K-State Falls to Italy in Five-Set Exhibition Match

Sept. 24, 2013

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K-State Athletics

MANHATTAN, Kan. - In its final match before the start of the Big 12 season, the K-State volleyball team dropped a five-set exhibition match (17-21, 18-21, 21-16, 21-14, 15-11) to the Italian U-23 National Team under international rules in Ahearn Field House on Tuesday. Senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger led the Wildcats with 12 kills and six blocks in the defeat.

The Wildcats had 10.5 team blocks with redshirt freshman setter Katie Brand also contributing five blocks. In total, eight different K-State players had at least one block.

Freshman defensive specialist Kersten Kober led K-State with 12 digs. Junior Gina Madonia was second with six.

The final tune-up for the Wildcats was less about winning and more about improving and allowing all players to develop.

"We went out here, and we wanted to have fun but also use a lot of our depth," said Brand. "We threw a lot of players out there in a lot of different positions and we worked as hard as we could.  Obviously the goal was to win, but I think overall we just wanted to have fun and play hard."

"Our focus has literally shifted very quickly away from the preseason," said head coach Suzie Fritz. "Now it's time to look towards the first half of the Big 12, knowing where we have to be and where we have to go."

K-State seized the first two sets of the match by holding the Italians to a combined .218 hitting percentage over set one and two. The Wildcats, meanwhile, had an above-.300 hitting percentage in both sets.

Italy turned it on beginning in the third set as they flipped the table by limiting the Wildcats to a sub-.200 hitting percentage. Italy recorded a match-best .350 hitting percentage in the final set.

"It is a totally different system that we faced two weeks ago in California," said Fritz about the Italian team. "Everyone was just pushing the envelope [in California]. It was all about speed, and when we played the Italians tonight, and we literally had to slow down our defense and our block. It is very similar to a couple of systems that we see in the league. I think it is great experience for us, and that is what we wanted."

Up next for the Wildcats is West Virginia in their Big 12 opener on Friday, September 27 at 5:30 pm CT in Morgantown.

"We are really excited," said junior outside hitter Chelsea Keating, who had five kills and three digs. "The first part of our season is over, so we start off fresh.  We had a really good preseason but now we are just ready to start the Big 12."