Wildcats Play Host to No. 2 Longhorns

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State Wildcats are back home Friday night for a match against the No. 2 Texas Longhorns. The Longhorns are the only undefeated team in the Big 12 Conference, and K-State is eyeing its first conference win of the season after a tough opening stretch. K-State and Texas are set for a 7 p.m. first serve at Ahearn Field House where the Wildcat faithful rank among the nation's Top 25 in attendance.

K-State comes into the match Friday rested after its scheduled Wednesday bye in the conference schedule, and Texas enters Manhattan after sweeping rival Texas A&M in Austin. The Longhorns battled the Aggies in three close sets with the opener needing extra points to be decided. Texas came away with the win 28-26, 25-20, 25-21 to hand the Aggies their second Big 12 loss.

The Wildcats are coming off a loss at No. 11 Iowa State last weekend and have seen the emergence of junior college transfer Vanessa Murray as a go-to player. Murray has led the Wildcats in kills each of the last two matches with 12.

Last season, K-State and Texas fought it out in five sets in Manhattan before the Longhorns edged the Wildcats 15-9 in the final set. K-State fell behind 0-2 after Texas took the first two sets 30-28 and 25-21. The Wildcats battled back with 25-22 wins in the next two sets, but the comeback fell short in the fifth.

Both K-State and Texas have played challenging schedules this season as eight of the 10 teams the Longhorns have played were ranked. Texas has victories over No. 23 Long Beach State, No. 15 San Diego, No. 10 California, No. 4 Hawaii, No. 19 St. Louis, No. 24 Baylor, No. 10 Iowa State and No. 6 Nebraska. Three of those wins have come on the road.

On The Airwaves
K-State's match against Texas can be heard on 1350 KMAN with Brian Smoller calling the action. This broadcast will also be available on the station's Web site www.1350kman.com. The match will be broadcast tape delayed due to other scheduled broadcasts on the station.

Online
Live audio and stats will be available through k-statesports.com for fans wanting to track the action live on the web. An audio only feed is available through the Wildcat Audio Package, a premium subscription service of k-statesports.com.

The Series
The Wildcats are looking to snap an 11-match losing streak to the Longhorns on Friday evening as Texas has not lost to K-State since Fritz and her team bested the Longhorns in Manhattan in 2003.

Texas has won nine of 13 matches in Manhattan and taken a hold on the all-time series since 2002. The two teams met just twice before the inception of the Big 12 Conference, and Texas claimed the first eight meetings with K-State. The Wildcats then won six straight including both matches in Suzie Fritz's first season as head coach. Since then, the Longhorns have lost just once going 13-1 against K-State to hold a 21-7 lead all-time.

The Coaches
Kansas State: Suzie Fritz (Florida Atlantic '94) is in her ninth year as head coach of the Wildcats she is the winningest coach in the program's history in terms of wins (177) and winning percentage (.673).

Texas: Jerritt Elliott (Cal State Northridge '91) has built Texas back into one of the elite programs in volleyball and coached the Longhorns to their first NCAA Semifinal since 1995. Elliott is 195-62 in his ninth year at Texas.

Scouting the Longhorns
The Longhorns entered the year as the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 Conference outright with eight first place votes. They currently are the only team in the conference to be undefeated in league play and also are perfect overall with a 10-0 record.

Texas is led by middle blocker Destinee Hooker who is posting 4.54 kills per set and hitting at a an efficient .349 percentage. Hooker was the preseason conference player of the year as well and claimed two Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week awards so far this year. Hooker has proven to be a valuable player for the Longhorns this season defensively as well with 2.49 digs per set and 0.77 blocks.

Hooker is joined by a group of Longhorns among the best in the nation at their position as well. Rachel Adams is 34th in the nation in blocks per set while converted setter Ashley Engle is hitting .379 to be an offensive threat at the net while conducting the Longhorn offense to a team hitting percentage of .315 -- third in the nation.

Engle moved to setter this season after playing her first three years at Texas at the opposite position. The move allows the 6-3 lefty to open the Texas offense to more options as she can be a threat to attack on her own. Engle is killing 2.03 balls a set and posted a triple-double on the road against Hawaii with 13 kills, 38 assists and 13 digs. The effort helped her earn AVCA National Player of the Week.

Juliann Faucette is the third senior on the team with Hooker and Engle and she is averaging 3.46 kills per set to rank second on the team and is hitting .249. She also is digging 1.63 balls a set and has 0.83 blocks per set. The Longhorns have six players averaging at least 0.70 blocks per set and lead the nation in the category as a team at 3.21.

- k-statesports.com -