Texas slides past Kansas State in five sets

Steve Helwick

It was a game of call-and-response Saturday night, until a fifth set forced a sudden-death ending.

After trading sets on the road in Manhattan, Kansas, No. 4 Texas (12–2, 4–0 Big 12) defeated Kansas State 3-2 to remain undefeated in conference play. The Wildcats (12–4, 1–2 Big 12) fell for the 26th consecutive time to the Longhorns, unable to take advantage of their home court to snap the streak.

“I thought they made some nice adjustments,” Kansas State head coach Suzie Fritz said. “They can do some things at the pins and that is the majority of what they do. You’ve got to be able to find ways to slow them down.”

The teams traded blows on the scoreboard throughout the match, but the Longhorns finished at a plus-five point differential. Both Big 12 programs recorded similar numbers in digs, kills and service errors, a testament to how tightly fought the contest was. 

Texas claimed sets one, three and five, while Kansas State won the other two. The match served as Texas’ second five-set match this season. Previously, the Longhorns lost in five sets to Wisconsin in Austin on Sept. 18.

Texas benefited from 10 attack and service errors from the Wildcats to win the opening set 25-22. But Kansas State ignited a 4-0 run late in the second frame to upend Texas’ 22-19 lead. Texas later had an opportunity to close the match leading 25–24, but the Wildcats roared back with another 3-0 run to steal the set, 27-25.

The match marked just the second time the Longhorns lost a second set to an opponent in 2016, after falling in a sweep to Nebraska early in the season. Despite the uncharacteristic dropped set, Texas rebounded in the third to produce the most lopsided set of the night.

The Longhorns burst out to a 5-1 run in the third set and never looked back. After winning 25-17, Kansas State countered Texas once again with a mirrored result. In the fourth set, the Wildcats scored 10 of the last 12 points to seal a 25-18 set victory and force a final sudden-death frame.

Kansas State started the fifth set with a 2-0 lead, but the teams consistently traded points with the game on the line. Texas led by as much as four and ultimately came out on top with a slim 15-12 victory.

Fittingly, senior outside hitter Paulina Prieto Cerame delivered the final kill, set up by senior setter Chloe Collins. Prieto Cerame was a force at the net for the Longhorns. She led the team with 20 kills and a .500 hitting percentage. Collins setting up her outside hitters has been a theme this season, and it continued again in Manhattan — she tallied 10 digs and a team-high 56 assists for Texas.

Kansas State flourished off the efforts of junior setter Katie Brand. Brand, a two-time All-Big 12 performer, posted 59 assists and 14 digs in the match.

The Longhorns have an entire week to rest before continuing Big 12 play Saturday against Iowa State at Gregory Gym.