Wildcats Welcome Red Raiders

MANHATTAN, Kan. The Wildcats look to stay in the hunt for the Big 12 title as they host Texas Tech on Saturday at Ahearn Field House. First serve is set for 7 p.m. as the Red Raiders come to Manhattan looking to upset Kansas State for just the second time on the road.

Kansas State enters the match on a two-match winning streak after besting Missouri and coming from behind at Oklahoma to get the win. The emotional comeback was led by seniors Rita Liliom and Nataly Korobkova and the defensive effort of sophomore Lauren
Mathewson as she tallied a career-high 30 digs.

The match with Texas Tech will pit the Wildcats against a struggling Red Raider team that is winless in conference play and ranked 10th in the Big 12 in hitting percentage and opponent hitting percentage. Texas Tech has been swept in five conference matches this season, including the last three.

The Series

Kansas State leads the all-time series with the Red Raiders 20-8 and has won the last six. The last time Texas Tech defeated K-State was in Manhattan in 2004 in five sets.

The Wildcats are 18-6 in the series since the inception of the Big 12 Conference and have put together two winning streaks of six matches against the Red Raiders. Texas Tech has won consecutive matches against the Wildcats just twice and swept the Wildcats only once. Texas Tech’s lone sweep came 2-0 in 1983 by the score of 17-15, 15-6.

The longer the match against Texas Tech, the more often they end up the victor. Half of Texas Tech’s wins against Kansas State have come in five sets. Each team has won four matches that went the distance in the series.

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

Tech: Nancy Todd (Arizona State 95) is coaching the Red Raiders for the eighth year after serving as an assistant for eight years as well. Todd has a career record of 56-115 and is 17-92 in conference play.

On the Airwaves

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

On the Web

Live stats for Saturday’s match will be available through www.k-statesports.com as well as live video. Fans can watch the match via Powercat Passport. To sign up for the service visit the athletic department’s Web site.

Scouting the Red Raiders

Texas Tech comes to Manhattan on a seven-match losing streak after a 3-0 loss at the hands of Iowa State on Wednesday night in Ames. The Red Raiders are winless in conference play and have not won a Big 12 match since defeating Colorado in their conference opener last year.

Texas Tech has a number of freshmen contributing in 2008 and gaining valuable experience in the mean time. Middle blocker Amanda Dowdy leads the team in kills and hitting percentage as a true freshman and has started every match. Freshman setter Karlyn Meyers has started 14 matches for the Red Raiders and is averaging 2.00 assists per set. Two more freshmen -- Brooke Smith and Tyler Elley -- have seen a lot of action. Smith has played in every match, and Elley has played in all but one not taking the court at Iowa State.

Dowdy is killing at an efficiency of .324 and averaging 2.75 kps. She earned Big 12 Rookie of the Week for her performance during the Red Raider Round Up earlier in the year. Dowdy tallied 51 kills over three matches and hit at a .420 clip. She posted 20 kills against Oklahoma and hit .421 against the Sooners.

Brandi Hood is second in the team in kills at 2.46 kps. Hood also leads the Red Raiders in blocks. Caroline Witte is Tech’s other setter seeing much of the action and is averaging 7.63 assists per set. Libero Jenn Harrell is averaging 2.95 digs per set.

The Red Raiders have struggled to out-hit their opponents this year swinging at a higher percentage just seven times. Tech is 5-2 in those matches and has not won a match they have been out-hit. Tech’s opponents have hit .300 or higher eight times this season while the Raiders have reached the plateau just once. Midweek games have not treated the Raiders kindly either as Tech is 0-5 on Wednesdays this season.

In recent action, Texas Tech has been swept by Texas A&M and Iowa State. On Wednesday night on the road, Tech fell 25-17, 25-14, 25-14 to the Cyclones as Iowa State tallied 21 more kills than the Red Raiders. Tech failed to have a player reach the double-digit mark and hit .118 as a team for the match. Iowa State hit .441 -- the third match in a row Tech’s opponent has hit .350 or higher.

Catching Up with the Cats

Kansas State plays its only home match in a stretch of having four of five matches on the road. After getting their bye on Wednesday, the Wildcats take on Texas Tech on Saturday.

The Wildcats snapped a two-year losing streak against the Oklahoma Sooners last week with a come-from-behind win on the road. K-State had lost four straight matches to the Sooners and fell behind early in the match and even faced a match point for the Sooners before rallying for the win.

K-State won three straight points in the third set to extend the match and trailed by no more than three points in the fourth and never surrendered the lead after tying the set 12-12. From that point the match was all Wildcats as K-State went on runs of four and five points to put the fourth set out of reach and had a seven-point run the fifth set to deflate the Sooners’ hopes of an upset.

Sophomore libero Lauren Mathewson had the most productive match of her young career with 30 digs. It was her first 30-dig match and fourth this season with at least 20. She has reached the 20-dig mark in two consecutive matches now as she totaled 50 for the week.

Rita Liliom and Nataly Korobkova teamed up to get 16 kills apiece in the win over Oklahoma. Liliom struggled early in the match and Korobkova responded to lead the team. Liliom found her swing late in the fourth set and fifth to help lead the Wildcats to the win. Liliom also had a double-double with 12 digs in the match.

Senior middle blocker Megan Farr returned to form at the net tallying seven total blocks, including a solo stop. After registering just six blocks combined over the last three matches -- including none against Texas -- Farr was in on 13 stops last week with six assists against Missouri and Oklahoma.

The Wildcats held off the Missouri Tigers last Wednesday after seeing all four sets decided by two or three points. K-State held large leads in the final two sets of the match before Missouri chipped away at the lead but could not overtake the Wildcats.

Senior Rita Liliom again reached double digits in kills to tally at least 10 in every match this season. She also marked her sixth double-double on the year with 15 kills and 13 digs. Two other teammates joined her with double-doubles. Jenny Jantsch had 10 kills and a season-high 15 digs while Soriana Pacheco had 38 assists and also a season-high 10 digs. Every time Jantsch has reached double digits in kills she has marked a double-double and K-State has won.

Against Missouri, the Wildcats spread the attack around with five players notching at least 10 kills. Jantsch and Liliom were joined by Megan Farr (11), Kelsey Chipman (11) and Nataly Korobkova (16) to lead the Wildcats to the win. It was the first time this season the Wildcats have had five players have double-digit kills. In two previous matches, four Wildcats reached the mark together.

Libero Lauren Mathewson had one of her best matches of the season against Missouri with 20 digs. It was her third 20-dig match of the season and just one shy of tying her career high.

The Wildcats responded from having one of their worst defensive performances of the season against Texas with one of its strongest against Missouri. K-State had just one block against the Longhorns and came back against Missouri to stuff the Tigers 11 times and Megan Farr was in on six of them. The Cats also had a season-high 79 digs in the match with four players reaching double digits.

Mathewson earns Big 12 Award

Libero Lauren Mathewson received her first career Big 12 Player of the Week award after tallying 50 digs over two matches against Missouri and Oklahoma. She was named Defensive Player of the Week for her effort as she helped lead the defense to stopping the Tigers and slowing the Sooners for a dramatic come-from-behind win on the road.

Mathewson posted 20 digs in the 3-1 win over Missouri and a career-high 30 digs against Oklahoma. She had just two serve receive errors in 101 opportunities. It was the team’s third Big 12 Player of the Week honor of the season.