K-State Volleyball Hosts West Virginia Thursday

By: K-State Sports Information (posted by J.B. Bauersfeld)
By: K-State Sports Information (posted by J.B. Bauersfeld)

Wildcats Host West Virginia Thursday

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State volleyball returns to Big 12 Conference action on Thursday night when the Wildcats welcome the West Virginia Mountaineers to Ahearn Field House for the first time at 7 p.m. The No. 15 Wildcats are hosting the new members of the Big 12 and it will mark the first time the two programs have ever faced in volleyball.

The Wildcats come into the contest following a 3-0 sweep over Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday posting a season-high .433 hitting percentage. They look to keep the Mountaineers winless in league play.

Thursday’s match will be 70’s Night and fans are encouraged to dress in their finest fashions of the decade. The first 250 students at the match will receive a custom pair of striped 70’s style K-State tube socks.

Discounted tickets are also available to members of the Manhattan Catbackers and Manhattan Chamber of Commerce with a promo code online. It also will be Frankfort Community Night and fans from the home town of redshirt sophomore Chelsea Keating can buy discounted tickets when using a special promo code online. Please contact the Fan Experience and Sales office at 785-532-6650 for those promo codes.

West Virginia comes to Ahearn after a heartbreaking loss at home to TCU on Saturday. The Mountaineers won the first two sets over the Horned Frogs to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room, but TCU responded with wins of 25-16 and 26-24 to tie it up. TCU then rolled in the final set while West Virginia struggled offensively and sealed the win 15-2 in the fifth.

On the Airwaves

Thursday’s match can be heard on KMAN 1350 with Rob Voelker calling the action. Live audio feeds can also be heard on 1350kman.com and kstatesports.com.

Online

The match will be webcast on K-StateHD.TV for fans subscribing to K-State’s online network. Live stats will also be available at kstatesports.com provided by CBS GameTracker.

The Series

This is the first meeting between the Wildcats and Mountaineers.

The Coaches

Kansas State: Suzie Fritz (Florida Atlantic ’94) is in her 12th year as head coach of the Wildcats she is the winningest coach in the program’s history with 230 wins and has taken the team to eight NCAA Tournaments, including three runs to the Regional Semifinals.

West Virginia: Jill Kramer (TCU ‘00) is in her third year coaching West Virginia. Prior to taking over at West Virginia, Kramer saw success as an assistant coach at Virginia, Alabama and UT San Antonio. Upon her arrival the Mountaineers posted wins against regional and Big East rivals for the first time in years.

Scouting the Mountaineers

West Virginia is new to the Big 12 and much of the team is new to Morgantown as well with seven freshmen and two juco transfers on the roster. Head Coach Jill Kramer has had success building ranked recruiting classes as an assistant coach at her previous stops and has brought in fresh talent to the Mountaineers program.

Five freshmen are starting for West Virginia, including libero Anna Panagiotakopoulos. Sophomore Evyn McCoy is the team’s top returner and is averaging 2.12 kills on a .249 hitting percentage. Juco transfer Arielle Allen completes the starting lineup. Freshman Hannah Sackett leads the team in kills at 2.81 with Nikki Attea close behind at 2.37 per set. Middle blocker Caleah Wells is the most efficient attacker at .329 hitting with 1.96 kills. She also leads the team in blocks averaging 0.91 per set.

The Mountaineers have dropped a few close matches already playing in five matches that went the full five sets. West Virginia fell at home to TCU on Saturday after winning the first two sets. The result was the opposite two weeks ago when West Virginia lost the first two sets to Cleveland State before rallying from behind to get the win. The Mountaineers are 2-3 in those five-set matches so far this season with losses to St. Francis at home to open the season and Robert Morris on the road.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats

The Wildcats rebounded after their first loss of the season with a dominant sweep over Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday. K-State posted its highest hitting percentage of the season at .433 and hit higher than .350 in each individual set.

Juniors Lilla Porubek and Kaitlynn Pelger continue to lead the Wildcat offense as Porubek pounded out 11 kills and a .474 hitting percentage in the win over UNO. Pelger had 10 kills at .444 and nearly posted a double-double with nine digs. Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue is spreading the offense around and helping the Wildcats to the No. 23 team hitting percentage in the nation. K-State also ranks 40th in kills per set thanks to the setting of Donahue.

K-State has posted two wins over ranked opponents already this season in defeating then-No. 10 Minnesota and No. 20 Dayton to win the Golden Hurricane Classic hosted by Tulsa. Pelger earned tournament MVP for her efforts and was recognized as the AVCA National Player of the Week. Donahue and senior Kathleen Ludwig joined Pelger on the All-Tournament Team.

