Wildcats Upset Aggies in Dramatic Fashion

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Wednesday night marked the first time Kansas State has defeated a ranked opponent in more than two years on the volleyball court. The Wildcats (9-14, 3-10 Big 12) upended the No. 23 Texas A&M Aggies (14-7, 7-6) in five sets 25-20, 25-27, 25-22, 21-25, 16-14 thanks to strong performances across the board but a pair of record-breaking ones in particular.

Libero Lauren Mathewson set a school record for digs in a match with 41 coming up just one shy of the Big 12 Conference record set last week by Iowa State's Ashley Mass. Senior middle blocker Kelsey Chipman put her name on the slate with the second most block assists in school history for a career now standing at 435. Mathewson's performance also marked the first time a player has had back-to-back matches of 30 or more digs.

Chipman also had a big night attacking for the Wildcats with 18 kills on 36 swings without a single error to hit .500. Outside hitter JuliAnne Chisholm led the team again in kills with 20 kills to mark back-to-back matches with 20 or more kills. Setter Soriana Pacheco guided the team to a .255 hitting percentage thanks to solid passing by the Wildcats and tied her career-high in assists with 61.

The last time K-State defeated a ranked opponent prior to Wednesday night was August 24, 2007, when the Wildcats bested No. 14 Cal Poly in five sets on a neutral court.

Head coach Suzie Fritz said the win was a huge confidence booster for the team and her Wildcats showed signs of growing together and overcoming a lot of pressure in the closing stretch.

"Proud. I think that's the best word for it," Fritz said. "We willed ourselves to that one. I had a number of players come up to me before the match and tell me, 'We're going to do this,' which is kind of unusual they would go out of their way to say something like that.

"I think it's great they had that much confidence coming into the match. We played with so much composure and confidence. I'm really proud of how we played."

K-State trailed 11-6 in the fifth set before going on a 5-1 run to pull within a point of the Aggies. After a kill by Sarah Ammerman, back-to-back points by K-State tied the set at 13 points apiece. An attack error by Caitlyn Donahue pushed K-State into a corner, but the Wildcats would battle out of it with a kill by her on the next point. Donahue then led the Wildcats to score the next two points and close the match from the service line as Chisholm pounded out the last two kills for the win.

"Winning cures a lot of things," Fritz said. "You can't get complacent with one win or one loss. That's the mark of a great team is not being complacent. When you're down 11-6, you don't win a lot of those."

Fritz mentioned the play of Mathewson and Donahue following the match as they each played a key part in the win. Mathewson's record-setting performance helped sure up K-State's defense and Donahue was asked to rotate into the front row and replace Vanessa Murray - a position she has not played much since the opening weeks of the season.

"Big time. Mattie was big time," Fritz said. "She was always at the right spot and she sees the game at a really high level, and she was big time tonight.

"Nothing happens overnight," Fritz added on the growth of Donahue throughout the season. "She's not going to grow up in 12 swings. She's going to grow up in four years."

The Wildcats return to the court to take on Texas Tech at 6 p.m. Sunday in a match that was rescheduled after the Red Raiders could not travel to Manhattan earlier in the season due to a flu outbreak among players.

- k-statesports.com -