Wildcats Face Strong Field at BYU Classic

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State Wildcats continue along their challenging nonconference schedule this weekend traveling to play in the BYU Nike Classic. K-State will face a strong field of two traditional powers in collegiate volleyball and another program building off its best season in 20 years in Provo, Utah.

First up for the No. 23 Wildcats will be another group of Wildcats in Weber State. Last season, Weber State tallied a 21-13 record -- the most wins the program has seen in 20 years since winning the Big Sky Conference title in 1988. The battle of the 'Cats is set for 6 p.m. Central on Friday from the Smith Fieldhouse on the campus of Brigham Young University.

On day two of the BYU Nike Classic, K-State takes on the Cal Poly Mustangs eyeing their first win of the season after also challenging themselves early in the year with a tough nonconference schedule. K-State and Cal Poly will face each other at the net at 11 a.m. Central and take on host BYU at 8 p.m. The Cougars and Mustangs have combined for 38 NCAA Tournament appearances with both hoping to return to the field of 64 after missing out last season. BYU has reached 24 NCAA Tournaments and won just as many conference titles in its 40 years of volleyball.

Fans can hear the action on 1350 KMAN with Rob Voelker calling the shots for K-State. The matches can also be heard live on www.1350kman.com.

The Series

The Wildcats take on a familiar foe in their home opener against UMKC. K-State and the Kangaroos have met 30 times prior to Tuesday's match with the Wildcats winning 27 of those matches. K-State has won 25 straight against UMKC dating back to 1977. The last time these two teams met was a 3-0 win for K-State in 1999.

The Coaches

Kansas State: Suzie Fritz (Florida Atlantic ''94) is in her ninth year as head coach of the Wildcats she is the winningest coach in the program's history in terms of wins (172) and winning percentage (.680).

BYU: Shay Goulding (BYU '98) heads the Courgar program for the second year after going 14-12 her first year at the helm. Prior to going to BYU, Goulding coached Salt Lake Community College into one of the top junior college programs in the nation with three top 10 finishes in five years.

Cal Poly: Jon Stevenson (UC Santa Barbara '80) is in his fifth year heading the Mustangs where he took the team to back-to-back conference titles shortly after his arrival.

Weber State: Al Givens (Northern Arizona '83) has led the Wildcats for 16 years and is looking to build off the team's best season in 20 years last season with a 21-13 record.

Scouting the Cougars

BYU comes into its own tournament with a 2-2 record after recently falling to in-state rival Utah State in five sets on the road Tuesday night. The Cougars are one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs with 24 NCAA Tournament appearances and won just as many conference championships.

The Cougars are led by right side hitter Kayla Walker with 4.13 kills per set. Walker was named first team All-Mountain West Conference last year in her first year with BYU after transferring from Pepperdine. The senior also averages 1.87 blocks per set to be a force at the net defensively with her 6-5 frame.

Walker is not the lone weapon offensively for BYU as Christiana Measom on Christie Carpenter are both averaging 2.13 kills per set. Setter Kiana Rogers helps guide the Cougar offense to a team .229 hitting percentage while also digging 2.27 balls a set.

The Cougars take advantage of their size at the net to block more than 2.50 attacks per set and holding opponents to a hitting percentage of just above .200. Four players in BYU's lineup average 0.80 blocks per set or more individually with freshman Nicole Warner at 1.40.

Scouting the Mustangs

Cal Poly is another program long on tradition at this weekend's BYU Nike Classic as the Mustangs have been to 14 NCAA Tournaments and won back-to-back Big West titles in 2006 and 2007.

The Mustangs bring an 0-4 record into the weekend after opening the year with a challenging schedule. Cal Poly began the season receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches Preseason Poll and have fallen out of the poll after losing to Oregon State, Pepperdine and Colorado State the first weekend. Colorado State was ranked No. 24 at the time and Pepperdine was receiving votes. Oregon State is now receiving votes in the poll. Tuesday, the Mustangs fell to No. 17 Utah on the road as well. Their nonconference schedule also includes West Coast Conference power Santa Clara.

Cal Poly is hitting .141 as a team with opponents hitting .265 against the Mustangs. Freshman outside hitter Molly Pon leads the team with 2.92 kills per set and is hitting .191 herself. Megan McConnell is also helping the offense with 2.30 kills per set. The Mustangs are averaging just 1.19 blocks per set.

Scouting the Wildcats

Weber State came into the 2009 season follow a 2008 campaign in which the Wildcats posted the most wins in 20 years. This year Weber State has a 1-2 record after hosting the Best Western Canyon Pines Invitational. The Wildcats dropped their season opener to Utah State 1-3. Utah Valley swept Weber State the next day before the Wildcats battled the Bulldogs for a five-set win.

Weber State has five starters back this year from last year, and the pair of Chelsea Bair and Jenna Leggat lead the Wildcats with 2.75 and 2.42 kills per set respectively as two of the four seniors on the squad. The team is hitting .115 while opponents are hitting .231 against their defense that averages 10.83 digs a set and 1.58 blocks.

- k-statesports.com -