Wildcats Host Aggies on FSN

MANHATTAN, Kan. The Wildcats return home for three straight matches to take on Texas A&M in a televised match at 7 p.m. Wednesday on FSN Kansas City. Kansas State and Texas A&M will tangle after the Wildcats got the best of the Aggies in College Station earlier this season.

The match pits an Aggie team that has been up and down all season to a K-State team looking to add to its win total turning a long homestand after playing five of its last seven meetings on the road.  K-State is among the top teams in the conference in most statsitical categories and are 8-1 at home this season.

In their last meeting with the Aggies, the Wildcats got the sweep 25-23, 25-18, 25-20 while holding the Aggies to just .100 hitting as a team. Rita Liliom pounded out 16 kills while Lauren Mathewson and Jenny Jantsch sured up the defense with 15 and 10 digs respectively. Soriana Pacheco was a force at the service line for the Wildcats with three aces against the Aggies to keep them off balance.

With the win it was the first time the Wildcats swept the Aggies in College Station since 2002. K-State had won just twice at A&M since then losing three in a row from 2004-06. Head coach Suzie Fritz is 10-5 against the Aggies and 6-1 at home.

The Series

Kansas State holds the advantage over Texas A&M 15-11 after sweeping the Aggies earlier this year. The Wildcats have now won three in a row against A&M. The two teams met just once before joining the Big 12 Conference with Texas A&M getting the 3-1 win in 1981.

The Wildcats have lost just once at home to the Aggies falling in straight sets in 2006 28-30, 32-34, 25-30. The home team has tradtitionally dominated this series as K-State’s win in September was just the fifth time the road team has won when these two teams meet on the court.

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 four wins shy of taking the top spot at K-State. A win tonight would be her 100th win in Big 12 Conference action.

A&M: Laurie Corbelli (San Francisco 89) has led the Aggies for 15 years and took them to 13 straight NCAA Tournament appearances before missing out on the last two. In her 23rd year as a head coach she has a 437-261 career record.

On the Airwaves

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

On the Tube

This weekend’s match will also be aired on FSN Kansas City with Brian Smoller on play-by-play. Patti Phillips will assist with color commentary.

On the Web

Live stats for Saturday’s match will be available through www.k-statesports.com.

Scouting the Aggies

Texas A&M has had a rollercoaster season in that the Aggies have never lost just one match at a time. The Aggies have had three losing streaks of three matches and another with two. Their wins have come in bunches for the most part as well winning five in a row and three in a row during the season.

As a result of the winning and losing streaks, the Aggies have hovered around .500 for most of the season. Texas A&M finds itself at 5-6 in Big 12 play and in a tie for fifth and in a jumble of teams in the middle of the pack fighting for quality wins to make an argument for an at large berth into the NCAA Tournament. Texas A&M has missed the last two tournaments after making the trip 13 straight years under current coach Laurie Corbelli.

The Aggies are led by juniors Mary Batis and Sarah Ammerman. The pair of outside hitters are averaging 3.40 and 3.03 kills per set respectively and represent nearly half of the Aggies’ offensive output. Batis also leads the team in digs with 2.78 per set. The pair is also A&M’s top two servers leading the team in aces.

Darla Donaldson and Jennifer Banse are the Aggies’ other two main offensive threats. Banse is averaging 1.89 kps while Donaldson is tallying 1.83 kps. Donaldson leads active players in blocks 1.04 per set. Fellow middle blocker Jillian Phillips was averaging 1.14 bps before an injury.

The Aggies snapped their most recent three-match losing streak with a sweep over Kansas on Saturday in College Station. Texas A&M held the Jayhawks to a .041 hitting percentage in the win and prevented any KU player from reaching double digits in kills. Batis had 11 kills and hit .348 in the win while converted outside hitter Kelsey Black had 13 digs. Black has played a portion of the season at libero and outside hitter as a true freshman for the Aggies.

