Wildcats Win Sixth Straight with Sweep of Iowa State




16-9 (9-5 Big 12)

17-8 (9-4 Big 12)

Jess Schaben: 9 kills, 10 digs
Morgan Kuhrt: 8 kills, 3 blocks
Caitlin Nolan: 13 digs, 4 assists

Bryna Vogel: 8 kills, .467%, 16 digs
Katie Reininger: 8 kills, .300%, 4 blocks
Katie Brand: 34 assists, 5 digs, 4 kills, 4 blocks

TEAM 1 2 3 4 5
Iowa State 23 20 18 -- --
K-State 25 25 25 -- --

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Behind a stout defense, K-State swept Iowa State (25-23, 25-20, 25-18) on Wednesday in Ahearn Field House to stretch its winning streak to six, the Wildcats’ longest in Big 12 play since 2003.

The Wildcats (17-8, 9-4 Big 12), who moved into third place in the conference standings with the victory, limited Iowa State (16-9, 9-5 Big 12) to a .111 hitting percentage and tallied 10.5 blocks. Over the winning streak, K-State has subdued its opponents to a .162 attacking efficiency while averaging 2.60 blocks per set.

“I was very pleased with our defensive effort,” said K-State head coach Suzie Fritz. “We held [Iowa State], a very good volleyball team, to a relatively low hitting efficiency, particularly at the pins and that was a little bit of a priority for us.”

The win, which was also K-State’s eighth over the last nine contests, improved the Wildcats’ record at home to 9-1 and 6-1 in conference action. In addition to the overall winning streak, the Wildcats have captured four consecutive conference home matches, their longest such streak since 2013.

“This team has done a phenomenal job of staying focused on getting better and the process of improvement,” added Fritz. “I think that approach is really paying off for them. They are playing well. They have grown in their confidence.”

Six different Wildcats had at least one block, including five with three or more. Freshman Macy Flowers led the way with five, giving her 22 over the last four matches (1.47/set), while redshirt juniors Katie Brand and Katie Reininger each had four. Junior Brooke Sassin and freshman Alyssa Schultejans added three apiece.

With the front line in order, K-State, the conference leader in digs per set, out-dug Iowa State, 60-54. Junior Kersten Kober had a match-high 19 digs – as she is now averaging 5.8 over the last four matches – while Vogel chipped in 16.

Offensively, K-State hit just .203, but Brand, Vogel and Reininger all powered the offense with hitting efficiencies .300 or higher. Vogel turned in a .467 clip to help her register eight kills, which matched Reininger (.300) for the second-highest total on the team. Brand had five kills on 10 errorless attempts (.500) and added 34 assists and five digs.

Sassin paced the Wildcats in kills with nine while also recording six digs.

K-State got off to an ominous start when it surrendered five straight points to the Cyclones in the first set and had to burn a timeout in the process. Iowa State kept the Wildcats at bay until the 13-8 mark when a kill by Schultejans allowed K-State to side out and go on a 5-0 run to even the score at 13-all. The tie was one of 10 in the set as neither side took a lead larger than two points after 13-13 until Iowa State made it 20-18 following one of K-State’s six unforced attack errors in the set. 

K-State, which called a timeout at 20-18 to slow any momentum, responded by using a kill by Flowers, one of her five in the match, and back-to-back blocks to take just its third lead at that point of the set. The score went on to be tied at 23-all before an Iowa State attack error was followed by one of Reininger’s four kills in the first to give the Wildcats the early lead in the match.

In the second, Sassin and Schultejans each had five kills to help K-State total 16 in the set to Iowa State’s 13. The Wildcats trailed in the early going, but another 5-0 run, capped by a kill from Schultejans, flipped the score in favor of K-State, 10-8. The Wildcats never trailed thereafter, holding off Iowa State up to the 17-16 mark before they scored eight of the set’s final 12 points. Sassin slammed in a kill to clinch it.

The Wildcats had four of their six aces in the third set, with Kober turning in two while Vogel and redshirt sophomore Mattie Batchelder each added one. Kober’s run at the service line midway through the set, in which she registered both of her aces, helped K-State score six straight points and open up an 18-11 lead. Batchelder, meanwhile, recorded her ace to make it 23-17 and then Vogel ended the night with her 14th ace of the season.

The effective serving in the third also contributed to Iowa State hitting -.048 in the set (8 kills, 10 errors, 42 attacks). The Cyclones never hit above .200 in any of the three sets.

“It starts with serving - we were pretty strategic,” said Fritz about the key to its defensive effort. “We did a nice job staying consistent for the most part. Defense is complicated. The block has to be coordinated with the defenders in the back row, and no matter what you do from that point on, you still have to try to turn it and convert it for points. Early on [this season] this team was not great at converting those digs for points, and I think the difference I am feeling now is that we are starting to coordinate those efforts.”

With the four-match homestand now in the review mirror, K-State will play on the road for the first time in November when it takes on No. 5 Texas (23-2, 13-1 Big 12) in Austin on Saturday at 4 p.m.

The last time the Wildcats won six Big 12 matches in a row was in 2003 when they won 16 straight en route to winning the program’s only conference championship.

The six-match winning streak ties K-State’s longest this season, a stretch set from September 4-12.

Wednesday extended a pair of streaks for K-State in the Iowa State series. The Wildcats have won four consecutive against the Cyclones in Manhattan as well as held them to a sub-.200 hitting percentage in five straight matches overall.

Wednesday’s win also helped K-State match its Big 12 total from a year ago. Last season, the Wildcats were 9-7 in conference play, finishing fifth in the standings.