After dropping its first match of the season last week on the road at Oklahoma, K-State is eyeing a victory in conference play to get back on track. The loss to the Sooners extended a road losing streak at McCasland Field House to four years. Pelger tallied 13 kills to go with .310 hitting and Porubek joined her in double digits with 11 kills. The Wildcats struggled to kill balls against OU’s strong back line and block with the Sooners posting 43 digs and 11 blocks to limit K-State to just .155 hitting. It marked just the second time this season the Wildcats have been held under .200 hitting as a team for a match.

K-State’s offense and defense have both proven to be among the nation’s best this season as well. In addition to the Wildcats hitting .267 as a team to rank 23rd in the latest NCAA statistical rankings of the season released Monday night, the team is 18th in blocking. The Wildcats are stuffing 2.86 attacks from their opponents this season and have posted 10 or more blocks in five matches. The Wildcats are also posting 13.30 assists per set to rank 26th.

Individually, the Wildcats have some of the top talent in the nation as well. Senior middle blocker Alex Muff has proven to be one of the best at her position defensively as she is currently eighth in the nation in blocks per set, averaging 1.51.

Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue is again one of the leading setters in the Big 12 Conference and the nation. She currently stands 14th on the NCAA list averaging 11.67 assists per set. Her guidance as the setter has helped the Wildcats’ offense rank high in kills and hitting percentage.

Junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger is another Wildcat making noise on the national scene for K-State. After earning AVCA All-America honorable mention last year, Pelger is currently 41st in the nation in aces and 42nd in points per set, as she is one of the team’s top contributors in kills, aces and blocks.

K-State Ranked No. 15

The Wildcats drop four spots in this week’s AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll after losing their first match of the season at Oklahoma last week. After the best start in school history at 12-0, K-State climbed to No. 11 a week ago but still remain among the top teams in the country. The No. 11 ranking was the highest the Wildcats had been ranked since being No. 11 on Nov. 26, 2007.

Three Big 12 teams continue to be ranked as Texas holds steady this week at No. 9 after defeating Oklahoma. Iowa State also held its spot at No. 19. Oklahoma is the leading vote getter outside the Top 25, and Kansas joins the list of other teams receiving votes this week with a 13-2 record.

A number of K-State’s nonconference foes are among the top teams as well. Minnesota and Dayton are still ranked with the Golden Gophers climbing two spots to No. 10 and Dayton leaping two spots as well up to No. 20. Two more of K-State’s nonconference opponents are receiving votes. Oregon State is just outside the Top 25 behind OU with 43 points in the poll. Creighton also is receiving votes with 14 points.

Elite Company

K-State’s football team is a perfect 3-0 and ranked No. 7 heading following Saturday’s victory on the road over No. 6 Oklahoma. With K-State’s No. 15-ranked volleyball team at 13-1, the Wildcats join only 11 other schools that can boast the same accomplishment so far with their football and volleyball teams ranked.

The Wildcats are one of two Big 12 schools to have football and volleyball both ranked. The Pac-12 has the most at four schools. Oregon and Stanford are the only schools with their programs both in the Top 10.

Cleaning Up

K-State is off to a great start to the season at 13-1, but the way the Wildcats have been winning is just as impressive. A total of 11 of those victories have been 3-0 sweeps of their opponents. That total already surpasses last year’s seven sweeps and is tied with BYU, Central Arkansas and St. John’s for the most of any team in the nation. K-State has more sweeps than undefeated Washington (9) and Oregon (9) as well as No. 3 USC (9). Michigan State , Western Kentucky and Towson each have 10 sweeps to their credit.

The 3-0 sweeps have come against strong competition as well. The Wildcats swept Creighton on the Bluejays’ home court while the team was receiving votes in the poll. K-State swept 2011 NCAA Tournament teams Missouri State and Tulsa, as well as No. 20 Dayton. Some opponents K-State swept earlier in the season have responded with signature wins as well. Oregon State defeated No. 2 Penn State in five sets, and Syracuse bested No. 23 Iowa State on the Cyclones’ home floor.

Pelger Honored by AVCA

After helping the K-State volleyball team win the Golden Hurricane Classic and defeat to ranked teams two weeks ago at Tulsa, junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger was selected as the AVCA National Player of the Week. Pelger averaged 4.18 kills while hitting .440 in victories over Tulsa, No. 10 Minnesota and No. 20 Dayton to earn the award. In addition to her kills and hit hitting percentage for the weekend, Pelger added 2.45 digs per set and 1.09 blocks and her five aces led the team.

Pelger is the first Wildcat since Dawn Cady in 1999 to receive the nation’s top player of the week award after Cady guided the Wildcats to their first-ever win over Nebraska. This is the fourth AVCA National Player of the Week in K-State history with Kate DeClerk winning it in 1995 and again in 1996.

