Wildcats Fall in Tight Sunflower Showdown

Courtney Traxson

Nov. 7, 2012

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – After dropping the Dillons Sunflower Showdown in Lawrence earlier this year, the No. 17 K-State Wildcats were looking to return the favor to their rival Kansas Jayhawks at home on Wednesday night. That plan would not come to fruition as the Wildcats again lost in a tightly contested match that saw the final three sets decided by the minimum two points and going to extra points.

K-State (20-5, 7-5) lost 25-13, 26-28, 24-26, 25-27 as the Jayhawks swept the season series for the first time since 2009. Kansas (21-5, 9-3) got the win with a strong attack on the left side from Sara McClinton. After the sophomore had a solid performance during the match in Lawrence, she again led the way with 16 kills and a .364 hitting percentage.

Head Coach Suzie Fritz said it was a close matchup on the court and that her team did not execute as well as KU down the stretch to win points late.

“My initial thought was that it could have gone either way. We had pretty evenly matched teams. I think that everything was in the details,” Fritz said. “When it is like that it becomes what we call a red zone game. We rehearse them as much as we can in practice, 23 all or 24 all, so we can have the courage to take some risks in those situations. KU was better at that today than we were.”

The Wildcats had five players all reach double digits in kills for the first time this season as Courtney Traxson and Kaitlynn Pelger each tallied 13. Lilla Porubek added 12 kills with Kathleen Ludwig posting 11 and Alex Muff contributing 10. Muff marked her seventh match in the last eight reaching 10 or more kills and hit for a high percentage at .556.

After the match, Muff said the Wildcats and Jayhawks both played a hard fought match worthy of the rivalry.

“It’s a big rivalry, K-State/KU and you always want to beat them,” Muff said. “I think when two teams match up well, that’s when you have games won and lost by two points, which is kind of how it was in those last three sets. They came out playing those last three and we did the same thing. It just didn’t go our way.”

K-State jumped on top of KU early winning the first set by hitting .444 and limiting the Jayhawks to just .138. The low percentage from KU was due in part to an aggressive serving strategy from the Wildcats that did not allow KU to get all of its main weapons involved in the offense.  The Jayhawks made adjustments and from there the match was a see-saw battle with multiple ties and lead changes in every set after.

Traxson had one of her best matches of the season for K-State as she hit for a strong .333 percentage in addition to her season best 13 kills. She also had four blocks on the night, which also the most this season for the junior outside hitter.

“KU is a good volleyball team, no doubt about that,” Traxson said. “I am very proud of our team and how hard we worked. We were in it the whole time, but there were some key points here and there. It was kind of rough, but we will learn from it.”

The Jayhawks had four players reach double digits in kills as Manhattan native Catherine Carmichael added 14 for KU. Chelsea Albers and Caroline Jarmoc each tallied 11 kills. After slowing the Wildcats with 18 blocks in the last match, KU only had 11 on Wednesday, but it was enough to keep the Wildcats at bay at times.

Three players posted double digits in digs for the Wildcats as the defense had 62 digs overall to out-dig KU by just three. Ludwig had 15 digs to lead the team and surpass her season best by six. It was her first double-double of the season as well. Pelger also had a double-double as she contributed 10 digs. She and Muff led the team at the net with five blocks.

“One match is not going to define our season,” Muff said. “I think we are having a good year overall. It is a tough loss but we can take things away and learn from this.”

The Wildcats return to action again at home on Saturday when they host the TCU Horned Frogs at 3 p.m. Fans can get into the match for just $3 when they bring a canned food item to be donated to the Flint Hills Bread Basket. It also is Olathe Community Day with $3 tickets available to fans from Kaitlynn Pelger’s hometown when they purchase tickets online and use a special promo code. For more information on promo codes contact the Fan Experience and Sales Office at 785-532-6650.  

Saturday also will be Social Media Day with a number of ways for fans to interact with K-State Athletics on its various social media outlets. Look for special events on the official Facebook and Twitter accounts of K-State Athletics this week for more information.