(Photo Courtesy Kansas State Athletics)
By Chris Kutz, K-State Athletics Communications
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The K-State volleyball team overcame a 2-1 deficit against KU on Wednesday to beat the Jayhawks in five sets (25-19, 23-25, 14-25, 25-22, 15-8) on the road at Horejsi Family Athletics Center in this season’s first edition of the Sunflower Showdown.
With the win, the Wildcats (14-2, 1-1 Big 12) snapped a four-match losing streak to the Jayhawks (12-4, 0-2 Big 12) as well as an 11-match losing streak in conference road matches.
“I thought we were resilient,” said K-State head coach Suzie Fritz. “Just like last weekend [against Baylor], when we were good, we were really good. Only tonight, we were really good more often. That is the goal, developing that consistency. We battled, and didn’t do a lot to hurt ourselves, therefore putting ourselves in good situations.”
Freshman Kylee Zumach and sophomore Brooke Sassin combined for seven kills in the crucial fifth set to help the Wildcats pick up their first win in Lawrence since 2011. Zumach paced K-State with 18 kills for the entire match while Sassin had 15 on a .351 hitting percentage.
In the fifth set, K-State never allowed KU to lead and pulled away with the score at 9-7. A kill by redshirt senior Chelsea Keating, one of her 10 in the match, sparked a 6-1 run for K-State to close out the win. Keating later added her second ace of the night that brought the score to 13-8 before a kill by Sassin followed up by a KU attack error ended the match.
“We had two really good days of practice, but we came out [in practice]today…and I was a little concerned,” said Fritz. “They responded really well, though…playing really well when it mattered. We got ourselves in position to claw back in.”
Keating registered her third career double-double as she added 13 digs to go with her double-digit kills. Redshirt sophomore Katie Brand also recorded a double-double, her 10th straight and 12th of the season, as she tallied 52 assists and 10 digs to go along with her six blocks and two kills.
Redshirt senior Natali Jones, with her nine blocks, helped K-State tally 10.5 blocks in the match. Five of the K-State blocks came over the final two sets as Jones contributed three block assists in the fourth and one in the fifth.
K-State started the match by taking an early lead in the first, but the Wildcats were forced to overcome a 15-11 deficit after KU went on a 9-2 run. Sparked by a kill from Zumach, who had five kills in the opening set, the Wildcats went on to reclaim the lead at 16-15 on a Jayhawk attack error. The set was tied at 17-17, but a four-point burst by the Wildcats helped them pull away. K-State had four of its 16 kills in the first over the 4-0 run, with the final kill by Zumach gave the Wildcats the set.
After K-State hit .367 in the first, it was KU that registered a .300+ hitting percentage in the second to guide it to a set victory. Led by Keslie Payne’s four kills on six errorless attempts, the Jayhawks staved off a late rally by the Wildcats. Facing a 23-19 deficit, K-State, sparked by Jones’ first and only kill of the set, brought themselves within one, 23-22. KU brought it to set point for the first time at 24-22, but Keating’s kill on a KU blocking error made it 24-23. Payne sealed the set, though, with the next point on a kill triggered by a blocking error by Sassin.
The two sides were locked in a back-and-forth affair early in the third, but seven attack errors by K-State in the set, compared to three by KU, helped the Jayhawks close it out by scoring 15 of the last 19 points. K-State had eight kills to offset the seven errors, hitting .030, while the Jayhawks used six kills on six attempts by Chelsea Albers to help put the Wildcats away.
In the fourth, following a K-State timeout, the Wildcats climbed out of a 14-10 deficit by going on a 5-1 run that tied the contest. A kill by Katie Reininger, who had three in the fourth, sparked the burst before back-to-back KU attack errors and a kill by Zumach evened the score at 15-15. Later in the set, three-straight kills by the Wildcats, one each for Jones, Keating and Sassin, allowed the Wildcats to pull away for good.
K-State will look to move to above .500 in conference play when it heads to Lubbock this Saturday. The Wildcats and Texas Tech will square off in a 3 p.m. match.