Wildcats Open Season in Hawaii

Alex Muff

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Aug. 26, 2010

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State volleyball opens the 2010 season on Friday when the Wildcats face No. 16 UCLA at the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational hosted by Hawaii. The Wildcats will face a trio of Top 25 teams with Hawaii coming in at No. 5 in the AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll. San Diego is the other team on the slate and the Toreros are ranked No. 22 to start the season.

Two of K-State's opponents made the 2009 NCAA Tournament with Hawaii losing in the Final Four to eventual national champion Penn State, and UCLA falling to Baylor in the second round. San Diego narrowly missed out on an at-large berth finishing second in the highly competitive West Coast Conference. The Wildcats will face UCLA at 5 p.m. Hawaii time on Friday (10 p.m. Central Standard Time) before facing Hawaii at 7 p.m. Saturday (Midnight CST) and taking on San Diego at 3 p.m. Sunday (8 p.m. CST).

K-State head coach Suzie Fritz enters her 10th year at the helm for the Wildcats. She is the winningest coach in school history with a record of 183-97 with seven NCAA Tournament appearances. Fritz has twice been named the Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year.

This season the Wildcats look to return to the NCAA Tournament and get back to form after a 12-18 season in 2009 that saw K-State finish ninth in the Big 12. K-State's roster has just two seniors and no juniors as a large group of talented freshmen look to help the Wildcats succeed in 2010. This year's recruiting class was ranked in the Top 30 by PrepVolleyball.com and brings talent both locally and internationally to the program.

Even with the youth movement the Wildcats still bring a good amount of experience to the floor with five returning starters from a year ago. Lauren Mathewson is back in the libero position where she set a school record for digs in a match. She has posted seasons ranking in the top 10 in school history for digs the past two years. She is joined by fellow senior JuliAnne Chisholm as a captain for this year's squad. Chisholm led the team in kills in 2009 and earned ESPN the Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-America Third Team for her hard work in the classroom. Sophomores Caitlyn Donahue, Kathleen Ludwig and Alex Muff all started last season for the Wildcats and are back to give K-State a strong sophomore class.

K-State's matches from Hawaii can be heard on KMAN1350 with Brian Smoller calling the action. It can also be heard on the station's Web site www.kman1350.com. The pregame show starts 30 minutes prior to first serve.

Live stats will be available through hawaiiathletics.com for fans wanting to track the action live on the web. Live streaming of KFVE's television broadcast of the matches will also be available through Hawaii's site.

This week will be the fifth time Kansas State has met Hawaii with the Rainbow Wahine winning all four previous meetings. All those matches have been played in Hawaii with K-State falling in four sets most recently in 2007.

K-State has faced San Diego just once with the Toreros edging the Wildcats in four sets in 1997.

This will be the fourth time K-State has tangled with the Bruins from UCLA with the Bruins winning all the previous matches in four sets. K-State has faced UCLA twice at a tournament hosted by Hawaii.

Kansas State: Suzie Fritz (Florida Atlantic '94) is in her 10th year as head coach of the Wildcats she is the winningest coach in the program's history in terms of wins (183) and is just two percentage points short of the best winning percentage in school history as well at .654.

Hawaii: Dave Shoji (UC Santa Barbara `69) is the winningest coach in NCAA history as he has coached the Rainbow Wahine for 35 years and boasts 1,016 career wins. With just 176 career losses he also has the second-highest winning percentage among active coaches at .852.

San Diego: Jennifer Petrie (William & Mary `92) has developed the Toreros into one of the top programs on the West Coast as she enters her 11th year. She has taken San Diego to the NCAA Tournament eight times. Petrie has won 210 matches during that span and has a career winning percentage of .722.

UCLA: Mike Sealey (UCLA `93) is entering his first year as the head coach of the Bruins. Before returning to his alma mater he served as associate head coach at Hawaii four seasons. He also has served stints as an assistant coach for UCLA's men's and women's teams.

Hawaii is one of the winningest programs in NCAA history and claimed four national championships - 1 AIAW, 3 NCAA. In 14 years in the Western Athletic Conference, the Rainbow Wahine have lost only four conference matches. Hawaii has proven to be one of the top teams in postseason play with a .734 winning percentage in the NCAA Tournament.

Last season, Hawaii fell to eventual national champion Penn State in the NCAA Semifinals and finished third in the final AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. The Rainbow Wahine welcome back four starters from that squad to this year's team, including outside hitter Kanani Danielson a first team All-American. Setter Dani Mafua was named AVCA All-America Honorable Mention last season. Middle blocker Brittany Hewitt earned WAC Freshman of the Year honors, and libero Elizabeth Ka'aihue was named second team All-WAC.

San Diego brings back five starters from a team that went 18-7 last year and finished second in the West Coast Conference. The Toreros are another traditional West Coast powerhouse with 13 NCAA Tournament appearances. They also have won the WCC three of the last four years.

Senior right side hitter Ali Troost leads the Toreros after hitting .315 last season and pounding out 3.95 kills per set. San Diego returns 78.3 percent of its kills from last year's roster in 2010 with the only major loss coming at the libero position. The Toreros also return starting setter Kelsi Myers for her senior season.

UCLA brings experience to the court as well this season with four starters returning in 2010. In addition a total of 11 letterwinners are back, plus nine newcomers for a balance of experience and youth. The Bruins enter the year ranked No. 16 in the AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll.

Outside hitter Dicey McGraw highlights the returners with 3.11 kills per set in 2010. She also posted 1.88 digs and 0.56 blocks a set. She earned All-Pac 10 Honorable Mention for her efforts. Libero Lainey Gera nearly dug five balls a set last year tallying a 4.91 average. She also served up 28 aces for the Bruins to also earn All-Pac 10 Honorable Mention. Katie Camp returns where she was a force at the net averaging 0.94 blocks a set a year ago and swung at a .289 hitting percentage.