Wildcats Rally to Beat Aggies

Tristan McCarty, Kathleen Ludwig

Nov. 5, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State Wildcats saw their top player go down with an apparent injury during the opening play of the match against Texas A&M on Saturday, and the Wildcats regrouped and rallied from behind to get the win in five sets. K-State dropped the first two sets to the Aggies after Kaitlynn Pelger left the game on the first play, but the Wildcats battled back for a dramatic win in five sets 13-25, 15-25, 25-21, 25-15, 15-12.

It was a trio of outside hitters who carried the Wildcats to the victory with sophomore Lilla Porubek leading with 18 kills. Junior opposite Kathleen Ludwig pounded on 17 kills on an impressive .382 hitting percentage, and sophomore Courtney Traxson had the best match of her career with 13 kills.

“I’m extremely proud of my team,” said K-State Head Coach Suzie Fritz. “I felt we showed enormous patience and courage and all the things that you are able to bring to the table out of adversity. We were in a similar situation last Saturday after losing the first two sets and coming from behind. We were playing well heading into the fifth set at Baylor, but we let that one get away from us. I think this team was determined not to let that happen again today.”

The Wildcats (17-8, 6-5) did not let the fifth set slip away this time jumping to a quick 10-3 lead. The Aggies (18-6, 7-4) would make a push scoring eight of the next 11 points to pull within two points at 13-11, but it was not enough. K-State was able to put the Aggies away in their final match as Big 12 Conference foes with a kill by Ludwig and avenge a previous loss on the road to A&M this season.

“Wow, is the first thing I have to say,” Ludwig said following the match. “It was so fun to watch our team come together and play together. I think it shows volumes for how everyone stepped up and supported each other and proved that we can find a way to win with our team values.”

The Aggies controlled the first two sets winning handily 25-13 and 25-15. A&M hit .542 in the opening frame and followed that with a .333 hitting clip in the second. K-State would find an answer after getting comfortable with the new lineup and turned its offense around after the intermission to begin the comeback.

“I think Courtney Traxson was the big difference for us,” Fritz said. “We felt that was an area we needed to attack them and we gave her some balls to hit and she did a great job.”

Traxson had a career-high with her 13 kills and made plays for the Wildcats when they were needed in the fourth set. She pounded out five kills during that frame alone to lead the team. The Wildcats were able to carry the momentum into the fifth set with a kill by the sophomore to end the set and tie the match up.

Defensively, the Wildcats saw strong performances from all three of their specialists. Libero Kuulei Kabalis posted 16 digs and held the back row together through much of the match. Tristan McCarty had another strong day with nine kills, and freshman Gina Madonia had a career-high 12 digs seeing significant playing time due to the lineup changes made by Fritz. Setter Caitlyn Donahue had another double-double with 49 assists and 13 digs, and Ludwig also had a double-double with 14 digs.

Ludwig said the win was exciting and will give her and her teammates more confidence heading into the home stretch of Big 12 Conference play as A&M also is receiving votes in the Top 25 poll and entered the match third in the Big 12 standings.

“The season is such a grind, and a win like this really raises our spirits,” Ludwig said. “We realize we can win matches against really good teams like A&M.”

The Wildcats return to action to take on the fourth-place team in the conference No. 25 Oklahoma on Wednesday. The match is set for 7 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports Kansas City in addition to the radio broadcast on 1350 KMAN.