Pelger Named Big 12 Player of the Week

K-State won what was tabbed by many as the top tournament in the nation that week on the schedule claiming three wins at the Golden Hurricane Classic in Tulsa, and junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger walked away with tournament MVP honors and was also recognized by the Big 12 Conference as the Offensive Player of the Week.

Pelger played a major role in defeating ranked opponents in back-to-back matches for the first time in school history as the Wildcats bested No. 10 Minnesota in five sets on and followed that win with a victory over No. 20 Dayton at arguably the top nonconference tournament in the nation that week.

Pelger opened the tournament with a double-double as she posted 11 kills on a .455 hitting percentage to go with 12 digs against Tulsa. She also was in on five block assists as the Wildcats stuffed Tulsa for 14.5 blocks, the fourth straight match K-State posted 10 or more blocks.

Against the Golden Gophers, Pelger played a huge role down the stretch as she led the team with 16 kills. She also added nine digs, five blocks and three aces. Four of her kills came in the shortened fifth set alone as K-State hit an amazing .818 as a team with nine kills and no errors to dominate Minnesota in the deciding set. To close the weekend, Pelger put on a show against No. 20 Dayton.

The middle blocker pounded out 19 kills and hit an impressive .654 to roll over the Flyers. Pelger opened the match with eight kills on nine swings in the first set. Against Dayton, Pelger also had six digs, two blocks and a pair of aces. For the weekend she averaged 4.18 kills per set while hitting .440 against some of the top teams in the nation. Pelger added 2.45 digs and 1.09 blocks and her five aces led the team.

This is Pelger’s first Big 12 Player of the Week award this season and her fourth overall, receiving Rookie of the Week once in 2010 and Offensive Player of the Week twice last season. Kristen Hahn earned Defensive Player of the Week for Iowa State as the libero helped the Cyclones defeat No. 1 Nebraska on Saturday, and Nikki Attea was named the Rookie of the Week for West Virginia.

Packed with Purple

K-State fans have traditionally made Ahearn Field House one of the greatest venues and atmospheres in the Big 12 Conference. In 2011, fans packed Ahearn with purple averaging more than 1,500 per match and ranked No. 22 in the nation. The 2012 season as been no different with the Wildcats ranked No. 18 in this week’s NCAA attendance report.

More than 2,700 fans packed the stands at Ahearn for the season opener against UC Irvine and following the match Suzie Fritz again praised the fans and said K-State is one of the best atmospheres to play in all the country. For the final match of the weekend more than 1,500 faithful came out to watch the Wildcats’ come-from-behind victory over Oregon State to average 1,755 for the three matches at the Varney’s Invitational.

This past weekend, nearly 1,600 fans came to see the Wildcats sweep Nebraska-Omaha, and nearly 2,000 fans took advantage of the Wildcat Weekend ticket special to see a victory over Utah State after watching the football team defeat Miami earlier in the day on Sept. 8. K-State is averaging just under 1,600 fans per match this season and conference action is now underway.

This year more renovations have been done to Ahearn Field House to enhance the atmosphere. The entire balcony seating area has been painted purple and white. The railings have all been converted from cream to white and the bleachers are now K-State Purple instead of brown. Along with the seating renovations and Powercat banner installed over the previous two years, Ahearn Field House is now truly home to the Purple and the White. A new media center has been installed as well for journalists to cover matches for their respective media outlets.

Redesigned banners have been hung in Ahearn as well replacing the older ones. The traditional style banners commemorate the winning tradition at K-State, displaying all 13 NCAA Tournament banners, All-Americans and the 2003 Big 12 Championship.

Family Business

The Kansas State volleyball team has been run like a family under the direction of Suzie Fritz, and it can be seen on the roster as well. Senior middle blocker Alex Muff is a second generation Wildcat student-athlete as her father Kevin played basketball at K-State.

Junior outside hitter Courtney Traxson also is a Wildcat legacy. Her aunt Helen Bundy-Buchanan lettered for the K-State volleyball team in the mid-1980s and her older brother Cameron threw javelin for the Wildcat track and field team and her mother Patty also participated in track and field for the Wildcats.

Junior outside hitter Dakota Kaufman is the cousin of former Wildcat JuliAnne Chisholm as the two were able to play together last season after pairing up at Hillsboro High School for one season as well.

Junior defensive specialist Tristan McCarty’s rounds out the K-State family tree as her cousin Cory Boulanger threw javelin for the Wildcats.

One more Wildcat has family connections to the program. Outside hitter Lilla Porubek’s mother played professional volleyball in Europe with former Wildcat All-American Valli Hejjas in professional beach volleyball.

– k-statesports.com –


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