Wildcats Hang with Huskers in Tight Loss

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State Wildcats put together a strong defensive effort to give the No. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers a challenge on Wednesday night before falling in three sets 30-32, 24-26, 22-25. K-State (11-18, 5-19 Big 12) had an impressive 17 blocks in the loss to slow Nebraska's (22-6, 15-4) attack and give the Wildcats a chance for the upset.

K-State saw a strong performance from senior middle blocker Kelsey Chipman in her final match at Ahearn Field House. Chipman posted just five kills but was a force at the net tallying 10 blocks. Her four solo stuffs are second in school history for a three-set match, and the team's total of 17 ties for third. It was the most blocks Nebraska has allowed since Kansas had 17 in 1998.

The Wildcats had a number of players step up at the net with blocks. Freshman Alex Muff posted six block assists to tie Chipman, and redshirt freshman Kathleen Ludwig had five block assists. Three other players tallied three.

Senior setter Soriana Pacheco was one of those players with three blocks and added another double-double to her stat sheet with 27 assists and 11 digs.

"I felt defensively that was as well as we've played all year. We had 17 blocks," said head coach Suzie Fritz. "That's 17 blocks against a very good team. We were disciplined on defense and it paid off for us."

K-State opened up a lead in the first set over Nebraska up as many as seven points at one time at 11-4. Nebraska answered back, however, to keep the match close. Each team and it was a see-saw battle after Nebraska tied it at 12-12. There were seven lead changes and 16 ties in the first set alone.

The second set was close throughout with no team leading by more than two points the entire way. The set saw just two lead changes and another high amount of ties with 15. Fritz credited her defense for playing well after the match and added the offense could not get over the hump to put the first two sets away.

"Our defensive stats were high," Fritz said. "In terms of hitting efficiency on offense, we did too many things to hurt ourselves. We have to learn when to kill it and learn when to live, and we know how to kill it. We're just hurting ourselves too much on offense."

In the final set, the Wildcats held Nebraska to hitting .146 around the 12 percent mark the coaching staff uses as a measuring stick. Against a highly ranked team like Nebraska, Fritz said she believed her team had a chance to upset the Cornhuskers hitting at that percent for two sets, but again the offense was slightly behind Nebraska's effort.

"Our point scoring was good. We were able to hold them to hitting 14 percent, but we hit 10," Fritz said. "If you can hold a team like that to hitting 14 or 12 percent, you have a chance to win, but we have to be able to be more efficient."

The Wildcats close their season on the road against Texas Tech at 11:45 a.m. on Saturday. It will be the final match of Chipman's and Pacheco's careers. The match can be heard on 1350 KMAN.

- k-statesports.com -