Wildcats Host Creighton in Home Opener

Caitlyn Donahue

Aug. 29, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State Wildcats play their first home match of the season on Tuesday as they host the Creighton Bluejays at 7 p.m. in Ahearn Field House. The Athletics Department is celebrating the first live sporting event to be aired on its recently announced online network with a K-StateHD.TV Launch Party. General admission bench seats are available for just $1 for the contest.

K-State enters the contest with a 1-2 record after falling to Georgia Tech and Louisville last weekend. The Wildcats rebounded with a sweep over Tennessee Tech. Louisville was receiving votes in the AVCA Preseason Top 25 Poll, and the schedule remains strong as Creighton reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year after defeating Iowa State in the first.

Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger highlighted the opening weekend for the Wildcats backing up her Preseason All-Big 12 selection. Pelger pounded out a career-high 21 kills at Georgia Tech to open the season and tallied a double-double tying her career high of 14 digs in the match. She backed that up with eight kills against Louisville and then 13 against Tennessee Tech. Her performance against Tennessee Tech was impressive as she hit an astounding .800 for the match. The hitting percentage ranks fourth all-time in school history for a three-set match.

On The Airwaves
Tuesday’s match 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.

K-State is debuting is recently announced online network during Tuesday’s contest. The volleyball match against Creighton will be the first live event produced on K-StateHD.TV. Fans can subscribe to the service for $9.95 a month or pay an annual rate of $79.95.

The Series
Kansas State holds a 4-3 advantage over Creighton after winning the last four meetings. Creighton has not defeated the Wildcats since winning 2-0 in 1980. This will be the first meeting between the two teams since K-State got the sweep in 2005.

The Coaches
Kansas State: Suzie Fritz (Florida Atlantic ’94) is in her 11th year as head coach of the Wildcats she is the winningest coach in the program’s history with 196 wins and is not far off of the best winning percentage in school history as well at .624.

Creighton: Kirsten Bernthal Booth is in her ninth year leading Creighton where she has amounted a 142-103 record. Last season, she led the Bluejays to an upset over Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament

Scouting the Bluejays
The Bluejays opened their season at a tournament hosted by Texas A&M where they went 1-2 losing both matches to the Aggies. Creighton got its win over UT-San Antonio in its first match of the season in five sets with two of the sets going to extra points, including the pivotal fifth.

Creighton returns four starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament team led by Karisa Almgren with 2.50 kills per set at Texas A&M. Laurel Sanford is another force for the Bluejays pounding out 2.17 kills per set at a .299 percentage so far this season. Sanford also is one of the team’s top blockers averaging 1.75 through three matches. Sophomore libero Julianne Mandolfo returns to hold the back line together for the Bluejays. She is averaging an impressive 5.25 digs per set through the first three matches of the season.

The Bluejays have notched only eight service aces through the first three matches of the year, but their opponents have been firing away with 25 aces to average 2.08 per set.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
The Wildcats went 1-2 in their opening weekend of the 2011 season. K-State dropped tightly contested matches to home team Georgia Tech and to Louisville. The Wildcats were tied with both the Yellow Jackets and Cardinals late in sets but could not finish and get the win.

Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger averaged 4.20 kills per set over the first weekend and posted a strong hitting percentage at .403. That percentage was helped by her .800 clip against Tennessee Tech. Pelger pounded out 13 kills on 15 swings with one error against the Golden Eagles, and the performance ranks fourth all-time in school history for a three-set match. For her performance Pelger was honored with an All-Tournament Team selection.

Junior college transfer Kuulei Kabalis started the first three matches at libero for the Wildcats and averaged 3.20 digs per set. The native Hawaiian tallied 14 digs against Louisville to go with an ace. She also had 11 digs against Georgia Tech in the season opener.

In her second season at setter for the Wildcats, junior Caitlyn Donahue has grown in the role. Donahue averaged 10.90 assists per set over the opening weekend. Last season she averaged 9.51 assists. Donahue posted 45 assists in the loss to Georgia Tech and directed the team to a .372 hitting percentage in its win over Tennessee Tech.

Welcome to the Block
Redshirt freshman Taylor Johnson made her career debut during the Georgia Tech Courtyard Classic in the Wildcats’ final match of the weekend helping the team to a victory over Tennessee Tech. Johnson played a key role in shutting down the Golden Eagles tallying an impressive eight block assists in her first action as a Wildcat. Johnson also had four kills on nine swings for a .333 hitting percentage. Johnson also had two digs and an assist in the win.

Right on Trax
Sophomore outside hitter Courtney Traxson saw her first extensive action of the season against Tennessee Tech and put on a show. Traxson tallied seven kills on just eight swings for a near perfect performance. Her hitting percentage of .875 did not qualify for the school record books because she did not have enough attempts. That did not keep her from making an impact on the match. While sophomore middle blocker was busy up the middle and on the slide for 13 kills, Traxson was keeping Tennessee Tech honest on the outside. She also added three block assists at the net.

Pelger Receives Preseason Honor
Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger will be one of the players to watch this season in the Big 12 Conference according to the league’s coaches. Pelger was named to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team. Last season, Pelger was recognized for her efforts as a member of the Big 12 All-Freshman Team. Five other middle blockers were selected along with Pelger to make up the most players of any position on the list.

Texas received the most recognition by the coaches with Rachael Adams named Preseason Player of the Year and Khat Bell the Preseason Freshman of the Year. Outside hitter Amber Roberson also was named to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team for the Longhorns.  Iowa State’s Hannah Willms was named Preseason Newcomer of the Year after redshirting last year.

Family Business
The Kansas State volleyball team has been run like a family under the direction of Suzie Fritz, and it can be seen on the roster as well. Junior middle blocker Alex Muff is a second generation Wildcat student-athlete as her father Kevin played basketball at K-State. Sophomore outside hitter Courtney Traxson also is a Wildcat legacy. Her aunt Helen Bundy-Buchanan lettered for the K-State volleyball team in the mid-1980s and her older brother Cameron threw javelin for the Wildcat track and field team. Traxson’s mother Patty also was a member of the track and field team at K-State.

Sophomore outside hitter Dakota Kaufman is the cousin of former Wildcat JuliAnne Chisholm as the two were able to play together last season after pairing up at Hillsboro High School for one season as well. Chisholm is now a member of the K-State women’s basketball team.

Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek has K-State ties as well. Her mother played professional volleyball in Europe and was partners with former Wildcat All-American Valli Hejjas in professional beach volleyball.