SEATTLE, Wash. The Kansas State Wildcats rallied from two sets down to force a fifth set in the first round of the NCAA Tournament but could not complete the comeback falling in five to Santa Clara. The Wildcats lose in the first round for just the second time in 12 appearances 22-25, 20-25, 25-19, 25-16, 13-15.
The Wildcats (24-8) and Broncos (18-9) went back and forth in the final set with neither team gaining more than a two-point advantage. Santa Clara gained the advantage last and held off K-State 15-13 in the final set.
K-State was led by Rita Liliom with 17 kills on the night as Nataly Korobkova added 14 and Jenny Jantsch joined them in double digits with 10 tallying a double-double with 14 digs. Middle blocker Kelsey Chipman had a strong night as well with nine kills and nine blocks.
Santa Clara’s Brittany Lowe had 13 kills in the match to lead the Broncos while Tanya Schmidt and Anna Cmaylo each added 12. Kim Courtney had a double-double with 10 kills and 17 digs. Lowe also had a double-double with 14 digs.
The Wildcats started a bit slow in the first round trading blows with the Broncos before a 4-0 run to build a lead and force Santa Clara to take its first timeout of the set. K-State rode the swing of Korobkova with two kills early in the set and a block to lead 8-4.
Out of the time out the teams battled back and forth again until the Wildcats got into a rut as Santa Clara took advantage of a few miscues and tied the set 12-12. A five-point run knotted the set with four of the points coming on errors or violations by K-State and one off a block by the Broncos.
Santa Clara continued to take advantage of errors by K-State to claim the lead and would not surrender it. The Broncos built a four-point lead with a 3-0 run that proved to be too much for the Wildcats to overcome as Santa Clara opened with a 25-22 win in the first set. The Wildcats had 11 errors in the opening set compared to just four from Santa Clara. The Broncos hit .250 in the first set while K-State hit only .083 after hitting .500 midway through the set.
The Broncos opened up a big lead with its strong serving to compound the Wildcats’ struggles hitting. Santa Clara had eight aces in the second set and pulled ahead by eight points 17-9 with a six-point run with three aces by Brittany Lowe. Santa Clara was able to hold off a late push by the Wildcats to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room with a 25-20 win.
K-State out-hit Santa Clara in the second set with a .265 percentage for the Wildcats while the Broncos hit .194. The difference proved to be the eight aces for Santa Clara while K-State struggled receiving and passing in the second set.
In the third set the Wildcats came out with a fire of kills and blocks to build a big lead over the Broncos. K-State had five blocks early in the set to open a 12-8 lead and kills from Chipman to help put Santa Clara in the situation the Wildcats found themselves in during the first two sets.
A seven-point run put the Wildcats up 15-8. K-State led by as many as nine points up 20-11 before the Broncos put together their first significant scoring effort since a 4-0 run gave them a 5-3 lead. Santa Clara scored seven straight points to make the score 20-18 as the Broncos clawed back into the set. K-State answered the call with four points of its own to set up set point. Santa Clara scored on one more kill before a point by Jantsch ended the set 25-19 and kept the Wildcats alive in the match.
The Wildcats again came out firing in the fourth set hitting .625 as a team early on to lead 10-5 and force Santa Clara to call a timeout. Chipman continued to be a force for the Wildcats with two kills, a block and an ace in the early goings of the set.
K-State continued to pour it on extending the lead to seven points on the arm of Korobkova and more solid blocking up front. The Wildcats had four blocks in the set including the final point to close the set 25-16 and force a pivotal fifth set. K-State had its best performance of the match so far in the fourth set by hitting .320 and holding Santa Clara a .030 hitting percentage.