Wildcats Open Season at Mortar Board Premier

Setting the Scene
Mortar Board Premier - Hosted by Purdue
Date: August 29-30
Location: West Lafayette, Ind.
Arena: Holloway Gymnasium
Capacity: 2,288 

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- This year’s Mortar Board Premier hosted by Purdue boasts a strong tournament field to open the season. All four participating teams reached the NCAA Tournament in 2007, with three of the teams advancing to the second round. Two of the teams are ranked (No. 14 Kansas State and No. 25 Purude) with a third, Duke, receiving votes.

Kansas State finished last year ranked No. 16 in the nation after playing in the team’s 11th NCAA Tournament in 12 years. The Boilermakers of Purude have also played in 11 NCAA Tournaments and were tied for third in the Big Ten. The Lady Blue Devils made their 13th postseason appearance last season after finishing second in the ACC. Tennessee State enters 2008 fresh off its first NCAA Tournament in school history and finished fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Fans can stay up to date with the K-State volleyball team during the tournament at k-statesports.com. Purdue’s athletics site will also be hosting a site dedicated to the tournament. Fans can follow the entire Mortar Board Premier at
http://purduesports.cstv.com/sports/w-volley/spec-rel/08-mortar-board.html. The site will have live streaming video of every Purude match of the tournament and live stats for all matches played.

The Series
The Wildcats will be facing Tennessee State and Duke for the first time at this weekend’s Mortar Board Premier. Purdue and K-State have met at the net two previous times with the series tied at one win apiece.

The Wildcats have faced teams from Duke’s and Tennessee State’s respective conferences with K-State holding a 4-3 record against the Atlantic Coast Conference. Head coach Suzie Fritz is 3-1 against the ACC. K-State has a 2-2 record against teams from the Ohio Valley Conference, and this will be Fritz’s first meeting against an OVC team. In their last meeting with the Boilermakers, the Wildcats got the 3-0 sweep. Purdue claimed victory in 1987 in five sets. K-State is 14-32-1 all-time against the Big Ten, and Fritz is an even 3-3 in her seven years.

The Coaches
Duke: Jolene Nagel (Edinboro 83) has taken the Blue Devils to the second round of the NCAA Tournament three straight years. She has a career record of 392-230 and 189-90 at Duke and coached the Blue Devils to an ACC title most recently in 2006.

Kansas State: Suzie Fritz (Florida Atlantic 94) enters her eighth season leading the Wildcats. She holds the highest winning percentage in school history and is 22 wins shy of taking the top spot at K-State.

Purdue: Dave Shondell (Ball State 81) is in his sixth year with the Boilermakers and has taken the team to four straight NCAA Tournament berths, including back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in 2005 and 2006.

Tennessee State: Kathy Roulhac (North Carolina A&T 87): begins her fifth year at Tennessee State after taking the Tigers to their first NCAA Tournament last season. She’s tallied 229 career wins and is 67-66 at Tennessee State.

Scouting the Tigers
The Tennessee State Tigers are coming off arguablly their most successful season in school history. The Tigers posted a 20-14 record in 2007 and finished fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference after going 14-6 in league play. Coach Kathy Roulhac led the team to its first NCAA Tournament appearance after making a run and winning the OVC Tournament.

The duo of Christian Lowe and Candace Saleaumua both received preseason nods from the OVC. Lowe pounded out 380 kills last season while adding 410 digs. She ranked 10th in the OVC in blocks per game as well. Saleaumua led Tennessee State in digs (3.53 dpg) and assists (10.39 apg) as the setter. She ranked eighth in the conference in assists.

The Tigers will be a young team in 2008 with nine newcomers and just the pair of Lowe and Saleaumua returning from the OVC Championship team.

Tennessee State was one of the strongest teams at the net defensively in 2007 averaging 3.12 blocks per set and ranked 19th in the nation. The Tigers also ranked 63rd in digs at 17.98 dpg.

The OVC champs lose both their All-OVC second team members, with Lowe earning All-Newcomers honors. All three players named to the OVC All-Tournament team also are gone, including tournament MVP Endia Oliver, who was second in the nation in blocks (1.83 bpg).

