A huge upswing in the second half of the match Wednesday night was momentous, but it did not prove pivotal enough for the Wildcats to grab the victory.
In the penultimate home match of the season, Texas A&M (13-14, 7-10 Big 12 Conference) took down K-State (10-18, 4-13 Big 12) in four games.
“It hurts,” said sophomore opposite hitter Kathleen Ludwig. “When things aren’t going our way, it’s really hard to find (energy), but it’s necessary. More than even executing plays, it’s extremely necessary to play together and find that intensity somewhere.”
Things did not go K-State’s way in the first two games, with the Wildcats losing 16-25 and 21-25, but K-State came back with a punch in the third and fourth. The Wildcats had a consistent roll to the finish in game three, taking it 25-18, and an undulating fourth seemed to be solid for them, but a late drive from Texas A&M gave it the match, 25-22.
After the match, head coach Suzie Fritz declined to comment, instead sending out assistant coach Jeff Hulsmeyer, who said the team needed to turn it on earlier in the match, which Ludwig echoed.
“They talked about how we can’t wait to be down 0-2 to find some heart, to find some enthusiasm,” Ludwig said. “I think that was one of the most frustrating factors of the match, no doubt.”
Freshman middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger slammed down 18 kills for a career high with a .577 hitting percentage for another career high, she tallied up big numbers all across the board, including five block assists, three service aces and a near double-double with eight digs; all with only three attack errors. However, Pelger did not have the consistent back-up needed to find a win.
Ludwig said she thought her team’s energy was low in the lead-up to the match, which may have contributed to the slow start.
“In warm-ups, it was a little quiet, and we were kind of a little nervous about it,” she said. “It was just kind of a weird, rainy, eerie day; we weren’t feeling ready to play, and I think that definitely showed in the first couple.”
The Aggies made short work of K-State in the first game. Taking their first four points in one lump sum, they punched up some clean numbers for the first rotation and almost doubled K-State’s score. Then, right at the end of the rotation, they steamrolled straight through the Wildcats with eight points in a row, stopped only by a kill from sophomore middle blocker Alex Muff. K-State managed to eke out a few more points, but the Aggies continued their rampage to the win, 25-16.
Through the first half of the game, Texas A&M sided out perfectly, but K-State snatched up four points off its serve later to drop the number to 75 percent, which is still very respectable. On the other side of the net, Muff had a game-high five kills, she erred on only two attempts.
K-State played the second game much closer, pushing its opponent’s side-out percentage down to 59 and putting up six ties, but the Aggies clambered out on top, winning 25-21. The first rotation was back-and-forth action, with each team taking one or two and then losing the serve, ending 10-8 Texas A&M. In the second, the Aggies put up consecutive runs for a serious point boost, but the Wildcats soon followed suit to pull within two. Ultimately, however, their efforts were unfruitful in pulling off the game win.
This game presented some lapses in communication on K-State’s side, which resulted in missed touches and incorrect positioning. However, the Wildcats had twice as many blocks this time around than the last, sprucing up the first line of defense and contributing greatly to the narrower score.
In the third game, either K-State improved or Texas A&M regressed. (You can guess what each head coach would say.) Boasting a match-high side-out percentage of 84, the Wildcats shot down attack after attack from Texas A&M, doubling their blocks and digs in one game and improving most other statistics.
The teams sparred for a large portion of the game. The Aggies could not manage to string together any points, save one for the first two rotations, and K-State would grab an extra point after the initial serve here and there to slowly move up the board. Up 18-15, the Wildcats grabbed three and marched on to the win, 25-18.
The team avoided falling in straight games, but everything came undone for the Wildcats in the fourth. They tied it all back it up, and then it came undone again. Texas A&M put up some hefty numbers early to double K-State’s score at 14-7, but the Wildcats returned moments later with a few of their own major runs to finally gain the lead, 21-19. A timeout shifted play back to the Aggies, though, and they put up five straight to win the match, 25-22.
“I think if we come out and play like we did in game three, we’re gonna find some success, we’re gonna get some teams,” Ludwig said.
The Wildcats return to action this Saturday with a road match against Oklahoma.