LAS VEGAS – Cal State Fullerton's bid to complete a monstrous comeback fell excruciatingly short on Saturday afternoon as Kansas State prevailed in the fifth and final set to hold off the Titans, 3-2 (25-20, 27-25, 21-25, 23-25, 15-12) at Cox Pavilion.
Fullerton (0-2) dropped its second match at the UNLV Invitational, while the Wildcats improved to 2-0.
Three Titans registered three double-doubles during the match as senior transfer Alyse Hensley led Fullerton totaling a match-high 18 kills, while also chipping in 21 digs. Junior Julie Consani controlled the offense, delivering match-high and career-high tying 54 assists, while also finding her way to 16 digs.
Senior Bre Moreland added 12 kills and 15 digs for Cal State Fullerton, while rookie McKenna Painton tallied a match-high 30 digs and dropped in three service aces . Fellow freshman Faith Rockmore totaled six blocks as did sophomore Holland Crenshaw.
In the first set, Fullerton trailed by as many as four points, 14-10, but the Titans rallied back to even the game at 14-14 with the help of two service aces from Painton. But the Wildcats responded to build a 20-16 lead on a 6-2 run as Lilla Porubek smashed three kills and one block during the stretch. The Titans were unable to respond in the 25-20 loss.
Porubek finished the match with 10 kills for Kansas State.
The Wildcats seized a 2-0 lead into the break after taking the second set, 27-25.
But Fullerton regrouped and responded after the break, jumping out to an imposing 9-3 lead in the third set as Hensley produced two kills during the stretch, and Kansas State committed four errors. The Wildcats would answer, eventually evening the game at 10-10 and even taking a 13-10 lead, but Fullerton would not fall that easily.
With the third set tied at 20-20, the Titans produced a 5-1 run to keep the match alive and also win its first set of 2013. During the run, Kansas State committed two errors, while Moreland and Hensley hammered kills for the Titans. Devin Ulmer's service ace clinched the game for Fullerton.
In the fourth set, back-to-back kills from freshman Mallory Waggoner and Hensley put Cal State Fullerton in the driver's seat with a 17-12 lead. Kansas State would respond by claiming a 23-22 lead, but the Titans persevered as Waggoner and Hensley combined for three consecutive kills.
In the fifth and final set, Kansas State claimed an early 4-0 lead as the Titans had to fight from behind. A Kansas State attack error put Fullerton in the lead, 11-10, but Cal State Fullerton committed three attack errors at the end of the set as Kansas State was able to put up the block to clinch the five-set victory.
Kaitlynn Pelger led Kansas State with 11 kills, 10 digs and five blocks, while Taylor Johnson added a match-best seven blocks and 10 kills.
Cal State Fullerton will close the tournament, playing Portland at 5 p.m., Saturday at Cox Pavilion. Live stats and video will be available.
Notes: Julie Consani matched a career high with 54 assists…Kansas State now holds a 2-1 lead in the all-time series against the Titans…Fullerton last opened the season 0-2 in 2011 after falling to Loyola Marymount and UCLA.