Scouting the Blue Devils
In 2007, the Blue Devils finished second in the ACC and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the third straight year Duke had reached the second round of the tournament. Duke has reached the postseason 13 times in school history and was just short of its ninth conference title.

The Blue Devils return four starters from last year’s squad, including Rachel Moss. As a sophomore, Moss averaged 4.09 kills a game and 3.38 digs. One of the team’s most efficient attackes is back in Jourdan Norman, who hit .393 last year. Both Moss and Norman were named to the Preason All-ACC Team.

The team lost three key players from last year’s campaign in setter Ali Hausfeld, libero Jenny Shull and middle blocker Carrie DeMange. All three held numerous school career and single-season records, including DeMange’s ACC record for career kills at 1,976.

Duke climbed as high as No. 11 in the AVCA Coaches Poll -- the highest in school history. The Blue Devils are receiving votes in the Preseason AVCA Poll.

Scouting the Boilermakers
Purdue enters the season also after a successful year in 2007. The Boilermakers made their 11th NCAA Tournament appearance and finished third in the strong Big Ten Conference.

The Boilermakers return six starters from last year’s team as well after losing two with starting experience. They are led by the trio of Stephanie Lynch, Danita Merlau and Kelli Miller. Lynch pounded out 3.53 kills per game and averaged 1.38 blocks as well at the middle blocker position. Merlau leads all returners with 3.71 kpg and 3.21 dpg. Libero patrolled the back row at 4.63 dpg.

Catching up with the 'Cats
The Wildcats return four starters from last year’s squad and eight letterwinners overall. With five seniors and two juniors on the team there is plenty of experience despite losing three key players from the 2007 campaign. Seniors Angie Lastra, Lauren Rostenthal and Stacey Spiegelberg helped lead the team to a 23-9 record and third place in the Big 12 while reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The entire offense is back for K-State, including All-American Nataly Korobkova and All-Big 12 Honorable Mention Megan Farr. Korobkova is joined by seniors Rita Liliom and Jenny Jantsch on the outside with sophomore JuliAnne Chisholm looking to make an impact this year as well. Farr and junior Kelsey Chipman protect the middle and are two of the top middle blockers in the Big 12 Conference as the Wildcats set a school record for total blocks and block assists in 2007.

On the back row, sophomore Lauren Mathewson is expected to take over the libero position that was manned by Lastra the last four years. The setter position is a competition between redshirt freshman Abby Fay and juco transfer Soriana Pacheco.

As a team, the Wildcats were among the top teams in the Big 12 in nearly every category in 2007. The Wildcats were fourth in team hitting percentage and kills per game as well as third in assists. Defensively, K-State was fourth in opponent hitting percentage and third in blocks.

K-State will play another tough nonconference schedule to prepare for the battles they will face in the Big 12. Before facing their rivals in league play, the Wildcats will take on five teams that reached the NCAA Tournament -- Tennessee State, Duke, Purdue, Northern Iowa and Liberty.

New Rules of the Court
The NCAA has made a number of rule changes for the 2008 season. Fans can expect to see the college game begin to look a bit more like international play with changes in substitution rules and most significantly scoring. A change in terminology is being made now referring to games as sets.

Substitution changes limit the number of substitutions that can be made, which results mainly from lowering the score necessary to win sets. The winning score for Sets 1-4 is now 25 points rather than the 30 adopted with the switch to rally scoring in 2001. Fifteen points is still the mark to reach in a fifth set, and teams still must win by at least two points.

Wildcats Making the Grade
For the seventh consecutive year Kansas State’s volleyball team received the AVCA Team Academic Award. The award is given annually to teams at the high school and all college levels with a team GPA of 3.3 or higher on a 4.0 scale. The team led the way again in the Big 12 with the most student-athletes named to the Academic All-Big 12 Team for a third straight year to help the team toward another AVCA team award.

K-State Picked Third in Big 12
After finishing third in the Big 12 Conference in 2007, the Wildcats were picked to finish in the same place this year behind favorite Texas and Nebraska. The Wildcats also received one first-place votes with Texas receiving the other 10.

