Wildcats Ground Grizzlies in Three Sets

Kaitlynn Pelger

Aug. 25, 2012

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MANHATTAN, Kan. - After opening the season with a commanding win over UC Irvine on Friday night, the Kansas State Wildcats responded with another complete team effort in defeating Oakland on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats got the sweep over the Golden Grizzlies at the Varney's Invitational 25-18, 25-13, 25-19 as 12 players saw the floor.

K-State's offense was efficient throughout the match to hit .312 overall and jumped on Oakland early hitting .351 in the first set against one of the top defenses in the nation a year ago. The Grizzlies ranked third in the NCAA in digs last season and posted 51 on Saturday afternoon, led by libero Alli Kirk. K-State Head Coach Suzie Fritz said playing a team like that can help your offense overcome the mental challenge of long rallies.

"Oakland is a really good team. They play really hard on defense. They play pretty fast," Fritz said. "They created a lot of problems for us, which is what we like to start the year. We want to have to be able to have to make adjustments and see some different things. I felt like they played well and put some pressure on us and we had to play well to win."

Junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger led the Wildcats with 11 kills and posted a hitting percentage of .360 to go along with her seven digs. The offense was distributed fairly evenly for the Wildcats with Alex Muff and Lilla Porubek each pounding seven kills. Muff again had a strong hitting percentage going for a .500 clip. She also had four blocks. Five more players had at least one kill, including five from redshirt sophomore Chelsea Keating and four from Dakota Kaufman.

The Wildcats were able to keep the Grizzlies off balance for much of the match with a strong serve. Pelger and senior libero Kuulei Kabalis both had four aces in the victory, career-highs for both. Fritz said she was pleased with how well her team served with good pace and placement to get Oakland out of its offensive system often and post 10 aces.

In facing a strong defense, K-State's own defense came up big for the Wildcats holding Oakland to just a .159 hitting percentage for the match. Sophomore Gina Madonia led the team with 15 digs for a new career-high. Junior Tristan McCarty was strong through the first two sets and played libero for the third set as Fritz praised the depth at the position thanks to McCarty, Kabalis and Madonia.

Oakland relied heavily on Meghan Bray for its offense with 15 kills on 41 swings. The next closest in kills was seven from Brittany Holbrook. Taylor Humm joined Kirk in double-digit digs with 13.

The Wildcats will close out the Varney's Invitational at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when they play host to the Oregon State Beavers for the tournament title. It will be Military Appreciation Night at Ahearn Field House with discounted tickets available for military personnel. The match can be seen on K-StateHD.TV and heard on 1350 KMAN for fans unable to attend.