K-State pushed No. 5 Texas to a fifth set, but fell in the Big 12 opener for both teams Wednesday night at Ahearn Field House, 26-24, 19-25, 17-25, 25-18, 17-19, in front of a national television audience on ESPNU.
K-State (10-2, 0-1 Big 12) fought off three match points in the fifth set and had a match point of its own at 16-15, but Texas (6-3, 1-0 Big 12) scored four of the match’s final five points to snap the Wildcats’ eight-match winning streak.
“I’m pretty proud of them,” head coach Suzie Fritz said after the match. “I thought we played hard and thought we were in it and we had opportunities to win it. It’s very easy to get caught up in the result and, not necessarily, the things you did to put yourself in a position to win – which I felt like we did.”
“That’s the fifth-best team in the country,” redshirt senior Kylee Zumach added. “If that’s how we go out and we are playing our very first game of the Big 12, that’s nothing to hang your head about … When it was time to compete, we gave it our all.”
Zumach moved into sole possession of second place on K-State’s all-time kill list, as she turned in her second straight match with 20 kills to go with 14 digs. Senior Alyssa Schultejans added 17 kills while freshman Gloria Mutiri registered 14, six of which came in the fifth set with the final two fending off UT match points.
“I thought she got warmer as she went,” said Fritz of Mutiri. “Early, I didn’t think she was as productive as she has been up to this point. But she started heating up late when we needed her the most.”
Despite being out-hit by over a hundred points (.346-.244) and tallying 11 fewer kills (77-66), the Cats forced a fifth set after a 25-18 win in Set 4. Schultejans picked up five kills in the fourth while the K-State defense held Texas to a .079 hitting efficiency behind 3.0 team blocks.
The fifth set saw a total of nine tied scores and four lead changes and the Longhorns picked up 3.0 team blocks and hit .355, ending the match on a 4-1 run.
The Cats claimed the opening set, 26-24, before Texas took a 2-1 lead with victories in Sets 2 and 3. UT hit over .350 in four of the five sets on the night.
Redshirt junior Sarah Dixon tallied a career-high 54 assists and libero Devan Fairfield recorded a match-high 20 digs, a career high for the redshirt senior.
Three Longhorns reached double-digit kills: Micaya White (21), Brionne Butler (14) and Yaazie Bedart-Ghani (10). White added 13 digs while setter Ashley Shook gave out 62 assists and picked up eight digs.
Texas doubled up the Cats in team blocks (12.0-6.0). Zumach and junior Elle Sandbothe led K-State with three blocks each while Schultejans and redshirt sophomore Peyton Williams each had a pair.