Wildcats Upend No. 10 Minnesota 3-2

Kathleen Ludwig

Sept. 14, 2012

Box Score |  Notes  |  Highlights

TULSA, Okla. – K-State volleyball faced its toughest test of the season on Friday night, and the Wildcats were up for the challenge defeating the No. 10 Minnesota Golden Gophers in an exciting five sets at the Golden Hurricane Classic. The victory extends K-State’s best start to open a season at 11-0 and marked just the sixth time the Wildcats have defeated a team ranked in the Top 10 of the AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll.

The Wildcats (11-0) used their experience in five-set matches last season to jump on Minnesota in the final stanza early and never let off the gas. The Wildcats used back-to-back blocks from Dakota Kaufman to grab the momentum and three kills from Kaitlynn Pelger during a 5-0 run gave K-State an early 6-1 lead.

Minnesota (8-2) would not score consecutive points at all in the fifth set and the Wildcats continued to apply pressure on the Golden Gophers hitting an astounding .818 in the final set without any errors.

“I think there is no better teacher than experience,” Fritz said of her team’s 10-1 record in five-set matches the last two seasons. “Our comfort level on this team is pretty high. I don’t have any magic words. I just think they played really, really well.”

One player in particular who played well was fifth-year senior Kathleen Ludwig as she pounded out 16 kills on a .324 hitting percentage to help lead the Wildcats to the victory. She also added five digs and was in on four blocks.

“I felt Ludwig was very important tonight,” Fritz said. “I felt like we identified some things that might allow her to get some swings and she utilized those opportunities and Caitlyn Donahue did a great job setting her in those opportunities. Ludwig did a nice job of moving the ball around and working off the block.”

Middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger also tallied 16 kills on the night and just missed another double-double with nine digs. Lilla Porubek joined Ludwig and Pelger in double digits with 10 kills as she found her rhythm late.

Donahue had one of her better matches of the season with 49 assists and 10 digs as she guided the Wildcats to hitting .192 overall. Her setting helped the Wildcats roll in the sets they won posting hitting percentages of .345, .417 and .818.

Minnesota entered the match with the highest hitting percentage in the nation at .366 and was held to .239. The Gophers also brought the No. 1 attacker in the nation in Tori Dixon. Dixon came into this week’s tournament hitting .551, and the Wildcats limited her to just .091 with seven kills. Katherine Harms led Minnesota with 17 kills and 13 digs.

The last time K-State and Minnesota tangled on the volleyball court was the season opener in 2009 at the Runza/AVCA Showcase in Omaha, Neb. That match also was an exciting five-setter with No. 11 Minnesota getting the victory over the No. 22 Wildcats.
To open the match the Golden Gophers jumped on K-State early with a 4-0 run to take a 9-3 lead. Another run of six straight points would extend the lead to 10 points at 15-5 for the Golden Gophers. The Wildcats would not be able to get its offense into a rhythm hitting negative for the set. Pelger tallied three kills, but not other Wildcats could get more than one to add to the scoring.

The Wildcats were not able to slow Minnesota down in the second set, but did find their own offense hitting a strong .345 in getting the win to even the match at 1-1. K-State rebounded from a poor offensive performance in the opening frame and saw Porubek tally a handful of kills along with Ludwig and Pelger. Late in the set, the Wildcats were able to overcome an ace by Minnesota that was originally ruled out by a line judge but over-ruled by the head official. That ace put Minnesota ahead 20-19, but the Wildcats responded well with a 4-1 run. A block by Donahue and Pelger made it set point and a rare error by Minnesota’s Dixon gave K-State the win.

The third set was all Minnesota as the Wildcats hit negative again with a total of X attack errors, plus two service errors and a net violation on a joust play at the net to give the Gophers 10 points. Minnesota rolled with as the Wildcats were able to score back-to-back points only once in the set to fall 25-16.

K-State again rebounded in the fourth with an impressive .417 hitting percentage to get the win 25-19 and force a pivotal fifth set. Porubek took control late with three kills during a run to go ahead 19-15. Pelger took over down the final push with three kills of her own to close out the set and even the match up. Minnesota hit .286 in the fourth set but could not overcome K-State and only three errors by the Wildcats.

The Wildcats finish action at the Golden Hurricane Classic at 11 a.m. Saturday when they take on the No. 20 Dayton Flyers. The Flyers fell to Minnesota in three sets earlier Friday. It will be only the second meeting between the Wildcats and Flyers all-time. Saturday’s match can be heard on 1350 KMAN and seen on K-StateHD.TV for fans subscribing to the online network as Tulsa has agreed to share its online feed this week.