K-State Heads To Las Vegas To Start 2013 Season

Aug 27, 2013

K-State Athletics

First Serve

The Wildcats open the 2013 campaign with the UNLV Invitational at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nev. from Friday, August 30-Saturday, August 31. K-State's season opener is on August 30 against Portland at 6 pm CT/4 pm PT while the Wildcats wrap up the round-robin tournament on August 31 with matches against Cal State Fullerton at 12 pm CT/10 am PT and UNLV at 9 pm CT/7 pm PT.

The 2013 Wildcats feature unanimous Preseason All-Big 12 selection Kaitlynn Pelger and Preseason Big 12 co-Freshman of the Year Katie Brand. Pelger was named AVCA All-America Honorable Mention in 2012, the second straight year she has earned such a distinction, as well as All-Big 12 First Team. The Olathe, Kansas native led K-State in kills a season ago with 361 on a .317 hitting percentage. Brand, meanwhile, is the first Wildcat to earn the Preseason Freshman of the Year award in the 18-year history of the Big 12. The Grand Island, Nebraska native sat out all of the 2012 season as a redshirt and enters this season as K-State's new starting setter.

In 2012, K-State advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season and ninth time under head coach Suzie Fritz. The Wildcats posted a 21-9 record, which was also the ninth 20-win season under the direction of Fritz.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 12-0 record last season, the best start in school history. The Wildcats entered Big 12 play ranked No. 11 in the AVCA poll, which was the school's highest ranking since 2007.

K-State toppled three ranked opponents during last year's campaign, including wins over non-conference foes No. 10 Minnesota and No. 20 Dayton at the Golden Hurricane Classic in Tulsa, Okla. The victories over Minnesota and Dayton helped the Wildcats reach the No. 11 ranking and undefeated standing entering their Big 12 slate. K-State also beat No. 22 Iowa State at Ahearn Field House in early October to record its third win over a ranked opponent.

The Wildcats were ousted from the 2012 NCAA Tournament in the first round by Northern Iowa. K-State, which was nationally ranked for the entire 2012 regular season, finished outside the nation's Top 25 to end the season but did receive votes.

The Wildcats ranked No. 25 in the final RPI ranking of 2012 while eight of their opponents ranked 32 or higher in RPI, including three in the top 10: Texas (2), Minnesota (6) and Kansas (9).

On The Airwaves

This weekend's matches can be heard live on KMAN 1350 with Rob Voelker calling the action. The match will be available live through kstatesports.com for free with live audio streaming.

The Series A group of unknown opponents lies ahead for K-State as the Wildcats have faced their trio of upcoming weekend opponents a combined six times in school history, with four of those matches being against Portland. The Wildcats have not faced Cal State Fullerton since 1994 (four freshmen Wildcats were not born yet) while K-State and UNLV have never met on the volleyball court.

Portland: K-State leads the series 3-1, with K-State having won the last three matches. Portland defeated K-State in the first meeting on September 12, 1991, but the Wildcats started their three match winning streak over the Pilots on September 10, 1994. K-State swept Portland 3-0 on September 5, 2008 and beat them once again on September 12, 2009, 3-2. The Wildcats won the first two sets of the 2009 match before staving off the Portland comeback with a 15-5 5th set win to capture the match.

Cal State Fullerton: The Wildcats beat the Titans 3-1 in the last meeting way back in 1994. Cal State Fullerton won the first meeting, 3-0, on September 14, 1989 as the series is tied 1-1.

UNLV: This will be the first meeting between the two programs. The Wildcats are 8-11 all-time against Mountain West opponents. The last time K-State faced a Mountain West opponent was in 2003 against Colorado State.

The Coaches

Kansas State: Suzie Fritz (Florida Atlantic '94) is in her 13th year as head coach of the Wildcats. She is the winningest coach in the program's history with 238 wins and has taken the team to nine NCAA Tournaments, including three runs to the Regional Semifinals.

Portland: Joe Houck (Portland State `87) enters his sixth season at the helm of the Pilots, compiling a 41-109 record at Portland since 2008. Prior to coaching Portland, the Portland native was the head coach at Division II Western Oregon (2005-07), associate head coach with Eastern Washington (2002-03), and head coach at NAIA Concordia (1997-2001).

