Wildcat Comeback Cut Short

OMAHA, Neb. - The Kansas State Wildcats nearly had another comeback at the Runza/AVCA Showcase on Saturday night falling 3-1 to No. 16 Michigan. A day after rallying from two sets down to No. 11 Minnesota and forcing a pivotal fifth set, K-State nearly battled from down two sets to one with Michigan pulling out the win in extra points 26-24.

K-State (0-2) had the support of the crowd behind it as the sea of red at the Qwest Center awaiting the Nebraska match cheered the Wildcats on as they went back and forth near the end of the set ultimately falling to Michigan (2-0) in four 19-25, 25-22, 15-25, 24-26.

"We've talked about how we can't force it," said head coach Suzie Fritz. "If the set can't give you the swing you want, we need to make people play for longer. And we tried to force too many."

JuliAnne Chisholm led the Wildcats again in kills with 15 but was unable to get swings early in the match similar to Friday night. Senior middle blocker Kelsey Chipman found her groove on the slide for K-State with 13 kills on the night.

The Wildcat effort was not enough to slow a Michigan team fresh off a sweep of No. 3 Nebraska from Friday night - the first three-set loss in nonconference play for the Cornhuskers since 2002. The thorn in K-State's side proved to be Juliana Paz as the senior pounded out 20 kills with 11 digs and hit .421. Paz was a force at the service line as well with an AVCA Showcase record six aces. The Wolverines combined for 13 aces to also set a team record at the Showcase.

The Wolverines turned it on late in the first set much like Minnesota did to the Wildcats the previous night. K-State held a 13-12 lead when Michigan put together two five-point runs to pull ahead 22-14. The Wolverines closed the set outscoring K-State 13-6 after the Wildcats took the 13-12 lead to win the opening set 25-19.

In the first set, the Wildcats struggled to get Friday's leaders Chisholm and Kathleen Ludwig involved early. The pair combined for four kills in the opening set as Chipman saw more swings early on than she did Friday with four kills on six attempts to lead K-State in the first set.

The Wildcats built their first significant lead of the second set thanks to a 7-0 run on the serve of Soriana Pacheco. With K-State lacking a spark so far in the set, Pacheco went to the line down 6-5 and fired off three straight aces to turn the momentum. K-State continued to rally and lead 11-6, but Michigan would answer right back with a rally of its own as the Wolverines went on a 7-1 run to tie take a 13-12 lead.

K-State rallied scoring four of the next five points and took a 16-14 lead into the media timeout. Michigan battled back and took a 22-21 lead. On a crucial point, Chipman faced a big block and saw an opening in the back of the court and push a tip attack to the back-right corner for a kill and tied the set at 22 points apiece.

An ace by Ludwig gave K-State the advantage and forced a Michigan timeout. The Wildcats came out of the timeout with a kill by Chipman on the slide and Caitlyn Donahue put the set away with a kill on an extended rally as the Wildcats went to the locker room tied at the break.

Michigan took control of the third set early thanks to a number of hitting errors by the Wildcats as K-State hit just .143 for the set. Michigan had two four-point runs to pull ahead 9-3 and K-State never got closer than three points the rest of the way falling 25-15. The Wolverines had their most impressive set hitting with a percentage of .452 and just one attack error.

The Wildcats return to Manhattan for their home opener on Tuesday against UM-Kansas City at 7 p.m. at Ahearn Field House. Tuesday will also be the second chance for season ticket holders to select their seat for reserved season ticket seating. Doors will open early for season ticket holders to choose their spot to watch all the action this season.

- k-statesports.com -