Wildcats Head to Lawrence

The Wildcats hit the road for two matches this week and begin the trek with in-state rival Kansas at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Kansas State has won three consecutive matches after dropping its Big 12 Conference opener to No. 2 Nebraska and is looking to head into Austin, Texas, with another win under its belt.

Kansas State won both matches against the Jayhawks last season getting a sweep at Horejsi Family Athletics Center and winning in four sets at home in Ahearn Field House. The last time KU bested K-State in its own gym was 2006 when the Jayhawks defeated the Wildcats in four sets. Before that, the Wildcats’ last loss in Lawrence came in 1994. Following that loss, the Wildcats won 21 straight against Kansas.

The Series
Kansas State holds the advantage in the all-time series over Kansas 58-37-1. The Wildcats have won three in row over their rival Jayhawks and 23 of the last 25. K-State went on a 21-match win streak over KU from 1995-2005.

The last time these two teams met the Wildcats came out with the win in Manhattan after the Jayhawks took the first set. K-State was led by Rita Liliom with 16 kills. Nataly Korobkova and Megan Farr each added 14 in the win.

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 9 wins shy of taking the top spot at K-State.

Kansas: Ray Bechard (Fort Hayes State 80) has coached the Jayhawks the last 10 seasons and has taken the team to three NCAA Tournaments. Before coming to KU, Bechard coached at Barton County Community College where he coached K-State head coach Suzie Fritz as a player. He also hired her as an assistant coach there.

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.

On the Web
Live stats for Wednesday’s match will be available through KU’s Web site www.kuathletics.com as well as live streaming video for a fee.

Scouting the Jayhawks
Kansas comes into Wednesday’s matchup on a two-match losing streak after falling to the two top-rated teams in the Big 12 Conference. KU fell in four sets on the road to No. 2 Nebraska and in four sets at home to No. 3 Texas.

The Jayhawks are 4-2 at home this year with both losses coming to ranked opponents. In conference play, KU stands at 1-3 with its lone win coming against Iowa State and its remaining loss to Colorado.

Karina Garlington leads the attack for the Jayhawks averaging 3.94 kills per set and hitting at a .211 clip. Setter Nicole Tate is averaging 9.96 assists per set and Melissa Manda leads the team in digs with 3.04 per set.

Senior Natalie Uhart is the emotional leader for the Jayhawks and has played nearly every set for the team after missing all of 2006 with a knee injury and a portion of last year after the discovery of a heart condition. Uhart has responded from the adversity to average 1.90 kps and leads the team in hitting percentage (.269) and blocks (0.88).

Against the Longhorns, the Jayhawks took the second set holding Texas to a team hitting percentage of .171 while hitting .273 themselves. For the match, however, KU hit .150 and only  Jenna Kaiser reached double digits in kills with 12. Three Longhorns reached the mark led by Destinee Hooker with 20.

During their match at Nebraska last Wednesday, the Jayhawks also took a set claiming the third as neither team performed strongly on the attack. Kansas out-hit Nebraska .143 to .083 in the set to win 25-22 but it was not enough to upset the No. 2 Cornhuskers. Nebraska’s Jordan Larson and Tara Mueller each had 12 kills in the match. KU was led by Karina Garlington with 10.

The Jayhawks are a young team with just two seniors on the squad in Uhart and Savannah Noyes. Noyes is averaging 1.82 kps and hitting .229 on the year. Three of the team’s leaders in major categories are just sophomores: Garlington (3.94 kps), Manda (3.04 dps) and Tate (9.96 aps).

Catching Up with the Cats
The Wildcats came up with a strong two wins last week against Texas A&M and Baylor. K-State closed the week at home by handing Baylor its first conference loss of the season besting the Bears in four sets.

In the win over the Bears, Rita Liliom led the attack with 18 kills and marked her fifth double-double of the season with 13 digs. Nataly Korobkova joined in on the attack with 11 kills and also hit .357. Megan Farr continued to be the team’s most efficient hitter with 10 kills and a .533 clip. She is leading the Big 12 with a .451 hitting percentage on the year and ranks third in the nation.

K-State and Baylor traded blows in the first two sets before a momentum play from Liliom charged the Wildcats to victory. With the third set tied 20-20, Liliom attempted the kill the ball. When the attack was blocked back over her shouler she spun in mid-air and kicked the ball back up as she landed. Abby Fay lofted the ball back up to Liliom and she killed the ball down the line. K-State rallied to win the set 25-21 and closed the door in the fourth 25-20 to give Baylor its first Big 12 loss on the year. Libero Lauren Mathewson also had a sensational match with 20 digs coming up just short of her career-high.

The road win on Wednesday night against Texas A&M was the first time the Aggies had been defeated at home this season. The Aggies entered the match unbeaten in six home matches 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.

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. 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.

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.

Familiar Faces
When K-State and Kansas face each other the rivals will see some faces their know very well. Senior defensive specialist Leslie Townsend will see her little sister on the other side of the net. Mel Townsend is a sophomore defensive specialist for the Jayhawks.

Coach Suzie Fritz will see her former coach and boss in KU coac Ray Bechard. Fritz played two seasons for Bechard at Barton County Community College when the team finished fourth in the NJCAA. Bechard hired Fritz as an assistant coach in 1995 and had her on the bench with him for two seasons before Fritz became an assistant at K-State.

Killer Cat
Senior outside hitter Rita Liliom leads the Big 12 Conference in kills per set at 4.35 and ranks 15th in the nation. She has had at least 10 or more kills in every match this season for the Wildcats. Her 15 double-digit kill matches brings her career total to 51.

She has surpassed the 15-kill mark in seven matches and also added five double-doubles reaching double digits in digs. Liliom has become the team’s go-to player in clutch situations this season and has been an emotional leader on the court. She currently has 932 career kills and is poised to crack the career Top 10 list at K-State at the rate she is at.