HONOLULU, HAWAII – Kansas State’s season came to an end on Friday night in Hawai’i as the Wildcats were swept by the Pepperdine Waves in the Regional Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. K-State could not find a way to slow down Pepperdine’s top player, and the Wildcats could not get its own offense moving fast enough to put pressure on the Waves.
K-State (22-11) fell 18-25, 12-25, 23-25 ending a successful season after being selected to finish eighth in the Big 12 Conference in the preseason. The Wildcats saw junior opposite Kathleen Ludwig shine as she tallied 12 kills on a strong .355 hitting percentage. She also posted six digs and four block assists. Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger had 10 kills on the night but hit just .133 as she had six errors. Her 10 kills brings her season total to 500 making her 2011 campaign only the sixth in school history to have a Wildcat hit 500 kills.
Pepperdine (25-6) was led by right side hitter Kim Hill with 15 kills and she was efficient in her attack hitting .438 on the night. She had just one error on her 32 attempts and tallied a double-double with 15 digs. She was joined in double digits by Lilla Frederick with 10 kills. Setter Kellie Woolever directed the offense with 40 assists and had 12 digs for a double-double as well.
“I’m extremely proud of my team for the season we had,” head coach Suzie Fritz said of reaching the Sweet 16 for the third time in school history. “That was not our best effort tonight, and unfortunately at this point in the season you have to play well every night. I don’t want to discredit Pepperdine at all, but I think there are a lot of things we could have been better on our side of the net.”
The Waves grabbed the early momentum in the first set going on a 4-0 run to take a 5-3 lead. K-State would answer back a few times during the opening frame with quick two-point runs, but could not put together a longer string of success. Pepperdine did, however, string together success going on three separate runs of 4-0 to open up the lead and put the comeback out of reach for the Wildcats.
K-State could not stop the Waves in the second set as Pepperdine rolled to a big lead thanks to a 7-0 run. That run was aided by four miscues by the Wildcats and they quickly found themselves down 8-1. Pepperdine would put together another 7-0 run shortly after building the lead to 17-3. That run was also aided by mistakes as Lilla Porubek had a pair of attack errors and Pelger had a service error and attack error during the span. K-State attempted a comeback with a 5-1 run but it was not enough as Pepperdine answered right back and shut the door 25-12 to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room at the break.
In the third set, the Wildcats came out strong with three quick blocks to take a 9-6 lead. The Wildcats continued to lead until Pepperdine could string together some points with a 7-1 run to go ahead 17-15. From there the two teams would trade blows and K-State would tie it at 23, but the Waves tallied a block and an ace to close the match.
“Our team mantra is ‘Work hard. Stay together,’” Fritz said. “This season we outworked people. We’re not as physical as some teams and we’re not as big as some teams, and tonight I felt we were waiting for things to happen instead of going out and making things happen.”
Looking through the statistics for the year Donahue finishes the year with 16 double-doubles, which ties for the sixth most in a single season. Pelger’s 500 kills are tied for fifth in a season.
The Big 12 Conference still has two teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament as Texas and Iowa State won at their respective regionals on Friday to advance to the Regional Finals on Saturday. The Longhorns will take on UCLA as the Bruins ended Penn State’s streak of four straight NCAA titles. Iowa State defeated Minnesota on the Golden Gophers’ home floor to advance and face Florida State. With K-State’s loss the Big 12 now has a record of 9-5 so far in the tournament.