Squad overcomes inconsistent play to win home opener in 4 sets

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    The K-State volleyball team fought through inconsistency to defeat California State Bakersfield 3-1 on Monday night in a tightly contested match at Ahearn Field House.
    The No. 19 Wildcats (7-1) took the first set, which featured nine ties and five lead changes, behind a strong performance by senior outside hitter Rita Liliom. K-State used strong play at the net to pull away late, and held off a late charge by the Roadrunners (3-5) to win 25-23.
    The second match was also a seesaw battle, but the Roadrunners came out on top. The Wildcats managed to tie it up five times, but were not able to take control as CSUB prevailed, 25-23.
    After struggling in the first two sets, K-State caught fire in the third set. After jumping out to a 12-5 lead, the team never looked back. The Wildcats used solid defensive play to propel themselves to a 25-15 win.
    In the match’s final set, Cal State Bakersfield jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, and controlled the tempo for most of the set. However, the Wildcats clawed back and took their first lead at 20-19. Liliom capped off the run as K-State overpowered the Roadrunners, 25-21.
    After the match, coach Suzie Fritz said she wasn’t satisfied with the team’s performance.
    “I told [the girls] that they weren’t even close to meeting their capabilities as a team,” said Fritz, who is in her eighth season at K-State. “I thought we were too inconsistent. We’re much too veteran for that.”
    Fritz said the Wildcats’ aggressive net play helped them outmuscle the Roadrunners.
    “In the end, we were just more physical at the net. Otherwise, we were just out-ballhandled. There were stretches that we played really well, but we’re not stringing those stretches together.”
    Liliom echoed her coach’s thoughts, saying the come-from-behind win in the final set was not the team’s best effort.
    “It’s hard, but you have to just deal with it,” said Liliom, who led all scorers with 21 kills. “We got ourselves into it. We’ve got to work better to string success together.”
    In addition to Liliom, three other Wildcats tallied double-digit kills. Senior middle blocker Megan Farr had 13 while junior middle blocker Kelsey Chipman and senior outside hitter Nataly Korobkova added 12 and 11, respectively.
    Chipman, who was named the Big 12 Player of the Week after her performance at the Portland Invitational, said the team’s performance was lacking.
    “We just weren’t good enough,” said Chipman, who has accounted for 68 kills this season. “There were too many ups and downs. We need to find a happy medium.”
    The Wildcats will return to action Friday when they host the Varney’s Kansas State Invitational. K-State will begin tournament play with a 7 p.m. match-up against the University of Northern Iowa.

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