Wildcats capture season-opener over Pilots, 3-2

Aug 30, 2013

K-State Athletics

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The Kansas State volleyball team put away the Portland Pilots in five sets to open its 2013 season with a 3-2 victory in the UNLV Invitational at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas. New career-highs in kills from juniors Taylor Johnson (13) and Chelsea Keating (11), a mid-match substitute, provided the offense for the Wildcats.

 "[Johnson and Keating] are two players we really have a lot of confidence in," said Kansas State head coach Suzie Fritz. "They had a redshirt opportunity early on in their careers but they are really come into being the type of players they are capable of being."

Keating provided her 11 kills in three sets after she entered the match for the first time in the third set, a set in which the Wildcats required a comeback to win. Kansas State fell behind 12-8 in the third, but four errors by Portland, as well as a service ace from senior Kaitlynn Pelger, provided the Wildcats with a 13-12 advantage.

Later in the set, another service ace by Pelger broke a 19-19 tie and Portland once again committed three straight errors to give Kansas State a 23-20 lead before they won the set 25-23.

The Wildcats overcame a first set defeat with a 25-19 victory in the second. Back-to-back kills by Lilla Porubek made it 12-10 in the second, Kansas State's first two-point lead of the match. A service ace by Pelger made it 15-12, providing the Wildcats with a comfortable three-point lead. Two kills by Johnson late in the set helped Kansas State clinch the second set win.

Kansas State was once again forced to come back in the fourth set when consecutive kills from Traxson and Pelger followed by blocks from Brand and Pelger tied it up at 8-8, erasing an 8-5 Portland lead. The Pilots fired right back, rebuilding a three-point lead and opening it up to as much as six points.

The Wildcats wasted little time grabbing an early lead in the decisive fifth set when they went up 5-2, behind a pair of kills from Porubek. The set came within 10-9, but two kills by Keating sealed the season-opening victory.

Keating surpassed her previous career-high of nine kills set last season against Syracuse. Johnson, meanwhile, smashed her previous career-high of eight kills by besting it by the third set. Johnson hit a team-high .600 clip.

Porubek also finished with double-digit kills (12).

Redshirt freshman Katie Brand set up the offense well in her first career match. She tallied 50 assists from the setter position while adding five blocks, five digs and two kills. The Wildcats had eight team blocks in the match.

Senior libero Tristan McCarty matched her career-high in digs with 17.

"I thought our primary passers did a tremendous job of keeping us in good situations," said Fritz. "Our reception-attack efficiency was effective. Our side-outs percentage, where when the ball gets served at us and we score a point, was also effective. We're pretty focused on some statistical goals right now and hitting some offensive marks, and we did a pretty good job of hitting those marks [tonight]."

The Pilots offense was powered by 32 kills from Autumn Wedan. With the addition of double-digit kills from Makayla Lindburg and Emily Liger, the Pilots finished the match with 69 kills. Kansas State had 49.

Kansas State will continue in the UNLV Invitation on Saturday morning with a 10 am PT/12 pm CT match against Cal State Fullerton.