Wildcats Fight Off Bears for 3-2 Win

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The K-State volleyball team took a two sets to nothing lead to open Monday's match against Missouri State in Ahearn Field House, but the Wildcats had to fight off the Bears before capturing a 3-2 victory (25-16, 25-21, 17-25, 16-25, 15-12).
 
K-State (6-1) limited the Bears (4-4) to a .061 hitting percentage in set one and overcame a late nine-point deficit in the second to take the first two sets. However, Missouri State hit near .300 in the final three sets to push K-State to the brink of its first loss non-conference loss at home since 2011.
 
With the win, though, the Wildcats have won 16 consecutive home matches against non-conference opponents. K-State has also won eight straight home matches, including four in the last five days.
 
"The crowd, especially the student section, helped us turn the energy and momentum back in our favor," said K-State head coach Suzie Fritz. "It was a meaningful advantage all night, and the atmosphere had a significant impact in the fifth set."
 
The Wildcats have won 12 straight five-set matches since November 5, 2011.
 
Freshman Kylee Zumach led K-State a season-high 16 kills. The outside hitter also had five blocks, four of which were solo blocks. Brooke Sassin (11) and Chelsea Keating (10) also reached double-figures in kills. 
 
Redshirt sophomore Katie Brand recorded a double-double with 41 assists and a team-high 14 digs. Sophomore Kersten Kober added 11 digs and redshirt sophomore Sheridan Zarda had 10.
 
"[Missouri State] played really well - that is a nice volleyball team," said Fritz. "They have some good physical players and their outside hitters did a nice job. I thought they played well, and I thought we played extremely well in games one and five. The problem is that there were five sets, and two out of five is not going to get it done. We are disappointed that we did not sustain our level of play and focus because I thought we came out [in the first set] and played really well."
 
Defensively, K-State was stout in the first set, tallying 3.0 team blocks and forcing the Bears to make seven attack errors. The Wildcats never trailed after the first four points in the set, and when they led by 14-11, a 7-1 run capped by a duo block by Zumach and Taylor Johnson helped them pull away.
 
As was the case in sets two through four, K-State fell behind early in the second and trailed as late as 17-8. Ignited by a 7-0 run, however, the Wildcats scored 17 of the set's final 21 points to complete the nine-point comeback. A kill by Johnson gave the Wildcats a 21-20 lead, an advantage K-State did not relinquish. One of Sassin's 11 kills in the match gave K-State set point.
 
Missouri State forced K-State to commit 20 combined attack errors over the third and fourth sets to help it climb back into the match. Lily Johnson had 10 of her match-high 23 kills for Missouri State in the third and fourth to lead the Bears as they hit a combined .298 over the two sets. K-State, meanwhile, hit .014.
 
Despite dropping back-to-back sets, K-State came out firing in the fifth, taking a 6-0 lead to open the final game. Kober's only ace of the match capped the six-point run and forced Missouri State to burn through both of its two timeouts in the early going. The Bears pulled within one, 13-12, but a service error and a set error by Missouri State gave K-State its fourth straight victory.
 
"We have always been a strong team in the fifth set, and we knew that we needed to start off strong because we had struggled," said senior Gina Madonia, who had nine digs and an ace. "We had to work our way back in those [second through fourth] sets. So, in the fifth set, only to 15 points, we knew that we needed to go out strong right away, and that is exactly what we did."
 
K-State next heads to Carbondale, Illinois for the Saluki Invitational hosted by Southern Illinois. The Wildcats open the tournament with an 11 a.m. match against Marshall on Friday, September 12.
 
"We are happy that we won and pulled it out, but we also know that we have a lot of work to do coming up this week and this weekend," said Zarda.
 

NOTES
The two set losses for K-State were its first sets dropped at home since the Wildcats lost in straight-sets against #1 Texas on October 26, 2013. The Wildcats had won 23 straight sets at home before dropping the third set.
 
The Wildcats have now beaten Missouri State in each of the last seven meetings. The Bears, though, lead the all-time series, 13-9. K-State is 3-0 against the Bears in Manhattan.
 
Redshirt freshman Bailey Shurbet made her K-State debut in the third set. The San Antonio, Texas native finished with six assists and two digs.