Wildcats Tame Tigers

MANHATTAN, Kan. The Kansas State Wildcats started slowly dropping the first set to Missouri but came back to hold off the Tigers and get a win Wednesday night. Kansas State bested the Tigers 23-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-22 to stay among the top three teams in the Big 12 Conference.


K-State (15-3, 5-2 Big 12) spread the ball around to its entire starting lineup attackers with five players reaching double digits in kills the most this season. Nataly Korobkova led the Cats with 16 kills and one of her most efficient nights attacking with a .371 percentage. Rita Liliom added 15 kills but struggled with a number of hitting errors. Middle blockers Megan Farr and Kelsey Chipman each had 11 kills, and Jenny Jantsch was the final player to reach double digits with her tenth kill coming in the closing points of the match.


Head coach Suzie Fritz said she is not sure if having so many players reach double digits is a positive or a negative but was glad to see a number of players step up when Liliom was struggling. Facing one of the top defenses in the conference she knew her team would have to take advantage of every opportunity it got.


“We knew they were going to be a tenacious team. They’re leading the league in digs,” Fritz said. “We came into the match knowing we would have to win some long rallies to win the match and we did that.”


The Tigers (8-8, 2-4) also saw the attack dispersed among some players not typically as involved in the offense. Julianna Klein also struggled to get going for Missouri and was limited to just nine kills and hit .196 for the match. Catie Wilson, Weiwen Wang and Amanda Hantouli picked up their performances and all reached the double-digit plateau in kills with 12, 10 and 10 respectively.


Lauren Mathewson outshined the league leader in digs in Missouri’s libero Caitlyn Vann. Mathewson had 20 digs on the night to Vann’s 19. Klein also contributed 19 digs for Missouri. Mathewson was joined by two teammates in double digits as Liliom and Jantsch added double-doubles to their wrap sheets for the season. Liliom had 13 digs while Jantsch contributed 15. The 15 digs for Jantsch was a season-high.


Each set was hotly contested coming down to the wire. In the final two sets the Wildcats held large leads, but could not close the door unable to continue its level of play consistently near the end. Fritz said the Tigers adjusted its offense accordingly and her team has to be able to keep an elevated intensity longer.


“They made a nice adjustment. We thought they were left side dominant team, and we held both their leftsides to .150 or lower,” Fritz said. “That was not our best match by far but we played well enough down the stretch. I wish we could put together longer stretches of playing well like that because we need to find a way to get to 25 points before the other guy faster.”


The Cats will hit the road this weekend to take on the Oklahoma Sooners, who fell to Nebraska in straight sets Wednesday night. The Sooners have won the last four contests with K-State. First serve is set for 7 p.m. and can be heard on KMAN 1350 AM with Rob Voelker calling the action.