Cal State Fullerton: Carolyn Zimmerman (Pepperdine `92) will lead the Titans for the 12th season in 2013 and is the program's winningest coach. She has accumulated 162 wins over 11 seasons as well as a .490 winning percentage. She guided Cal State Fullerton to the 2010 NCAA Tournament after claiming the Big West conference championship that same season.

UNLV: Cindy Fredrick (Augustana College `74) enters her third season as UNLV's head coach. In her first two years leading the Rebels, Fredrick has a 32-28 record, including an 18-11 mark in 2012. The 18 wins were third most in program history. Fredrick has 25 years of head coaching experience at the NCAA Division I level, with stints at Weber State (1985-89), Washington State (1989-2004) and Iowa (2004-08).

Scouting the Pilots

The Pilots return four starters from a team that went 7-23 in the tough West Coast Conference last year. Junior middle blocker Bea Loper anchors the frontline. Loper played in all 111 sets last year, averaging 1.62 kills and 0.71 blocks.

Senior setter Monica Jordan wraps up her Portland career in 2013. Similar to Loper, Jordan played in all 111 sets last season, leading the team with 614 assists while also adding 1.7 digs per set.

Also returning is Portland's digs leader Jacky Rodriguez. The junior defensive specialist averaged 2.93 digs across 92 sets last season. The Illinois native had a total of 270 digs.

Scouting the Titans

Cal State Fullerton lost eight letterwinners from last year's 15-16 team, including two-time All-American and the school's all-time leader in points and kills, Kayla Neto. Carolyn Zimmerman, in her 12th year as the Titans head coach, will have nine newcomers to this year's squad, including six freshman. There are two senior transfers, Alyse Hensley from Arizona and Leah Stevens from Boise State, who will be looking to make an immediate impact for the Titans.

The returners are highlighted by 2012 Big West Honorable Mention Bre Moreland. The senior outside hitter averaged 3.34 kills per set as well as 3.26 digs per set. She played in all 125 sets a season ago, and also led the squad with 49 service aces.

Scouting the Rebels

UNLV is coming off a 2012 campaign in which it tallied 18 wins (third most in program history), posted a .620 winning percentage (fourth-best), and recorded 10 wins in the Mountain West (third-most).

Key returnees include 2012 Mountain West All-Conference team members Kinsey Caldwell and Madeline Westman. Caldwell, tabbed as the conference's Freshman of the Year last season, led the Scarlet & Gray in assists (1,116), aces (24) and double-doubles (14). Westman paced the Rebels in blocks with 137 and was second on the team with 288 kills. Westman was also named to the 2011 All-Mountain West team. Both Caldwell and Westman appeared in each of the Rebels' 108 sets in 2012.

Catching Up with the `Cats

The Wildcats return four starters from last year's team that reached the NCAA Tournament, including kills leader Kaitlynn Pelger. The 6-1 middle blocker played all six rotations, posting 361 kills on a .317 hitting percentage, 91 blocks and 273 digs. The Olathe native was named AVCA All-America Honorable Mention as well as All-Big 12 First Team. She was one of only four middle blockers in the country to play all six rotations.

Lilla Porubek was 10th in the Big 12 last season with 2.79 kills per set, posting 10 or more kills in 15 matches. The Budapest, Hungary native was named to the All-Tournament teams at the Varney's Invitational and Bluejay Invitational. The senior outside hitter posted a season-high 21 kills over Oregon State at the Varney's Invitational.

Courtney Traxson averaged 1.88 kills over 73 sets last season, including a season-high 13 against Oregon State and 10 in a win against Baylor, eight of which came in the fourth and final set. Three of her four matches with 10 or more kills were in Big 12 play.

Anchoring the back line is senior defensive specialist/libero Tristan McCarty. The Manhattan native played in all 103 sets a season ago, tallying five or more digs in each of the final 16 matches of the season. She also recorded 11 matches overall with 10 or more digs, helping her set a career-high with 238 digs.

