Wildcats win another five-set thriller


Coming off last Saturday’s close victory over Texas A&M, the Wildcats had another opportunity for a big victory as they hosted No. 25 Oklahoma.

The Wildcats appeared to be at a huge disadvantage as they were playing without Kaitlynn Pelger with players in positions that they are not accustomed to. However, the Wildcats proved once again that they can overcome adversity as they won another five-set match (18-25, 25-23, 16-25, 25-21, 15-12).

In a match that saw both teams display their strengths and weaknesses, coach Suzie Fritz said she could not have been more proud of her team.

“I’m so proud of my team again,” Fritz said of winning back-to-back matches in five sets. “That was not pretty in any way, shape or form. I think we showed tremendous persistence to get the win, and that’s pretty cool.”

In the first set, the Sooners came out and established their dominance. After the teams traded points for a good portion of the first set, the Sooners eventually pulled away to take the victory.

In the second set, both teams again battled, but this time the Wildcats were able to avoid some mistakes that they committed in the first set. Oklahoma still had a close lead, but then their go-to player, setter Brianne Barker, left the match with an apparent right hand injury. This allowed the Wildcats just the room they needed and they were able to tie the match at a set apiece going into intermission.

With the Sooners’ star player out because of an injury, the Wildcats appeared to have caught a break of their own. The Sooners would not let allow the injury to effect them though, at least in the third set.

The Sooners came out like they did in the first set and were able to get up on the Wildcats. The Wildcats resorted back to the ways of the first set and committed some unforced errors that enabled the Sooners to run away with the third set to take a set lead entering the fourth set.

The Wildcats came out playing well in the fourth set, taking a 11-8 lead. It appeared that the Wildcats scored a another point to go up 12-8, but the referee called the ball out and instead the Sooners were only down two.

After the call, the Sooners went on a huge run to take a 20-16 lead. Once again though, the Wildcats showed what they have and came back and scored nine of the last 10 points to win the fourth set.

Now it was a winner-take-all set. The Wildcats came out and took an 8-3 lead and appeared well on their way to a victory. The Sooners did as both teams had done all night, and fought back to pull within one. A big play by junior Kathleen Ludwig gave the Wildcats a two point lead, and they were able to pull away and win the entire match.

After the game, Fritz talked about how the Wildcats were able to win without Pelger.

“We’re different without Pelger and they’re different without Barker. I think we caught a bit of a break when, unfortunately for them, she went out,” Fritz said. “This match was very much a team effort. There were several people who stepped up that you might not always read about that helped us win the match. Gina Madonia had a nice serving run in the fifth set under pressure, and that’s a freshman. I’m proud of her. As a coach, when you see your team come together and see several people step up like that, that’s what you love to see.”

The Wildcats got a strong performance from Lilla Porubek, who had a career-high 23 kills. Lilla was estatic with the win after the game.

“I felt very confident tonight and knew I needed to play back row, which is something different for me here,” Porubek said. “That gave me a bit more confidence because after you get a big dig it feels so good to go to the net and get a kill. I was so excited to play this game.”

Junior setter Caitlyn Donahue talked about the team’s plan as Porubek was playing well.

“Suzie told me to feed the bear,” Donahue said. “Lilla was swinging great, so I kept feeding her and feeding her and they were in.”

The Wildcats got a huge win and now go on their toughest road trip of the year as they head to Austin, Texas, and Ames, Iowa, for their next two matches.