Wildcats' Block not Enough on Senior Night

Kathleen Ludwig and Caitlyn Donahue

Nov. 24, 2012

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – It was Senior Night for a special group of Wildcats at Ahearn Field House on Saturday, but the No. 25 K-State volleyball team could not get them a victory to close the regular season as Oklahoma swept the season series with a 3-1 win. K-State fell 22-25, 25-16, 24-26, 14-25 to the Sooners and finishes the season in fifth place in the Big 12 Conference standings heading into the postseason.

Seniors Ali Boehler, Caitlyn Donahue, Kuulei Kabalis, Kathleen Ludwig and Alex Muff were honored following the match, and the four who played all had strong performances despite the loss.

Donahue had 38 assists and added five kills and seven digs. Ludwig led the team in kills with 12 and hit .290 while adding six digs on the defensive side. Kabalis had a season-high 18 digs, and Muff posted her first career double-double. Muff was strong with 11 kills and an impressive 10 blocks.

“It kind of is a weird feeling,” Muff said of Senior Night. “I kind of never thought this day would come, but I could not have asked for a better group of girls and coaching staff to share it with. I am just so thankful to have my last game here with the girls that I did and to play the way that we did.”

K-State (21-8, 8-8) battled with the Sooners and nearly completed an impressive comeback in the third set. The Wildcats trailed 18-10 at one point and began chipping away at the lead and even took a 23-22 lead after an ace from Ludwig. Oklahoma (21-10, 10-6) would respond and win four of the next five points to win and take a 2-1 lead.

The fourth set was all Sooners as the Wildcats hit just .023 in the fourth. K-State and OU traded blows and the exchanged the lead a few times early on, but after the Sooners went up 11-10, the score would not be tied again. K-State gave up three aces down the stretch and Oklahoma took the win to finish fourth in the conference standings.

Oklahoma was led by Sallie McLaurin with 14 kills as she also hit .481. No other Sooner hit above .200 for the match as McLaurin provided the majority of the firepower for OU. Tara Dunn reached double digits with 11 kills, but hit just .103.

K-State Head Coach Suzie Fritz was pleased with her team’s defensive efforts blocking and how her seniors stepped up in their final match at home. She said no matter how many Senior Nights you have, you are never prepared for the emotions when the match is finally over.

“We ask a lot of them and they invest a great deal of themselves. What we ask them to do is really difficult, far more difficult than people actually imagine,” Fritz said. “I feel that group has given us everything we could have possibly asked for. It’s hard to think you don’t get to coach them for much longer.”

K-State was strong defensively at the net with a season-high 17 blocks. Muff was in on eight block assists and had two solo stops. Sophomore middle blocker Taylor Johnson also had a career night posting a new best eight kills. Johnson also added seven blocks, including one solo stuff.

“I think we talked about it as practice a lot more recently about our defensive play,” Muff said. “I think we finally stepped it up and got it going and that was good to see. I think we are excited about that and where that can go, and I think that if we can continue to improve in little areas like that, then we are going to be a team to reckon with in the tournament.”

The Wildcats are anticipating an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, which starts next week. K-State will find out who and where they are playing in the first round on Sunday during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on ESPNU at 3 p.m.