Wildcats find success at Invitational

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    The K-State volleyball team dominated the tournament field en route to capturing the Varney’s Kansas State Invitational on Sept. 12-13.
    The No. 19 Wildcats (10-1) began tournament action with a Friday evening match against Northern Iowa and controlled the tempo throughout the match, sweeping the Panthers (9-1) by scores of 25-21, 25-19 and 25-18.
    They used a suffocating defense to hold UNI to a .142 hitting percentage. K-State’s senior outside hitter Rita Liliom led all scorers with 16 kills while UNI’s Shannon Aschoff added 10.
    The Wildcats were equally as dominant in their second match, a Saturday afternoon showdown with Cornell. After winning the first two sets by scores of 25-19 and 25-17, K-State capped off its second consecutive sweep by blasting the Big Red (0-3) by the score of 25-9. The 16-point difference is the largest for the Wildcats this season.
    Liliom, who is averaging 4.51 kills per set during the 2008 campaign, tallied a match-high 12. Cornell’s Juliana Rogers was the only other scorer to notch double-digit kills. She had 10 in the match.
    Inconsistency and fatigue led to K-State’s biggest challenge of the weekend in the tournament finale against Liberty University. The Flames (8-2) quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening set, but the Wildcats responded with a 9-1 run to put the set out of reach.
    Aside from the match’s first two points, Liberty only tallied consecutive points on one other occasion. The two scores narrowed the gap to 16-9, but the Wildcats ended the set on another 9-1 run to win 25-10.
    Liberty was able to shake off its forgettable start and win the second set 25-22. The set, which featured 16 ties and four lead changes, began eerily similarly to the opener. The Flames scored the first two points and the Wildcats used an 8-3 run to jump in front. However, Liberty was able to respond this time around. After a see-saw battle for much of the match, the Flames, clinging to a 21-20 lead, used a 5-2 run to secure the win.
    The third set ended in the same score, but this time the Wildcats came out on top. After  pulled away to a 22-17 lead, Liberty went on a 5-1 run to get within a point. However, the Wildcats were able to hold off the late charge and escape with a three point victory. Despite letting the Flames tie the score five times, K-State never trailed in the set.
    The Wildcats outmuscled the Flames in the final set, using a pair of Liberty scoreless droughts to take the finale 25-12. After giving up the set’s first point, K-State reeled off nine straight to put the Flames away for good.
    The Wildcats also recorded six consecutive points later in the match to take a 20-6 lead. Liliom, who had 18 total kills in the match, led the charge with six in the set.
    After the match, three Wildcats were named to the all-tournament team, including senior middle blocker Megan Farr, sophomore libero Lauren Mathewson and senior outside hitter Rita Liliom, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
    Coach Suzie Fritz said it is an honor for any Wildcat to be named to the all-tournament team, but she was especially proud of Mathewson.
    “[Lauren] is a big part of our success right now, and she’s still striving to be better,” said Fritz. “I thought she deserved the award.”
    Fritz and Liliom both said the team will spend minimal time celebrating the victory since the Wildcats’ matchup with national powerhouse Nebraska is just a few days away.
    “We’ll enjoy this one for a while, but we’ve got to get back to work on Monday,” said Fritz. “We see our season in three sets: preseason, conference season and postseason. Preseason is over and done with now, and we feel like it’s prepared us for conference play.”
    Liliom wasn’t as lenient as her coach, saying the Wildcats view Nebraska as their biggest rivals.
    “We’ll enjoy [this victory] for about half an hour, then all of our attention goes to Nebraska,” she said. “That’s our big rivalry. They are a really good team and you will have really good competition when you play them.”
    The Wildcats and No. 2 Cornhuskers will face off at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Ahearn Field House. The match will be the first conference action for both squads.

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