K-State Drops Narrow Match in Sunflower Showdown

Oct. 2, 2013

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K-State Athletics

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The K-State volleyball team took Kansas to extra points in each of the first two sets, but the Wildcats eventually fell to the Jayhawks 3-0 (31-29, 26-24, 25-19) on Wednesday in Ahearn Field House. The Sunflower Showdown defeat drops K-State's record to 12-3 (0-2 Big 12).

Seniors Kaitlynn Pelger (11) and Courtney Traxson (10) both reached double-digits in kills for the Wildcats, but as a team, the Wildcats were unable to overcome a .120 hitting percentage for the match. Taylor Johnson led K-State with a .312 clip - eight kills on 16 attempts with three errors.

"We simply have to be more offensively productive," said head coach Suzie Fritz. "We have to find ways to get kills.  This is something we have identified early on that we need to get more kill production.  We are working towards this goal." 

The service game for K-State was a high point in the loss to Kansas (12-3, 2-0). Four different Wildcats tallied at least one ace for a combined seven, with junior defensive specialist Gina Madonia leading way with a career-high three. Madonia has eight aces on the season.

K-State trailed 16-12 in the first set, but the Wildcats roared back with a 5-1 run culminated by an ace from Tristan McCarty. Pelger also had one of her two aces in the match during the brief run that tied it at 17-17.

Neither side led by more than two points thereafter. Kansas had set point at 24-22, but a Jayhawks attack error followed by a block from Pelger and Traxson evened the score at 24-24. The Jayhawks went on to have set point four more times, but once again, the Wildcats held on into extra points. With the score at 28-28, an attack error by Kansas' Sara McClinton gave the edge to K-State, 29-28, but three straight points from the Jayhawks clinched the set for the visitors.

After eight lead changes in the first set, the second set featured seven of its own lead changes. A 6-1 run in the middle of the set, highlighted by three kills from Traxson, gave K-State a 13-11 advantage.

"As soon as you get one of those big plays, you can see everyone get uplifted," said Traxson. "We all feel that moment and move on the next point hoping for the same [result]."

After a KU timeout to halt K-State's momentum, the Jayhawks turned it around and opened up a 19-15 lead after the brief Wildcats run. A kill from Dakota Kaufman, though, halted Kansas' rally, and turned on another run, this time a 5-0 burst, to return the lead back to the Wildcats. K-State had set point in hand, 24-23 after a block from Pelger and Katie Brand, but once again, Kansas clinched the set with three consecutive points.

"Basically it's our first swing offense," said Johnson about the difference in the first two sets. "Their numbers are just better than ours.  Overall as a team, we came together, and from this loss, we can get better and get our numbers up. "

Kansas held the advantage throughout the third set as it had 15 kills to K-State's 10. The Wildcats had a match-low .056 hitting percentage in the final set.

"We are a different team then how we started the season," said Fritz. "Now we are asking more of some players, and they are being asked to take on more responsibility then they had in [nonconference].  We are adjusting to that and trying to do it as quick as possible.  It is about improvement, and we were significantly improved tonight.  We feel very good about the direction we are going in."

Kansas out-blocked K-State, 11-9.5. Brand and Johnson tied for the team lead for the Wildcats with five blocks each. Brand added 31 assists, eight digs and five kills to go with her blocks.

The Wildcats continue their week at home with a 7 pm match against TCU in Ahearn Field House on Saturday, October 5. K-State is looking to claim its first win in Big 12 play this season.