The coaches of the Big 12 also selected its annual Preseason All-Big 12 Team and recognized three of K-State’s student-athletes. Outside hitters Nataly Korobkova and Rita Liliom were joined by middle blocker Megan Farr on the team. Korobkova and Farr both earned All-Big 12 recognition following the 2007 season.

The Wildcats begin the 2008 season in familiar territory being ranked among the Top 25 programs in the nation. Kansas State was voted No. 14 in the CBS College Sports Network/AVCA Coaches Preseason Top 25 Poll after finishing last year at No. 16.

K-State is joined by fellow Big 12 teams Texas (3), Nebraska (7) and Iowa State (18) in the poll. Texas A&M, Missouri and Oklahoma also all received votes in the preseason poll. Two of the Wildcats’ nonconference opponents were recognized by the voting coaches. Purdue closed out the poll at No. 25 while Duke is receiving votes.

An All-American Debut
Senior opposite hitter Nataly Korobkova stormed onto the scene of the Big 12 in her first season as a Wildcat. In her debut season, Korobkova pounded out 498 kills at 4.33 kpg.

Her 498 kills ranks fifth all-time at K-State for a single season. She proved to be able to rack up kills by the bunches and notched eight matches with 20 or more kills. Those eight matches rank No. 6 in school history for a single season. It also catapulted her into the top 10 for her career as well.

All her efforts on the court for the Wildcats earned her a spot on the AVCA All-America Third Team to become the eighth All-American in school history.

Korobkova’s All-America recognition was just her final award for the season. She was named AVCA All-Central Region First Team and All-Big 12 First Team. Korobkova also became the school’s second volleyball student-athlete to be named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year

Not Farr to Reach
Senior middle blocker Megan Farr has proven to be one of the most efficient hitters in school history and has a chance to put herself atop the record books with another solid year. Farr was named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention last year after racking up 286 kills and hitting .390. Her high hitting percentage helped pull her career percentage to .352, which ranks as the second-best in school history. She is just two points behind career leader Lauren Goehring.

Chip Off the ol’ Block
Middle blocker Kelsey Chipman has established herself as one of the top net players in school history in just two years. She was two blocks short of tying the record for most block assists by a sophomore after stuffing. She had 162 block assists, which ranks among the Top 10 seasons in school history.

Chipman is just outside the Top 10 in career blocks with two years of eligibility remaining at K-State. She holds school records for most block assists in a five-set match and a postseason three-set match. Chipman also is poised to have more 10-block matches than any player at K-State with three more such matches. In 2007, Chipman had three matches with 10 or more blocks to tie the school record for a single season.

Wildcat Wall
For the third straight year Kansas State posted one of the most successful seasons defending the net. The 2005 campaign saw the team set a school record for total blocks only to see the 2006 effort fall just short of the mark. The 2007 version bested 2005 with 357.5 total blocks for a new record.

Four of the top five individual performances for a five-set match all came in 2007. Nataly Korobkova, Megan Farr and Kelsey Chipman all proved to be hard to get through at the net for the Wildcats.

Aces are Wild
K-State enters the 2008 season with the longest current streak in the nation of 287 matches with at least one service ace. The Wildcats posted a season-high of 13 against Baylor and Texas.

The streak started on Nov. 13, 1998, in a 3-1 win over Missouri in Ahearn Field House. The last time K-State failed to register a service ace was on Nov. 7, 1998 in a 3-1 win over Colorado.

One current Wildcat has played a big role in keeping the streak alive. Senior outside hitter Jenny Jantsch is creeping up the rankings at K-State with 102 career service aces. Her 51 aces in 2006 rank seventh in school history and she is just outside the top 10 in career aces.

No Smokin’ Aces
The Wildcats had 105 more service aces than their opponents in 2007 with solid serve receiving. After K-State did not give up an ace in a match for the first time in nearly three years in 2006, the Cats did it three times last year. North Texas, Fresno State and Colorado all fell victim to K-State’s perfect serve receiving.

Fritz Chasing 168
Kansas State volleyball coach Suzie Fritz is quickly approaching the No. 1 spot in school history in wins. In seven seasons, Fritz has posted a career record of 147-71 and is 21 wins behind Scott Nelson for the most wins  at K-State. Nelson posted a 168-176-1 record from 1980-90.

