Aug 31, 2013
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Behind four players in double-digit kills, the Kansas State Wildcats defeated the UNLV Rebels 3-2 (25-27, 25-19, 25-19, 21-25, 15-13) to capture the UNLV Invitational on Saturday at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas.
Tournament MVP Kaitlynn Pelger turned in a season-high 19 kills for the Wildcats (3-0) in their third five-set victory of the weekend. The senior added 13 digs, eight blocks (one solo) and four aces on Saturday. She credits redshirt freshman setter Katie Brand, who had 49 assists, for the strong showing in the tournament's final match.
"[Brand] set me on the dot every time," said Pelger. "Her setting was perfect and that really helped me and got me going."
Freshman Kersten Kober and junior Taylor Johnson were also named to the All-Tournament team. Johnson had 11 kills and eight blocks while Kober had 11 digs and a service ace for the Wildcats against UNLV.
"When it came down to it, we were going to do whatever it took to win," said Kober about her team's will to overcome the fifth set three times during the weekend. "That comes from the inside. It takes a special team."
For the true freshman, the season-opening tournament had an even more special meaning personally: her first All-Tournament nod in her volleyball career.
"I came in working hard, and I didn't even know I was going to travel [to Las Vegas]," said Kober. "Then [head coach] Suzie says, `Kobes, you're in.' It was a big shock. [Being named All-Tournament] means a lot."
Courtney Traxson (11) and Lilla Porubek (10) were the other two Wildcats in double figures in kills. Traxson also had eight blocks.
Kansas State dropped a close first set, but jumped out to a quick start in each of the second and third sets. The Wildcats made it as much as 13-4 in the second with a duo of Pelger and Porubek. The two combined for four kills, two service aces and a block in the first part of the set to build the nine-point lead.
Pelger and Traxson had five and four kills, respectively, in the third set to power Kansas State's 25-19 win. The Wildcats did not allow the Rebels to lead in either the second or third sets.
The Rebels returned the favor in the fourth set when they seized a quick lead. The Wildcats closed within one point on several occasions, but they never led in the set before eventually falling 25-21.
Entering the pivotal set, the Wildcats needed to keep it simple for the match victory.
"Just manage the game and play K-State volleyball like we know how to play," said Kober about the team meeting between the fourth and fifth sets. "Go out there, have some fun, and just win."
Dakota Kaufman played a key role in the fifth set win, including the match-clinching kill that made it 15-13. Kaufman had four of her six kills in the match during the final set.
The Wildcats have played three five-set matches this season. Last year, Kansas State did not play its third five-set match until the 21st overall match of the season.
The Wildcats will open up their home schedule with the K-State Invitational on Friday. The first match of a doubleheader is at noon against Southeast Missouri State.