Pelger, Brand receive preseason honors

Senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger was a unanimous selection to the 2013 Big 12 Preseason team by the coaches after her strong showing in 2012. Pelger was one of nine unanimous selections. Redshirt freshman Katie Brand was tabbed as Preseason co-Freshman of the Year, becoming the first K-State player to earn the league's Preseason Freshman of the Year award in school history. Brand was joined by Texas Tech's Victoria Hinneburg for this year's award.

K-State picked fourth in Big 12 The Wildcats were picked to finish fourth in the Big 12 season in the preseason poll conducted by conference coaches. K-State had 41 points, trailing rival Kansas' 51 points and leading Oklahoma's 39. Texas was selected as the preseason favorite once again, having been picked as the top Big 12 team each of the last three seasons. The defending national champions garnered eight first-place votes and 64 points. Iowa State grabbed the remaining first-place vote and was picked to finish second. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team.

Last season, K-State was picked to finished third in the Big 12, trailing Iowa State by one point for second-place favorite. The Wildcats entered last season having reached the Regional Semifinals of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

AVCA Approved

The Wildcats were not ranked in the AVCA preseason poll, but the Wildcats did receive votes to tally 32 points, which fall No. 32 among all teams that received votes. Three opponents were ranked among the top 25, including defending national champion and preseason No. 1 Texas. Iowa State (No. 15) and Kansas (No. 20) round out the trio of ranked opponents entering the year.

Two other opponents - Oklahoma and Cal - also garnered votes for the preseason poll. Both Oklahoma and Cal reached the NCAA Tournament in 2012.

K-State entered the 2012 season ranked No. 22 on the AVCA Preseason Poll and was ranked for the entire regular season, reaching as high as No. 11 in early October.

Trophy Room

Senior Kaitlynn Pelger enters 2013 having accumulated many awards and honors in the first three years of her career. In 2010, Pelger was named to the All-Freshman Team, making her the first and only Wildcat to be named to the Big-12 squad. She earned the Big 12 Rookie of the Week for the week of November 29th.

In 2011, Pelger was named AVCA All-America Honorable Mention, All-Big 12 First Team, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week twice (weeks of September 19 and 26), and AVCA All-Region Team.

As for last season, Pelger was again named AVCA All-America Honorable Mention, All-Big 12 First Team, AVCA All-Region Team, and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week twice. Pelger is one of six Wildcats in program history to be named to the All-Big 12 First Team two or more times in program history. She was also named AVCA Player of the Week for the week of September 18, 2012, becoming the first K-State player to earn the honor since Dawn Cady in 1999.

Pelger has four Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors in her career, as she is one of just two non-Texas players to have that many Player of the Week awards to her name (other: Victoria Henson, Iowa State).

Leading the Pack

Kaitlynn Pelger has led the Wildcats in kills in each of the last three seasons, including a team-best 361 kills last season. Pelger is only the second player in K-State history to lead the team in kills for three different seasons, joining Shawnee Call (1986-88) as the other Wildcat to accomplish the feat. No player in program history has led the team in kills for four seasons.

Pelger is tied for 10th on the school's all-time career kills list with 1,189. Donna Lee is ninth on the school's career kills list with 1,208.

In The Set Position

Katie Brand will become the first freshman to start at setter for the Wildcats in a season opener since Abby Fay in 2008. Brand sat out all of 2012 as a redshirt, learning from departing starting setter Caitlynn Donahue. Donahue served as the Wildcats' starting setter since the 2010 season.

Tournament Time

The Wildcats have compiled a 18-3 in tournament matches since the 2011 season. Last year, K-State was undefeated in each of its three tournaments, posting a 9-0 combined record in the Varney's Invitational, Bluejay Invitational and Golden Hurricane Classic.

Book Smarts

Kansas State had eight players named to the Academic All-Big 12 Team in 2012, which were the most among the conference's nine schools. Eight Wildcats were named to the First Team, including outgoing seniors Caitlyn Donahue, Kuulei Kabalis, Kathleen Ludwig and Alex Muff, as well as current seniors Courtney Traxson and Lilla Porubek and junior Gina Madonia. Senior Dakota Kaufman was named to the Academic All-Big 12 Second Team. Kaufman, Porubek and Traxson have earned Academic All-Big 12 nods in each of the last two seasons.

Since Fritz took over as head coach in 2001, 79 Wildcats have garnered Academic All-Big 12 awards.