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Wildcats Silence Gaels in Sweep


GO WILDCATS
Kathleen Ludwig celebrates a point against St. Mary's.

GO WILDCATS
Kathleen Ludwig celebrates a point against St. Mary's.
GO WILDCATS

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State volleyball swept another opponent on Thursday evening to match the best start to a season in school history at 8-0. K-State defeated the Saint Mary’s Gaels in three sets 25-20, 25-18, 27-25 thanks to another strong night blocking at the net.

A day after posting 16 blocks in a three-set match, the Wildcats stuffed Saint Mary’s a total of 13 times to hold the Gaels to just .142 hitting. The Wildcats also received strong play on the back row from specialists Tristan McCarty and Kuulei Kabalis. McCarty led the team with 10 digs and Kabalis added seven from the libero position. Head Coach Suzie Fritz said the pair played a major role in the victory and in every match that may go unnoticed by some.

“Tristan is incredibly important. Kuulei and her are some of our unsung heroes,” Fritz said. “They are not the ones that get to kill the balls, but they are the ones doing the things that leap up to the kill. They do so much. They cover balls, they pass balls, they dig balls and all the things that most people are not paying attention to that are really winning games for us.”

K-State (8-0) was led offensively by Lilla Porubek again with 11 kills. Middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger had eight kills on a .300 hitting clip to go with her four digs and three blocks. Senior opposite Kathleen Ludwig put together perhaps the most complete match for the Wildcats as she tallied nine kills without an error to hit .600 on the night. Ludwig also had seven block assists.

The emphasis on defense and blocking in practice this week has paid off, and Ludwig said she and her teammates are executing well on defense thanks to serving strength and communication.

“We have spent quite a bit of time focusing on those out of system situations and taking advantage of our serving pressure by putting up a better block and getting better touches so that we can do what we do in transition,” Ludwig said. “It is really exciting and we feel that we are mindful about it. We can talk about it during plays and recognize situations to do what we need to do.”

After jumping on Saint Mary’s (4-3) with a 2-0 lead in the match, the Gaels took an early lead in the third set with a strong serving run from Lauren Corp. The Wildcats trailed by as many as four points at one point in the set but slowly crawled back into contention. K-State took a 21-20 lead after an error by Saint Mary’s and even held match point at 24-22, but the Gaels pushed back to tie it at 24-24 and again 25-25 before K-State closed the door with a block from Muff and Ludwig.

Saint Mary’s was led by Kristina Graven with 11 kills and two other players posted 10 kills, with Gabby Jolly and Jordan Shaw joining her in double digits. The Gaels had four players tally at least seven digs as well.

The win ties K-State’s best start in school history from the 2005 and 1988 seasons. It also is the seventh sweep of the season for the Wildcats. That mark ties the number of 3-0 wins K-State had the entire season last year that saw the Wildcats reach the NCAA Regional Semifinals.

Ahearn Field House will host a neutral site match on Friday at 5 p.m. between Saint Mary’s and the Utah State Aggies. K-State will then close the exciting week of action at Ahearn on Saturday against Utah State. The Wildcats and Aggies take the court at 6 p.m. It will be a Wildcat Weekend on Saturday with $3 general admission tickets available to fans who bring their ticket stub from Saturday’s football game against Miami. The match also will be shown on K-StateHD.TV.