November 29, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
There's no doubt Saturday evening in Ahearn Field House will be an emotional evening for Kaitlynn Pelger.
It will mark one of K-State Volleyball's most successful player's final home competitions - her final match playing before the fans she's grown to love.
"It's kind of emotional, bittersweet. I've always talked about how amazing the crowd is here," Pegler said. "They've been a huge support for not only me but our coaching staff and my entire team here. It's been great playing here."
While Pelger said she is ready to see what life holds after graduation in December, her past four years spent at K-State were years full of growth, memories and success.
"I just love the atmosphere at K-State. I love the people, the campus, the instructors," Pelger said. "The people here always put me in a good mood. They can always make me happy. It's going to be hard leaving, of course it's an exciting thing to go to a new chapter in your life, but it'll be hard to leave behind what's been your home the past four years."
On the court, Pelger has worked her way onto numerous K-State charts. She is No. 4 all-time with 1,501career kills, No. 2all-time with 1,865 career points and No. 7 with 130 career aces.
Pelger is the only player in Wildcat history to rank in the top 10 in kills, aces, blocks and points, and is the only Wildcat to record a triple-triple season as a freshman (328 kills, 134 digs and 100 blocks in 2010).
"There are a lot of things that make her unique," head coach Suzie Fritz said. "One, she's truly a middle, but she's a middle with a lot of other skills that normally middles don't have. Her ball handling skills, her ability to serve, her ability to play defense are really good and most middles don't usually have that skill set. Her ability to be in a lot of those top-10 categories is a reflection of all the responsibilities she has. She's a primary passer, she's one of our leaders in kill production and she's a middle back defender. She just simply does a lot."
Her accolades on the court are numerous and have only escaladed this season. She has been named to the All-Big 12 First Team two seasons in a row (2011-12) and if she is picked for it again this season, she will join Gabby Guerre (2001-04) as the only Wildcats named to the team three times in their career.
This season she has picked up three Big 12 Player of the Week honors, putting her at a total of eight career Big 12 weekly accolades - the most in school history.
"I'm just so thankful for the coaches that I have been provided with," Pelger said. "I never thought that I would be where I am today. They've helped me not only become a great volleyball player, but a great person on and off the volleyball court. I'm so thankful that they care not only about me as a player, but as a person as well."
While she has found her share of success on the court, last week, on Nov. 19, Pelger was named to the Academic All-Big 12 team for the first time in her career.
"It's probably the most important award that I've ever received," Pelger said about the academic achievement. "I've had to work extremely hard with my grades over the past four years here. I learned my lesson my first spring as a freshman coming in thinking it might be a little easier than I thought, and it wasn't. I feel like it's the ultimate package for a student-athlete. The student comes first, so to be able to receive that award is just extremely special."
Along with Pelger, three other seniors, Courtney Cook, Lilla Porubek and CourtneyTraxson, were also named to the Academic All-Big 12 team this season.
Pelger will graduate from K-State in December with a degree in family studies and human services and said she hopes to pursue a career in social work after spending time playing professional volleyball in Europe.
Although Pelger cannot talk with professional coaches until after her career at K-State according to NCAA rules, she said she plans on spending four to eight months overseas competing with some of the best professional volleyball teams in the world upon graduation.
This summer Pelger joined her team on its trip to compete for Team USA in the World University Games in Kazan, Russia. Playing in Europe over the summer opened her eyes to her potential of playing professionally.
"I was kind of set on just being done as soon as I graduated, but when I went over to Russia I loved playing with the caliber of athletes that were over there," she explained, "and I just am not ready to be done. I thought I was, but I'm not. I'm really interested in playing in Italy, and after this season I'll start looking at options."
While Ahearn Field House will say goodbye to this season's six seniors tomorrow evening, this special group has formed a bond, a sisterhood, that won't be broken any time soon.
"We're excited about it. I think that's the best way to describe it," senior Tristan McCarty said. "Sad fits in there, but I think overall this group of seniors is just kind of excited to be able to cap off a long time together - the progress of building something within our team that we've worked for a long time. We've put a lot of effort, a lot of energy and a lot of patience, going through ebbs and flows over the past four and a half years, so it's been a long time together, but I think we're just really excited to have that last 'hurrah' and go away from it saying we enjoyed it."
The Wildcats' final home competition the 2013 season is against #25 Iowa State and first serve is set for 7 p.m., tomorrow night in Ahearn Field House.
"It's just part of the natural process. By the time they graduate and they are done playing, they're ready for what's next in their lives," Fritz said about Senior Day. "There are some of them that go and keep playing volleyball and go play pro, but for the most part, it's just kind of the natural progression. It is, without question, emotional, and mostly for me because I won't have the opportunity to be around them every day like I do now."