Wildcats Host Tianjin Club Team

Lilla Porubek

April 21, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State volleyball team played the top professional team from China in Bramlage Coliseum on Thursday night in front of an excited crowd. The Wildcats played five sets with Tianjin dropping all five in tightly contested match 21-25, 13-25, 27-29, 20-25, 13-15.

Sophomore Kaitlynn Pelger led the Wildcats with an impressive 18 kills and nine blocks while hitting .308 for the match. Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek tallied 10 kills and seven digs to give the Wildcats to players with double digit kills. Sophomore libero Tristan McCarty was solid defensively for K-State with 21 digs.

Head coach Suzie Fritz said there were bright spots for her team but defensively, the Wildcats need to make improvement. She praised Tianjin for playing well and scoring points efficiently.

“They run their quicks faster than we're used to, and they're smart attackers. They do a good job of finding what is available and attacking the block,” Fritz said. “Pelger was great. We just can't set her enough. We need to pass better so we can be in system more often. That was more difficult because they have six consistent, aggressive servers.”

The Wildcats stormed out to an early lead in the first set before Tianjin clawed its way back and eventually got the win 25-21. The Wildcats struggled in the second set before giving Tianjin a long, tough fight in the third. The teams exchanged blows down the stretch in the third with both losing multiple set points, but Tianjin eventually got the win 29-27.

Tianjin played K-State as part of an American tour where the team will play a number of collegiate teams, and the Wildcats received help from a number of volunteers to make the event a success.

Nine families opened their homes to the players and coaches from Tianjin to house the team during their one-night stay in Manhattan, and the players bonded with the families quickly. Hugs and smiles were exchanged following the match as Tianjin hit the road for Nebraska shortly after playing K-State.

International Student and Scholar Services helped K-State find translators for the event as well, and a large group of Chinese students came to the meet and greet this afternoon to see the Wildcats and their countrymen for some photos. Fritz said she was extremely excited thankful to all the volunteers and for the chance to play Tianjin.

“This was a tremendous opportunity for us, and we spent a good portion of the day with Tianjin. We practiced with them this morning and that was a lot of fun. They're very intense,” Fritz said. “We got a lot of students at the meet and greet, and a lot of the Chinese students on campus worked as translators for us, and we are very thankful for that. They were very helpful.”

Junior opposite Kathleen Ludwig said the match was exciting and having the chance to interact with the players was an enjoyable experience. She said the volunteer translators, especially, helped make one part of the day a lot of fun.

“It was neat to communicate with them. They really showed their personalities quickly, and it was a lot of fun,” Ludwig said. “We had some students volunteer to be translators and they were on the bus with us this morning with Tianjin, and that was great. We actually played a game of chirades with Tianjin, which was a lot of fun.”

Playing an international team reminded another Wildcat of K-State’s trip to Europe this summer. Caitlyn Donahue added that the common bond the Wildcats and Tianjin share made the experience even more enjoyable because they were all playing a game they enjoy most.

“Even though not all the girls spoke English, we were still able to communicate with them well,” Donahue said. “It was fun to share our love of volleyball with them.”