During her time as head coach, Fritz has taken the Wildcats to their first conference championship claiming the Big 12 title in 2003. She also has twice been named Big 12 Coach of the Year and was the 2003 Central Region Coach of the Year.

Fritz Era Gets Vote of Confidence
In April, Fritz and the Kansas State Athletics Department agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension for the eighth-year volleyball coach to solidify her services through 2012. Fritz has served as the head coach for seven seasons and was an assistant under Jim McLaughlin during his tenure to help orchestrate the rise of the Wildcat program.

Terrific Trio Ends Career
Three seniors from the 2007 squad bid farewell to their teammates after the NCAA Tournament. Libero Angie Lastra, defensive specialist Lauren Rosenthal and setter Stacey Spiegelberg played their last match as Wildcats ending stellar careers on and off the court.

Lastra ended her time at K-State ranked No. 1 in school history for 20-dig matches in a career (35) and a season (15 in 2007). She also has played more games in Purple than any other player at 465. Lastra finished her career strong with an All-Central Region Honorable Mention, Big 12 Libero of the Year and All-Big 12 Honorable Mention and her third first team Academic All-Big 12 honor. Her 575 digs in 2007 bested the all-time high at KSU by 17 to put her atop the list for a single season and career (2,032).

Rosenthal ended her career with 663 digs. She posted a season-high 15 in a win over Baylor and followed it the next match with 14 against Kansas. She also earned her second Academic All-Big12 first team honor and was selected as a co-captain by her teammates.

Spiegelberg finished her career ranked fourth in career assists with 4,540. Her 1,590 assists in 2007 were the most ever by a senior at K-State and ranked third all-time. She received All-Big 12 Honorable Mention in her senior campaign and Academic All-Big 12 first team for a third time.

Killer 'Cats
Last season, the Wildcats had one of the most productive years offensively in school history as a team. The Cats tallied 1,933 kills on the season, which ranks fourth all-time. With a team hitting percentage of .268, the 2007 Wildcats had the most efficient year attacking in the program’s history. Three of the top five team hitting percentages in K-State history have come since 2003 to prove the Wildcats continue to be a strong attacking team under coach Suzie Fritz.

Four of the top 10 individual hitting seasons have happened during the Fritz era with middle blockers Megan Farr and Kelsey Chipman each making the list in 2007.

The Wildcats also are a t eam that can attack their opponent from anywhere on the court. In 2007, five different players led the team in kills in a match. It could be more of the same this season as all five of those players -- Korobkova (17 times), Liliom (12), Jantsch (2), Chipman (2) and Farr (1) -- all return to continue taking the offensive against opponents.

Warm Wildcat Welcome
Four new Wildcats join the team in 2008 looking to make an impact and contribute to the success of the program. Three freshmen and a junior college transfer join the Wildcats this season. The newcomers bring a variety of experience and includes: freshman Kathleen Ludwig, a left-handed outside hitter from Shawnee, Kan., Melanie Delimont a freshman middle blocker from Wichita, Izabela Grot, a freshman outside hitter from Poland, and Soriana Pacheco a junior college transfer from Western Nebraska.

Pacheco comes to K-State from junior college power Western Nebraska where she helped lead the Cougars to the NJCCA National Championship last season and the championship match her freshman year. She is a two-time junior college All-American and was named Junior College Player of the Year last season. She is expected to compete for the starting setter position alongside redshirt freshman Abby Fay.

Grot adds to the strong list of international players already on the Wildcat volleyball team and a lot of experience at a high level. Grot helped her club team in Poland reach the final tournament of the Junior Polish Championship three times. She also played for the Junior National Team from 2003-05.

The final two newcomers are both products of the state of Kansas to join a roster filled with student-athletes mainly from Kansas. Delimont brings two league MVP’s with her from Andover High School and a Class 4A state championship. Ludwig also was a two-time league MVP in high school at Bishop Miege where she helped lead the team to a 5A State Championship. She received a number of accolades her senior season including the Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year and the prestigious Evelyn Gates Award.