Wildcats Square Off Against #25 Sooners In Ahearn Field House

By: KSU, posted by Kinch O'Kelley
By: KSU, posted by Kinch O'Kelley

First Serve
K-State will enter the second leg of the double-round robin Big 12 schedule with a 7 pm match against Oklahoma on Wednesday, Oct. 30 in Ahearn Field House. The Wildcats, who are 14-7 and 2-6 in the Big 12, are coming off a straight-sets loss to the nation’s top team, Texas, on Oct. 26.

The Wildcats and Sooners are meeting for the second time this season. In the first meeting on Oct. 12, K-State fell at Oklahoma in four sets despite a double-double from senior Kaitlynn Pelger (17 kills, 10 digs) and two others – senior Courtney Traxson and junior Taylor Johnson – reaching double-digit kills. The Sooners out-hit and out-blocked the Wildcats .237-.135 and 12.0-9.0, respectively.

Oklahoma enters Wednesday with a four-match winning streak, including a sweep of West Virginia in its last match on Oct. 26. The Sooners’ winning streak began with the win over K-State.

Wednesday’s match will be shown live by K-StateHD.TV on Fox Sports Midwest. Brian Smoller (play-by-play) and Liz Wegner-Busch (analyst) will call the action. The match can also be heard on KMAN 1350 or k-statesports.com, with Rob Voelker on the audio broadcast. Live stats are available at k-statesports.com and updates on Twitter will be provided by @kstate_gameday.

Exclusive Club
With six more digs, senior Kaitlynn Pelger would tally 200 in a season for the third time in her career. The 200 digs milestone is noteworthy because Pelger, who enters Wednesday with 233 kills this year, would become just the fourth K-State player in the Big 12 era (since 1996) to have at least three seasons with 200 or more in both kills and digs. The last Wildcat to have at least three seasons of 200 kills and 200 digs was Jennifer Pollard from 1999-2002. There have been nine players overall in program history with at least three seasons of 200 kills and 200 digs.

K-State Players with 200+ Kills & Digs in a Season Three Times (Big 12 era)
Dawn Cady (1996-99)
Liz Wegner (1998-2001)
Jennifer Pollard (1999-2002)

Fill In The Ranks
For the second match in a row, K-State will face a team ranked in the AVCA Coaches Top 25 poll. Oklahoma, which has received votes in every poll this season, is making its debut in the Top 25 poll this season with a No. 25 ranking this week. It is the first time since Nov. 2 and 7, 2012 that K-State has faced Top 25 teams in back-to-back matches. This season, K-State is 1-1 against ranked teams, with the win occurring on Sept. 14 at then-#23 Cal. The last time K-State beat a ranked opponent at home was on Oct. 3, 2012 against #22 Iowa State. The Wildcats are 1-3 all-time against teams ranked 25th in the AVCA Coaches Poll, with the only win occurring on Nov. 9, 2011 – against Oklahoma.

New Trax
Senior Courtney Traxson has already established career-highs in kills and blocks this season. The Cheney, Kan. native has 174 kills – her previous career-high was 168 set in 2011 – and 53 blocks – previous high was 36 also set in 2011. Over her last seven matches, Traxson is averaging 3.0 kills per set (75k, 25sets) and 0.52 blocks per set (13b, 25sets). Traxson had 13 kills in the last match against Oklahoma, her most ever against the Sooners in five career matches.

Kaufman’s Kills
Senior Dakota Kaufman was tied with two others for the team-lead in kills against #1 Texas, continuing the Hillsboro, Kan. native’s strong offensive stretch. Over the last three matches, Kaufman is averaging 2.9 kills per set (29k, 10sets), with double-digit kill efforts in two of the matches. Kaufman also has a .281 hitting percentage over the three-match stretch, up from her season average of .137.

Assistance Provided
Despite a season-low 20 assists against #1 Texas, redshirt freshman Katie Brand is third in the Big 12 in conference-only matches with 10.14 assists per set. The setter is averaging 10.29 assists per set over the last four matches, with at least 38 assists in three of the contests. The Grand Island, Neb. native has 787 total assists this season, the fourth-most by a freshman in K-State history.

