Wildcats Rally After Slow Start

JuliAnne Chisholm

Sept. 1, 2010

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MANHATTAN, Kan. - A day after Kansas State Athletics announced new seating and other upgrades to Ahearn Field House more than 1,800 fans showed up to cheer the Wildcat volleyball team to victory in its home opener Wednesday night. The Wildcats bested South Dakota 3-1 (22-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-19) with another shinning performance by freshman middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger.

Pelger led the way with 15 kills and a .364 hitting percentage to go along with a pair of aces and four block assists. Head Coach Suzie Fritz said Pelger has adjusted well to the college game to make an immediate impact for the Wildcats.

"She has exceeded expectations in terms of her complete game," Fritz said. "It's not just her ability to kill the ball. She's been blocking well, she handles the ball well, and right now she's one of our top servers."

K-State (1-3) also saw a strong night from both seniors on the squad with JuliAnne Chisholm posting a double-double as she tallied 11 kills and 15 digs. It was the second double-double of her career and a career-high in digs surpassing her previous best of 10 last season against Portland. Libero Lauren Mathewson shined with 23 digs to sure up the Wildcat defense. Perhaps most impressive for Mathewson were her 12 digs in the fourth set alone.

South Dakota (2-3) was led by Kim Bulaga with 15 kills hitting for a .500 percentage. Emily Olsen also added 10 kills, and a total of four Coyotes had 10 or more digs on the night.

The Wildcats started off sluggish letting the Coyotes get the win in the opening set. K-State clawed back playing better in each set the rest of the match and putting South Dakota away in four. Fritz said the slow start could be credited to the youth on the team this year but added that the only way for her Wildcats to improve on starting slow is to get on the court and continue to play matches.

"The challenge I posed to this team is, can we overcome our inexperience by playing disciplined and in system," Fritz asked her team. "It's not the great plays that win matches for you. It's all the little stuff in between that does. We were very, very good late. It just took a while to get going. This is a young team that needs to play. We need to throw them in the fire and let them learn from it and get better by it. This team is going to be very good."

K-State also got big numbers out of sophomores Alex Muff and Kathleen Ludwig. Muff pounded out nine kills hitting .389, and Ludwig hit .438 posting eight kills. Freshman Courtney Cook also saw extended time at the outside hitter position putting eight kills on the stat sheet as well.

The Wildcats will be back in action quickly as they host the Varney's Kansas State Invitational on Friday and Saturday. They will take on Loyola Marymount at 12:30 p.m. Friday as Oral Roberts and Georgia Tech will play the 10 a.m. matchup. All four teams will play again in an evening session. K-State will close the tournament against Georgia Tech at 7 p.m. Saturday, which will be part of a Wildcat Weekend. Fans can get into the match for just $3 with their ticket stub from Saturday's football game against UCLA.