K-State Drops Conference Opener

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State Wildcats struggled to get into a rhythm on offense in their Big 12 Conference volleyball opener Wednesday night against the Oklahoma Sooners.  Unable to put balls away on the Sooners, the Cats dropped the match in four sets, 26-24, 24-26, 25-21, 25-15.

K-State head coach Suzie Fritz credited Oklahoma for playing its style of volleyball and fighting to keep points alive, but added her team struggled to win points as a result of bad decisions at the net on offense.

"They're a scrappy team. We knew we had to outwork them to get a win tonight and we didn't do that," Fritz said. "I felt like we were poor at the antenna. We made poor attack choices, and it's hard to win if you don't have an outside hitter swing over 11-percent."

The Wildcats (6-5, 0-1 Big 12) had just one player with more than 10 attacks hit over .200 as Kelsey Chipman tallied nine kills on 33 swings with two errors to hit .212. K-State had three players in double figures in kills but none had an efficient night as the team combined to hit .096.

Oklahoma (8-2, 1-0) was led by Francie Ekwerekwu with 13 kills and a .400 hitting percentage up the middle. Suzy Boulavsky added 12 kills for the Sooners. Five players had at least 14 digs for Oklahoma, including two with 20 or more as setter Brianne Barker had 24 and libero Maria Fernanda posted 23.

K-State's defense was led by libero Lauren Mathewson with 22 digs, and Caitlyn Donahue posted her second 20-dig match of the season with 21 and had 12 kills to lead the offense.

The Wildcats held a large lead in the second set but allowed Oklahoma to battle back forcing extra points before K-State got the win 26-24. The Sooners answered by winning the next two sets as they pulled away late in the third set stifling a K-State comeback attempt. Oklahoma rode that momentum into the fourth set and sealed the victory by 10 points in the final set.

"I didn't feel good about how we played in any area," Fritz said. "We had plenty of opportunities to kill balls, but we didn't. I can't identify any area where we played well tonight."

K-State hits the road this weekend against another strong Big 12 opponent at No. 24 Baylor. The Bears are 11-1 overall after falling to No. 2 Texas in three sets on Wednesday night in their conference opener. Last season in Waco, Texas, K-State battled back after losing the first two sets to force a decisive fifth set and even fought off three match points in the final set to win 21-19.

- k-statesports.com -