Sept. 10, 2013
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MANHATTAN, Kan. - Senior outside hitter Courtney Traxson and junior middle blocker Natali Jones came off the bench to help the K-State volleyball team overcome a first set loss and beat Tulsa 3-1 (14-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-16) on Tuesday in Ahearn Field House. The comeback win for K-State improved its overall record to 7-0 and 4-0 at home.
Jones and Traxson combined for 16 kills after both entering the match for the first time in the second set. Jones had nine kills with a .500 attack percentage, but a pair of kills and a block early on in the second set swung the momentum back in the Wildcats' favor.
"Volleyball is very much a momentum game, probably as much as you will ever see," said head coach Suzie Fritz. "There are some natural ebbs and flows, point changes, and momentum changes that happen naturally when you play. The best teams manage those momentum changes at a high level. They use those opportunities. Two back-to-back kills by [Jones] combined with another block; that is a three point turn for us."
Jones' first kill of the match turned on an 8-2 run for K-State as it grabbed an 11-8 lead in the second set before a Tulsa timeout. Senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger tallied six kills after the Golden Hurricane timeout, helping give her seven in the set and a team-high 11 in the match.
"You don't see a number of teams that play a middle[blocker] at six rotations, but it is not just that," said Fritz. "It is all the things that [Pelger] does for us like playing second contact and managing the first one. She is doing a lot for her team."
In the third set, the Wildcats trailed 14-13, but a kill from senior outside hitter Dakota Kaufman tied the set and was one of five straight points for K-State. Kaufman, who had nine kills in the match, had three kills during the 5-0 run.
Tulsa tied it at 19-19 in the third, but kills from Traxson and Jones helped K-State reestablish a two-point lead that eventually led to a 25-22 win.
The Wildcats forced the Golden Hurricane into a match-low .025 hitting percentage and 11 attack errors in the fourth set. K-State had three team blocks in the final set, including two by Jones to go along with her two kills.
K-State was forced to dig itself out of a hole after losing 25-14 in the opening set. Neither side committed too many errors in the first - the two combined for seven errors - but a .400 attack percentage by Tulsa compared to K-State's .125 helped decide the set.
"We have a pretty good passing percentage right now. It is mostly hitting, seeing the block and making good shots," said Traxson. "We are not high errors, so it is not like we are making mistakes. We just need to be more terminal."
Redshirt freshman setter Katie Brand led the Wildcats with 38 assists and tied for the team lead with 13 digs to record her fourth double-double of the season. Lilla Porubek and Tristan McCarty also had 13 digs.
Tuesday's match wraps up a five-day stretch in which the Wildcats have played four home matches. Starting Thursday, K-State will play three matches over three days in the Cal Tournament in Berkeley, Calif.
"It has been kind of a grind," said Jones. "We have been playing a lot of games. We started out slow tonight but I feel like we are getting in there and improving every set. I think if we keep doing that, we will get better."
K-State faces Santa Clara at 4:30 pm PT/6:30 pm CT on Thursday to open the Cal Tournament.