SE: Wildcats Loaded with Experience

Kaitlynn Pelger returns for her junior season

Aug. 23, 2012

By Mark Janssen

It was a mid-August day in 2010 that Suzie Fritz stressed about the youth of her volleyball team, and even last year it was a Wildcat squad that did not include a single senior.

But today, the Kansas State coach can say, “It’s once in every blue moon that you get one of these rosters, but then they all graduate and you start over again. We are loaded with juniors and seniors, and there’s no better teacher than the experience they’ve picked up the last two years.”

The 16-member team includes five seniors in defensive specialists Kuulei Kabalis and Ali Boehler, middle blocker Alex Muff, opposite Kathleen Ludwig and setter Caitlyn Donahue. The roster also includes six juniors in defensive specialist Tristan McCarty, hitters Courtney Cook, Lilla Porubek, Dakota Kaufman and Courtney Traxson, along with middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger.

“Those juniors and seniors know about our expectations,” said K-State’s 12th-year coach. “They’re talking more on their own about how to take it to the next level. They’re not talking about where we’ve been, but where we want to go. There are few negatives when you have an experienced roster.”

Fritz praised the work of the individuals last spring. With the season opening this weekend with the Varney’s Invitational at Ahearn Field House, the focus is on team play and, in Fritz’s words, “We’re trying to tighten the bolts. We need to go from being consistent 70-percent of the time to being consistent 80- or 90-percent of the time. We have to become a more disciplined team to have some success. But it’s also not even September. We don’t have to be great right now, but we have to work our way into being great.”

The Wildcat coach added, “There’s no magic dust to sprinkle on them. It comes down to them getting the job done and with the consistency with which you work. This isn’t a time when you talk wins and losses, but you focus on the process.”

While there are eight Wildcats who played in at least 100 sets last year, Fritz said no starter is set in stone.

“The starting lineup is never set… period,” Fritz emphasized. “But sure, when you have everyone back from a team that won 22 matches, then you’re not filling any holes. It’s nice to know that you have one player, if not two, at every position.”

Fritz did admit, “We’re as solid as we’ve ever been, but we’re looking for everyone on the team to step up their individual play and compete for playing time. We may have starters returning, but we want to have the others make it tough on them.”

THIS WEEKEND: K-State opens the 2012 season at the Varney’s Invitational.

Friday: Oakland vs. Oregon State at 5 p.m.; K-State vs. UC Irvine at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: Oregon State vs. UC Irvine at 10 a.m.; K-State vs. Oakland at 12 p.m.; Oakland vs. UC Irvine at 5 p.m.; K-State vs. Oregon State at 7:30 p.m.

WILDCATS NO. 22: The AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll was released last week with the Wildcats starting at No. 22 in the nation.

The No. 22 ranking is where the Wildcats finished in the 2011 AVCA Final Poll after a 22-11 season. This marks the first time since 2009 the Wildcats are ranked in the preseason poll when K-State was No. 23.

NEW LOOK AHEARN: K-State’s volleyball home of Ahearn Field House has received a fresh coat of purple paint in the upper bleachers and a splash of white paint on the railings. In addition, new banners and K-State branding has spruced up the facility.

MEET THE NEW TEAMS: TCU placed third in the Mountain West Conference last year with a 25-7 record. K-State will travel to TCU on October 13 and entertain TCU on November 10.

West Virginia went 7-19 in 2011. K-State hosts West Virginia on September 27 and travels to play the Mountaineers on October 24.

The Wildcats have never faced either team.

CATS ON ESPNU: K-State’s volleyball match with Iowa State on November 14 will be televised from Hilton Coliseum by ESPNU at 5 p.m.

Setters: Caitlyn Donahue, Sr., Overland Park, Kan.; Katie Brand, Fr., Grand Island, Neb.
Defensive Specliast/Libero: Gina Madonia, So., Glen Ellyn, Ill.; Tristin McCarty, Jr., Manhattan, Kan.; Kuulei Kabalis, Sr., Hilo, Hawaii; Ali Boehler, Sr., Olathe, Kan.
Outside Hitter: Chelsea Keating, So., Frankfort, Kan.; Courtney Cook, Jr., Fremont, Neb.; Lilla Porubek, Jr., Budapest, Hungary; Dakota Kaufman, Jr., Hillsboro, Kan.; Courtney Traxson, Jr., Cheney, Kan.
Opposite: Kathleen Ludwig, Sr., Shawnee, Kan.
Middle Blocker: Alex Muff, Sr., Concordia, Kan.; Natali Jones, So., Pratt, Kan.; Taylor Johnson, So., Grand Island, Neb.; Kaitlynn Pelger, Jr., Olathe, Kan.

August 24-25 – Varney’s Invitational – vs. UC Irvine, Oakland and Oregon State.
August 31–September 1 – at Bluejay Invitational in Omaha, Neb. – vs. Denver, Creighton and Syracuse
September 5 – vs. Missouri State
September 6 – vs. Saint Mary’s
September 8 – vs. Utah State
September 13-15 – Golden Hurricane Classic in Tulsa, Okla. – vs. Tulsa, Minnesota and Dayton
September 22 – vs. Nebraska-Omaha

For a complete 2012 K-State Volleyball schedule, visit

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.