A&M has struggled against ranked opponents this year with a 1-6 record defeating No. 16 BYU in College Station. The Aggies have also lost to Iowa State and Baylor while each team was receiving votes in the Top 25 poll.

Catching Up with the Cats

Kansas State rebounded from its road loss to Iowa State with another come-from-behind victory on the road in five sets over Baylor. The Wildcats fell behind 2-0 in Waco, Texas, before returning to form and evening the match up at two sets apiece.

After tying the match, the Wildcats and Bears battled through a long and hard-fought fifth set. In the final and decisive set alone there were 12 ties, nine lead changes and six match points. K-State fought off three match points from the Bears and closed the door on them with back-to-back blocks by Kelsey Chipman and Soriana Pacheco to win the match.

Seniors Rita Liliom and Nataly Korobkova teamed up to pound the Bears for 23 and 21 kills respectively. Liliom also added 11 digs for her eighth double-double of the season. Chipman played a big role in the win as she tallied 10 kills and eight block assists in the win. Pacheco directed the offense to a .321 hitting percentage for the match and had a career-high 61 assists. Lauren Mathewson continued her strong play of late with 23 digs. It was her third match in K-State’s last five she reached the 20-dig mark.

The Wildcats rank in the top four within the Big 12 in almost every statistical category. K-State is hitting .264 as a team to rank third among conference foes. The Wildcats are fourth in assists (12.83 aps), kills (13.72) and blocks (2.48) while ranking third in service aces at 1.38 per set.

Against the Bears, the Wildcats had a season-high 68 kills as a team. Their .619 hitting percentage in the second set was nearly the team’s highest of the season as well just behind its effort against Liberty. The team’s 26 block assists was a season-high and total of 14.0 was just behind its highest total against Cal State Bakersfield.

She Can Dig It

Sophomore libero Lauren Mathewson has stepped her game up with consistent play in Big 12 action. She posted her fifth match with atleast 20 digs against Baylor (10/25) and it was her third in five matches. Against Oklahoma she marked her first 30-dig match in helping the Wildcats rally from behind to get the victory.

She is averaging 4.09 digs per set in conference play and 3.99 overall. Mathewson has also been big on the service line with an ace in 75-percent of the team’s Big 12 matches.

Rockin’ Rita

Outside hitter Rita Liliom is on pace to have one of the top seasons in school history. She has surpassed the 15-kill mark in 10 matches and also added eight 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 could move into 11th on the career list if she continues at her current pace.

Her kill total and average per set could both place among the top in the program’s history. She is averaging 4.14 kps which would rank 10th. At 335 kills she needs 116 to crack the top 10 for a single season. At her current pace she should join the exclusive club. Taking the new scoring format this season into account it could be argued she would make a push for one of the top five spots if matches were played to 30 instead of 25 this year.

Going to Town-send

Senior defensive specialist Leslie Townsend has taken on an important role on the team her final year. She has come off the bench routinely to spell Nataly Korobkova and serve and play the back row for the 6-3 hitter.

Townsend is averaging 1.38 digs per set in her limited action and has tallied four aces. Her strong, flat serve has been able to take opponents out of system and her defensive skills have come up big in some of the Wildcats’ toughest matches.

Against Baylor, Townsend had 10 digs in helping the team come from behind to defeat the Bears. She also posted a season-high 11 digs in a loss to Nebraska.

Fritz Chasing 168

Kansas State volleyball coach Suzie Fritz is quickly approaching the No. 1 spot in school history in wins. In seven seasons, Fritz has posted a career record of 165-75 and is four wins behind Scott Nelson for the most wins  at K-State. Nelson posted a 168-176-1 record from 1980-90.

During her time as head coach, Fritz has taken the Wildcats to their first conference championship claiming the Big 12 title in 2003. She also has twice been named Big 12 Coach of the Year and was the 2003 Central Region Coach of the Year.