 7 blocks
Cassie Wait: 36 digs, 1 ace, 9 assists

Brooke Sassin: 13 kills, 16 digs
Bryna Vogel: 12 kills, 17 digs, 1 ace
Kersten Kober: 32 digs, 4 assists

TEAM 1 2 3 4 5
KU 25 25 25 25 --
K-State 22 27 15 16 --

MANHATTAN, Kan. – In its final home match of the season, K-State’s offense was slowed by No. 9 KU in Ahearn Field House on Wednesday as the Wildcats fell to the Jayhawks in four sets for the second time this season (25-22, 25-27, 25-15, 25-16).

Dropping its second straight match to a top-10 opponent as well, the Wildcats (17-10, 9-6 Big 12) took 199 swings only to be subdued by 110 digs from KU (25-2, 13-2 Big 12). The attacks by K-State were its most in a four-set match since 2009 while the digs by the Jayhawks matched the Wildcat opponent record for a four-set contest (Last: November 27, 1999 at No. 22 Baylor).

K-State finished the match hitting .146 (52-23-199), not breaking .200 in any of the four sets. Over the final two sets, the Wildcats were held to a .126 clip (22-10-95).

“We did not sustain a high level of play throughout the match,” said K-State head coach Suzie Fritz. “We talked about winning the serving and receiving battle and that clearly got away from us the more the match went. We did not play in system enough.”

While K-State’s attack was slowed, the Wildcats attempted to stymie the Jayhawk offense, which entered the night featuring the second-highest hitting efficiency (.314) in Division I. Led by 32 digs from junior Kersten Kober, K-State had 99 digs total – its most in a four-set match since October 22, 2001 at Texas A&M – but the Jayhawks turned in a .242 clip.

“[KU is] physical,” said Fritz. “They are going to take some big swings, and I thought we did a nice job of getting our hands on lots of balls. We played hard on defense. I thought their serving was really disruptive. I did not feel like we matched their serving intensity.”

Four different Wildcats had at least 15 digs, with Kober’s 32 followed up by 17 from sophomore Bryna Vogel, 16 by junior Brooke Sassin and 15 from redshirt junior Katie Brand.

The 32 digs by Kober helped her become just the second Wildcat in program history with at least 32 digs in two different matches in the same season, joining Angie Lastra (2007). The libero had a career-high 37 at TCU on October 3.

The double-double digit digs by Brand, Sassin and Vogel helped the trio each register double-doubles. Brand, who added 41 assists along with six kills and two blocks, now has a Big 12-best 18 this season. Sassin (team-high 13 kills) and Vogel (12 kills) have 14 and 11, respectively, with the 14 by Sassin the most recorded by a K-State outside hitter since 2001.

KU had half of its 12 blocks during the first set, which featured 12 ties and six lead changes. K-State led at the 18-16 mark, but three kills by Kelsie Payne, who finished with 23 on the night, helped the Jayhawks pull ahead, 20-19. KU used three blocks over its final five points to take the early lead in the match.

In the second, KU went on a 7-2 run to take it to set point, 24-22, but K-State rallied to even the match. The Wildcats benefitted from a blocking error and ball-handling error by the Jayhawks to fight off the first two of KU’s three set points. The Jayhawks took a 25-24 lead on a kill by Ainise Havili, but back-to-back kills by Vogel preceded freshman Macy Flowers’ kill to complete the comeback.

K-State trailed by as much as four points, 12-8, in the early going of the third, but back-to-back kills from Sassin and an attack error by Payne brought the Wildcats within one, 12-11. The Jayhawks responded, though, with four straight kills by Payne to take a 16-11 lead. Vogel later made it 17-14 with one of her three kills in the set, but KU, with Anna Church on the service line, went on to score six of the final seven points and cap a 13-4 run to close out the third.

The two sides were locked in a back-and-forth battle up to the 9-9 mark in the fourth, but the Wildcats, who hit a match-low .102 in the set, could not slow down the Jayhawks. A 6-0 run forced K-State to burn both of its timeouts over a three-point stretch, and with no more breaks to slow the Jayhawk momentum, KU closed out the match scoring 10 of the final 16 points.

K-State wraps up its regular season campaign on Saturday at Baylor in a 7 p.m. match. The Wildcats opened their Big 12 home slate against the Bears on September 26, sweeping them for their second straight win in the series.

Despite the loss, K-State finished the year with a 9-2 record at home, which matches 2013 (10-2) for its fewest home losses in a campaign over the last 12 years. The .818 winning percentage is the Wildcats’ fourth-best home clip under head coach Suzie Fritz (First: 1.000, 16-0 in 2013).

The last time K-State had more than 199 attacks in a four-set match was October 31, 2009 at Oklahoma (203). Wednesday’s total is tied for the fifth-most in program history during the rally-scoring era.

Kober now has eight 20+ dig matches this year, which are tied for the fourth-most by a Wildcat in a single season and most since Lauren Mathewson had 10 in 2010. Kober’s 11 career matches with 20 or more digs are also tied for fifth in program history (Kim Zschau, 11, from 1995-98).

K-State has lost eight straight to ranked opponents, including five this season. The Wildcats fell in four sets at No. 5 Texas last Saturday as they played back-to-back top-10 opponents for the first time since 2009. K-State’s last win against a top-25 team was in the 2013 season finale against No. 25 Iowa State (3-0).