Fritz Marks Win No. 150

PORTLAND, Ore. In the opening match of the Nike Portland Invitational the No. 20 Kansas State Wildcats battled with the UC Irvine Anteaters to earn a 3-1 win and give head coach Suzie Fritz her 150th career win. Four players had double-digit kills as the Wildcats distributed its offense around en route to the 27-29, 25-15, 25-23, 25-22 win.


“I think we underestimated that team,” Fritz said. “All of a sudden they were digging balls and taking big swings and we realized we were going to have to play well to beat them.”


K-State (3-1) did turn it around with a big win in the second set and closing the deal late in the third and fourth sets for the victory.


The Wildcats and Anteaters (2-2) battled beyond the necessary 25 points to win as neither team could build a surmountable lead. K-State faced a set point down 24-23 and fought off two more before losing the opening stanza 29-27.


The Eaters hit .313 to .271 from the Wildcats. Senior outside hitter Rita Liliom led K-State with six kills to pace the Cats and hit .357. She and the Cats were bested by UC Irvine’s trio of Shanna Homan, Larissa Nordyke and Lauren Kellerman, who each had five kills.


Liliom paced the Wildcats with 22 kills and just five attack errors to hit .309 for the match. She was joined by Nataly Korobkova, Jenny Jantsch and Kelsey Chipman in double figures. Korobkova pounded out 17 kills, while Jantsch added 10 and had a double-double with 11 digs.


Again during the second set, both teams struggled to put together any runs with 12 ties knotting the score at 15-15 at the media timeout. Coming out of the timeout, the Wildcats went on the first run of the match scoring four straight points to go ahead 18-15 and mark the largest lead of the set up to that point.


The Wildcats kept that streak alive with a solid performance by sophomore Lauren Mathewson at the service line. Mathewson kept UC Irvine off balance with precise placement and speeds. The run extended to 8-0 with two aces by Mathewson to take a 22-15 lead. Mathewson kept pouring on the serving clinic and finished the set on an 11-0 run ending the set with an ace on the baseline and tie the match a one set apiece 25-15.


UC Irvine struggled to get any offense going in the second set mustering just seven kills with five errors to hit .083. The Wildcats on the other hand, pounded out 15 kills and only four errors to hit .333 as a team and even the match.


Following the intermission, the Wildcats came out strong building a 9-5 lead on runs of 4-0 and 3-0. The Anteaters battled back after trading blows with a 3-0 run of their own to pull within one. UC Irvine’s rally was ended with a kill from Chipman, who had another strong showing for the Cats with 13 and a .520 hitting percentage on the night. Chipman had seven kills in the third set alone to help lead the Wildcats to a 25-23 win in the third set ending the Anteater threat with a block and seal the win.


The Wildcats fell behind early in the fourth set against the Anteaters but battled back by scoring six of seven points to claim the lead 13-12. UC Irvine answered with a run of its own to retake the lead. With the set tied at 20-20, the Cats scored three of the next four points to build enough of a lead to get the win 25-22.


“There’s a lot of things we still have to get better at,” Fritz said. “Offensively, we were relatively consistent and we stayed in it with a very good defensive team.”


The Wildcats will continue action in the Nike Portland Invitational on Friday when they face Arizona State at 2 p.m. CST. The match can be heard on 1350 KMAN with live stats available on Portland’s Web site