Wildcats Battle Bears

MANHATTAN, Kan. The Wildcats return home to Ahearn Field House to take on the Baylor Bears at 7 p.m. Saturday. The match pits the No. 17 Wildcats against a Baylor team that is undefeated in Big 12 Conference play.

Baylor comes to Waco after beating Oklahoma in five sets Wednesday night and besting Texas Tech and Missouri in four sets apiece to place itself atop the conference with Nebraska at 3-0 in league play. The Bears are 11-2 overall on the season and opened the year with an eight-match winning streak.

It will be a Wildcat Weekend in Manhattan as K-State plays host to Louisiana-Lafayette in football at 2:30 p.m. Fans can go straight from Bill Snyder Family Stadium to Ahearn Field House and get in for $2 with their ticket stub from the football game.

This will be Baylor’s sixth match away from Waco going 2-1 on the road and 1-1 at neutral sites. The Bears are undefeated at home and have not beaten K-State in Ahearn Field House since 1999.

The Series

Kansas State holds the advantage in the all-time series over Baylor at 19-6 and has won three in a row. The Wildcats are 11-2 against the Bears at home with the two losses coming in 1993 and 1999. Head coach Suzie Fritz is 12-2 against Baylor with losses coming in 2003 and 2006 on the road. In three-set matches against Baylor, the Wildcats are 11-1.

The Coaches

Kansas State: Suzie Fritz (Florida Atlantic 94) is in her eighth season leading the Wildcats. She holds the highest winning percentage in school history and is 10 wins shy of taking the top spot at K-State.

Baylor: Jim Barnes (McNeese State 94) is in his fifth year at Baylor and has led the Bears to an 11-2 record coming into Saturday’s match. He won two conference titles at Lamar before coming to Baylor.

On the Airwaves

Saturday’s match will be broadcast on 1350 KMAN with Brian Smoller calling the action and KMAN’s Rob Voelker with color commentary. Fans can also hear the action on the station’s Web site www.1350kman.com.

Scouting the Bears

Baylor comes to Manhattan undefeated in conference play and looking to stay there. The Bears are besting their opponents in every statistical category and are among the top four teams in every stat in the Big 12 as well.

The Bears are the top defensive team digging 16.20 attacks per set and the top serving team with 80 aces on the year averaging 1.74 per set. Baylor is second in blocks (2.82 bps) and opponent hitting percentage (.140).

Individually the Bears are led by setter Taylor Barnes as she has more service aces than any player in the conference and is fourth in assists with 10.07 aps. Middle blocker Anna Breyfogle leads the conference in blocks averaging 1.61 bps  just ahead of Iowa State’s Jen Malcolm and K-State’s Megan Farr. Breyfogle also is among the most consistent hitters in the conference ranking ninth in hitting percentage. In conference play Katie Sanders is third in kills per set averaging 4.38 kps for the Bears. She tallied 21 kills in the win over Oklahoma on Wednesday night.

In their last match against Oklahoma, the Bears outlasted the Sooners in a match that went the distance and almost more. Baylor and Oklahoma split the first two sets and Baylor was unable to close off the Sooners in the fourth set for the win. The two teams battled beyond 25 points and Oklahoma extended the match to a decisive fifth set 28-26. Baylor edged OU in the final set 15-13 to get the win and stay undefeated at home and in Big 12 play.

Sanders led the team with 21 kills and was joined in double digits by Breyfogle (19) and Ashlie Christenson (15), and the Bears out-killed the Sooners 76-63. Baylor held Oklahoma to a .219 hitting percentage and hit .276 in the win.

Baylor opened Big 12 play at home against Texas Tech and defeated the Red Raiders in four sets. The Bears followed the match with a win on the road against Missouri in four sets before besting Oklahoma on Wednesday.

The Bears have faced just one team in the Top 25 or receiving votes. Baylor fell to then-ranked No. 12 Oregon in three sets on the road.

Catching Up With the Cats

The Wildcats came up with a strong road win on Wednesday night against Texas A&M. The Aggies entered the match unbeaten in six home matches this season before K-State swept them 25-23, 25-18, 25-20. It was just the fourth time K-State has beaten A&M on the road and second time the Wildcats have swept the Aggies.

Senior Rita Liliom led the attack with 16 kills. She also had five digs, a service ace and assisted on two blocks. Liliom also had a solo stop at a crucial point in the match to keep the momentum on K-State’s side of the net. Middle blocker Megan Farr had one of the best performances at the net in a three-set match in the Big 12 this season with eight block assists. Nataly Korobkova was in on seven blocks as well as the Wildcats stuffed the Aggies for 13.5 blocks.

K-State held the Aggies to a .100 hitting percentage as a team and kept A&M’s go-to players from having a big night against the Cats. Sarah Ammerman was held to just seven kills and hit .042 while Mary Batis had 10 kills but hit .067. The Aggies had a good first set hitting .229, but that quickly changed. As a unit the Aggies hit .000 in the second set with 12 kills and 12 errors on 36 attempts. The third set was not much better as the Aggies hit just .077 with 11 kills and eight errors.

Sophomore libero Lauren Mathewson helped in the effort with 15 digs and no receiving errors for the Wildcats. Senior Jenny Jantsch added 10 digs of her own to go along with six kills. Setter Soriana Pacheco came into the match midway through the first set and played the remainder of the match. She tallied 26 assists and had three kills and three aces -- one of which came as the winning point of the first set.