Wildcats Rally to First Big 12 Win

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State Wildcats were winless in the Big 12 coming into Wednesday night's match against Missouri, and coach Suzie Fritz saw her team battle from behind in back-to-back sets to get the win 25-21, 18-25, 25-20, 25-22.

With the win, K-State (7-10, 1-6 Big 12) snapped a seven-match losing streak dating back prior to the start of conference play. Fritz said her team never got down during the streak and continued to fight to get better in practice and improve in areas that would help end the losing streak, and everything fell into place against Missouri (12-7, 4-3).

"They understand the strength of schedule and they understand the team we can be," Fritz said. "You have to play well and catch a break to end a streak like that, and that's a very good volleyball team we played tonight. We played well and we feel like a million dollars."

K-State had four players reach double digits in kills led by redshirt freshman Kathleen Ludwig with 15. Senior middle blocker Kelsey Chipman added 13 while leading the team in hitting percentage at .394 without an error. Chipman also led with five block assists. Vanessa Murray continued with her hot hand pounding out 12 kills along with JuliAnne Chisholm.

Defensively, a trio of Wildcats shined with Caitlyn Donahue leading with a career-high 22 digs. Setter Soriana Pacheco tallied a double-double with a season-high 16 digs to go with her 49 assists. Libero Lauren Mathewson came up with a number of key digs in the match while posting 15. Mathewson also was a force at the service line with four aces to tie her career-high. Her four aces were more than the Missouri players combined.

Missouri had two players with at least 10 kills led by Paola Ampudia with 17 and Julianna Klein with 12. Ampudia had a double-double with 10 digs. Defensive specialist Priscilla Armendariz led the Tigers with 24 digs as neither team's libero led in the category. Libero Caitlyn Vann did tally 19 digs on the night.

The Wildcats pounced on the Tigers in the first set, opening up a five-point lead only to see it disappear at the midpoint of the set. K-State answered with a few small rallies to build a lead of six points and nevered allowed the Tigers to threaten again winning 25-21.

Missouri turned the corner in the second set ,holding K-State to less than a .100 hitting percentage as a team while pounding out 11 kills at a .321 clip of its own. The Tigers capitalized on a number of errors by the Wildcats to even the match at one set apiece 25-18.

K-State would then show its resilience in the third and fourth sets, falling behind late in each only to battle back and get the win. Fritz said her team's ability to score points on serve was key to keeping the comeback going, something the Wildcats have struggled with during the losing streak. Consistent, aggressive serving paired with strong defense from the back row helped carry the Wildcats to the victory.

"We're feeling great. We played well tonight and put points together while we were on serve," Fritz said. "Mattie and Don were digging a lot of balls and we won a lot of long rallies. I feel we won most of the long rallies tonight, and that's huge in a match like this. I'm proud of the fact we were down in the third and fourth set and stayed in it. I feel like we got better as the match went on."

The Wildcats trailed 16-12 in the third set before scoring eight of the next nine points to pull ahead 20-17. That proved to be enough as Missouri could not break the serves of Chipman and Mathewson during the comeback and push to the finish by K-State.

In the fourth set, the comeback was even bigger with the Wildcats trailing 16-9 only to outscore the Tigers 16-6 from there out to seal the victory.

On the serve of Mathewson, K-State scored seven straight points to tie the set at 16 points apiece. After a quick sideout by K-State, another string of points was put together on the serve of Ludwig to lead by three points. Missouri scored consecutive points just once the rest of the way and could not cut into the lead losing 25-22 to give the Wildcats their first conference win of the season.

The Wildcats will look to keep the momentum on their side this weekend as they play host to in-state rival Kansas on Saturday. First serve is set for 1 p.m., at Ahearn Field House for the Wildcat Weekend with K-State taking on Texas A&M in football at Bill Snyder Family Stadium at 6 p.m. Fans displaying their football ticket will be admitted to the volleyball match for $3. 

- k-statesports.com -