Wildcats Hang with Horns in Loss

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State Wildcats may have been swept at home by the No. 2 Texas Longhorns on Friday night, but head coach Suzie Fritz said she was happy to see her team play as well as it did against the Big 12 Conference favorite.

"I love to hit .300," Fritz said. "I'm very encouraged with how we played tonight. Offensively, this was one of our best matches this season. We killed more balls than we've been killing, and overall I'm pretty encouraged by how we played."

K-State (6-8, 0-4 Big 12) contended with one of the top teams in the nation from the start of the match and did not fall far behind in any of the sets and held multiple leads before losing 20-25, 21-25, 21-25.

Texas (11-0, 6-0) took advantage of its size up front with All-Americans Destinee Hooker and Ashley Engle. Hooker led with 15 kills while Engle had 10 from her setter position in addition to her 38 assists. Outside hitter Juliann Faucette added 12 kills and 14 digs of her own as well.

The Wildcats were again led by Vanessa Murray with 12 kills for the third straight match. Murray hit .364 for the match and was joined in double figures by Kathleen Ludwig and JuliAnne Chisholm with 10 kills apiece. Libero Lauren Mathewson led the defense with 12 digs in the effort. Freshman Alex Muff saw the first action of her career getting the start Friday and contributed two kills on three swings and two block assists.

K-State's efficiency on offense was seen throughout the night as the Wildcats hit .424 in the opening set and .387 in the second. Prior to Friday night's match the Wildcats had hit .350 or higher in a set just seven times all season.

The strong performance by K-State has Fritz excited to see if her team can maintain that level consistently.

"I think we're better than we were two weeks ago," Fritz said. "I don't like to be optimistic in a loss, but we played a lot better than we have been tonight. If we play that way against other teams in the league I feel we will fare much better."

K-State hit .300 for the match something no opponent has done against the Longhorns this season, and Texas has played eight ranked opponents in 11 matches. In their previous 10 matches, the Longhorns had shutdown opponents to not allow any team to hit better than .250.

Despite K-State's efficiency, it was not enough to stop the Longhorns. Texas hit .392 for the match including a .586 performance in the opening set and a .472 clip in the second. Texas had just three attack errors through the first two sets of the match, while K-State was impressive still with six.

"They hit .400 and their left-side attackers are elite... elite," Fritz said of Hooker and Faucette. "They're going to make plays and their setter is the most active setter we've faced so she's going to get her kills and you almost have to treat her like another attacker."

The Wildcats will hope to keep up the strong play on offense and defense against the Texas A&M Aggies on Wednesday as K-State travels to College Station. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m. from Reed Arena.

- k-statesports.com -