Most Assists Per Set in the Big 12 (Conference-Only Matches)
Erin McNorton (Kansas) – 12.69
Jennelle Hudson (Iowa State) – 11.55
Katie Brand (K-State) – 10.14

Getting Offensive
Katie Brand had six kills and one block assist against #1 Texas, giving her 6.5 points in the match. Brand – who had six kills against Oklahoma earlier this season – leads all Big 12 setters with 130.5 points and 1.65 points per set. Brand’s 130.5 points this season are the most by a K-State setter since Caitlyn Donahue had 140.5 points in 2011. Brand also leads all Big 12 setters in kills and blocks while she is tied for third in aces.

Good Service
Senior Tristan McCarty has an ace in each of the last four matches, giving her 19 aces on the season. It is the second time this season McCarty has at least one ace in four or more consecutive matches after she had an ace in five straight matches from Sept. 13-22. McCarty’s 19 aces this season are the third-most on K-State, trailing Katie Brand (20) and Kaitlynn Pelger (25). McCarty has five aces in conference-only matches, which are the second-most on the team.

Moving Up The Charts
While Tristan McCarty has the second-most aces on the Wildcats in conference-only matches, Kaitlynn Pelger is pacing the team with six in such contests. Pelger has one ace in each of her last two matches, which have helped her take sole possession of 10th place on K-State’s career aces list. Pelger enters Wednesday with 119 career aces, needing one more to tie Kathy Saxton (120 from 1989-92) for ninth place. Pelger is averaging 0.32 aces per set this season, the fifth-best average among Big 12 players.

Closing In
Kaitlynn Pelger is also five blocks shy from registering 400 blocks in her career. The Olathe, Kan. native is looking to become the ninth player in K-State history to have 400 or more blocks in a career. The last Wildcat to finish with 400 or more career blocks was Alex Muff (2009-12). Pelger is averaging 1.05 blocks per set this season, which currently stands as her highest average for a season in her career. Pelger, who has 11 blocks over the last two matches, is averaging 1.07 blocks per set in conference-only matches, the 10th-best mark in the Big 12.

Block Party
The Wildcats are one of the Big 12’s top teams in terms of blocking as they rank third in conference-only matches with 2.57 blocks per set. K-State’s 74 total blocks in conference-only contests are the second-most in the Big 12, trailing Kansas and its 83 team blocks. K-State had its streak of 15 straight matches with at least eight blocks snapped against #1 Texas when it had four blocks. Taylor Johnson (1.14) and Kaitlynn Pelger (1.07) are sixth and 10th, respectively, in blocks per set in conference-only matches. In the last match against Oklahoma, Pelger had a team-best five blocks while Johnson had three.

Home, Sweet Home
Despite Saturday’s loss to #1 Texas, K-State is 6-2 at home this season, including wins in two of its last three matches in Ahearn Field House. Since 2011, K-State is 28-8 (.778) in Manhattan. The Wildcats had 10 or more home wins in both 2011 and 2012. After the Oklahoma match, the Wildcats have only three of their remaining seven matches at home.

Eye For RPI
K-State dropped to No. 54 in this week’s RPI rankings, falling from last week’s No. 38 spot. Texas remains atop the rankings while other Big 12 foes are among the top 30: No. 16 Kansas, No. 19 Oklahoma and No. 29 Iowa State. Other 2013 opponents ranked higher than the Wildcats include No. 27 California, No. 31 Arkansas and No. 40 Tulsa.

The Opponent: Oklahoma
Oklahoma, led by head coach Santiago Restrepo, is 18-4 this season, including a 6-2 mark in the Big 12. The two conference losses for Oklahoma were sweeps at then-#6 Texas and Kansas. The Sooners have won four of their last five matches since losing to Texas on Sept. 28.

Senior middle blocker Sallie McLaurin, the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week, leads the Sooners with 3.78 kills per set and 1.31 blocks per set this season. McLaurin leads the Big 12 in blocks per set while she is second in kills and hitting percentage (.452). In the first match against K-State this year, McLaurin had 15 kills and a team-high seven blocks.

In conference-only matches, Oklahoma is fourth and third, respectively, in hitting percentage (.244) and opponent hitting percentage (.195). Oklahoma is second in the conference with 16.07 digs per set. The Sooners rank fifth or higher in every major statistical category.

The Series: Oklahoma
K-State trails in the all-time series against Oklahoma, 51-27-1. The Wildcats have lost three straight to the Sooners, with the last K-State win being on Nov. 9, 2011 in Ahearn Field House. Oklahoma has beaten K-State in eight of the last nine meetings. Under head coach Suzie Fritz, the Wildcats are 8-4 against the Sooners in Manhattan since 2001.

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