No. 19 Cats Face Kansas in Big 12 Opener

MANHATTAN, Kan. The Big 12 Conference season will get underway on Wednesday when the 19th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats take on the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kan., with a 7 p.m. start. K-State, who is 8-2 on the season, is coming off of three consecutive wins and a Varney’s Kansas State Invitational title. The Jayhawks will open conference play with a 7-3 record and on a five-match win streak.

The in-state match will be broadcast live on 1350 KMAN and live stats can be found online at

Kansas State Pre-Match Report
The Wildcats enter Wednesday’s match with an 8-2 record and have key wins over then-No. 14 Cal Poly and three teams that were receiving votes the week of facing K-State: Wichita State, Louisville and Arkansas. Most recently, KSU won three straight matches at its home invitational and earned the Varney’s championship with wins over Arkansas, Fresno State and Northern Iowa. The Wildcats won in a sweep of each of the opponents and had a hitting percentage of .361 through nine games while allowing their opponent a .152 clip.

Attack leaders for Kansas State are junior newcomer Nataly Korobkova and junior Rita Liliom, who is returning from a year-long injury. Korobkova has tallied 141 kills through 31 games and averages 4.55 kills per game on .269 hitting. The Krasnoyarsk, Russia, native is third for the Wildcats in digs with 59 (1.90 dpg) and blocks with 38. Liliom has 125 kills to date and averages 3.57 per game. In tournament matches from Hawaii and Manhattan, Kan., the product of Budapest, Hungary, has notched the most kills with 87 to average 4.35 per game. On the season, Liliom has five service aces and 17 blocks.

Senior co-captain Stacey Spiegelberg leads the team in two categories: assists and service aces. The Overland Park, Kan., Wildcat has 452 assists on the year to average 12.91. Spiegelberg has served 17 aces and is second in digs with 69 (1.97 dpg). The Cats’ setter is also one of four K-Staters that has put back more than 20 blocks on the year - Spiegelberg has one solo and 23 assists.

Senior Angie Lastra returned to her original position at libero after spending 2006 as an outside hitter. She leads the squad with 147 digs at 4.20 per game. Lastra, from Carolina, Puerto Rico, is also one of four on the team to have double-digit service aces as she is third with 13.

Scouting Report: Kansas
The Jayhawks opened the 2007 campaign with two wins against Cal State Bakersfield and Idaho State, but fell in the next three matches (Oregon, Michigan State and Florida State). Its current streak of five straight wins, including three that earned it the Jayhawk Classic Tournament title, gives Kansas a 7-3 overall record during non-conference play. The match against No. 19 KSU will be the first contest against a ranked opponent for the Jayhawks.

Jenna Kaiser and Flavia Lino lead in amount of kills with 89 and 80, respectively, but both have a hitting percentage of under .200. Six Jayhawk hitters have tallied 30 or more kills and have a hitting average between .200 and .300.

Emily Brown leads KU in assists with 245 (6.62 apg) and also has 67 kills on 174 attempts. Assisting in setting duties with Brown is Katie Martincich, who has 170 assists on the year (4.59 apg).

Defensive numbers for the Jayhawks include dig leader Melissa Manda with 138 digs and an average of 3.73. Leading in blocks is Brittany Williams, who has nine solo and 31 assists for 40 on the year.

K-State in Big 12 Openers
Since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996, the Wildcats have gone 7-4 in Big 12 season openers and in Big 12 road openers. K-State is 4-2 in matches that were Big 12 openers on the road. In the Suzie Fritz era, the Cats are 3-3 in conference openers. This year marks the fourth-consecutive season that K-State will open Big 12 play on the road and a first to begin in Lawrence.

Big 12 Openers
2006: at Baylor, L (1-3)
2005: at Oklahoma, W (3-0)
2004: at Colorado, L (0-3)
2003: Kansas, W (3-0)
2002: Nebraska, L (0-3)
2001: Oklahoma, W (3-0)
2000: Iowa State, W (3-0)
1999: Nebraska, W (3-2)
1998: Oklahoma, W (3-0)
1997: Colorado, L (1-3)
1996: at Colorado, W (3-2)

Big 12 Records
Kansas State has a record of 141-79 (.641) against Big 12 opponents and is 62-48 (.564) in Big 12 matches on the road. Since Suzie Fritz has taken charge of the Wildcats, K-State is 77-43 (.642) against conference foes and 34-26 (.567) on the road.

The Wildcats are 20-2 against the Jayhawks since the start of the Big 12 and 56-37-1 overall while being 23-10 in Lawrence.

Into Conference Winning
Kansas State will enter conference season with a three-match win streak dating from Sept. 7 through Sept. 8. The streak is the fourth best entering into Big 12 play since 1996 and best since 2003. In 2006 and 2005, K-State went into conference action having lost one. The 2004 and 2003 season had wins just prior to Big 12: one win in 2004 and 10 in 2003.

Flashback: vs. KU
During the 2006 season, Kansas State and Kansas split the home and home series for the second straight year. The Jayhawks captured the first matchup 3-1 (26-30, 30-28, 30-28, 30-20) in Lawrence, Kan. Angie Lastra led the attack with 20 kills, while Megan Kroeker added 15 and Sandy Werner 12. Stacey Spiegelberg tallied a double-double with 51 assists and 10 digs and added two service aces and six blocks. Lastra and Lauren Rosenthal topped the list in digs with 17 and 18, respectively.

In the season closer, the Wildcats hosted the Jayhawks in Ahearn Field House for Senior Night. Led by the only senior on the roster, Sandy Werner, the Cats closed the season with their second-straight victory in a 3-0 sweep (30-16, 30-14, 30-28). Werner tallied 12 kills and five blocks (two solo, three assisted). Megan Farr put down 10 kills and seven block assists. Rosenthal and Lastra again led in digs with 16 and 10. Spiegelberg had four service aces, eight digs and 37 assists.

Return to the Polls
After defeating one ranked squad and another that received votes in the preseason polls, Kansas State returned to the rankings after the first week of action, debuting at No. 25 on the CSTV/AVCA Coaches Poll. The Wildcats received 148 votes to return to the poll for the first time since Sept. 13, 2006 when K-State was ranked 24th.

In the second poll since the start of the 2007 campaign, the Wildcats moved to 22nd place, despite picking up their first two losses.

Poll History
Date Rank Record
Preseason: NR (0-0)
Aug. 27: 25 (3-0)
Sept. 3: 22 (5-2)
Sept. 10: 19 (8-2)

Victorious Saturday
Despite being only three weeks into the season, the Cats have shown a liking to Saturday matches. Into Big 12 season, K-State is perfect on Saturday’s with a 4-0 record. Last year, the Wildcats finished with a 3-9 Saturday record.

Wins this year have been against North Texas (3-0), Wichita State (3-1), Louisville (3-0) and Fresno State (3-0).

During the match against Fresno State Sat., Sept. 8th, Kansas State prevented the Bulldogs from gaining a single service ace. It marks the second straight season K-State has had a match of perfect service reception.

During the final road match of 2006, K-State was flawless at Texas Tech, not allowing the Red Raiders to card a service ace. It marked the first time since Dec. 12, 2003, against Penn State in the “Sweet 16” that the Wildcats held an opponent without an ace. The Texas Tech match was the first time K-State held a Big 12 foe without an ace since Nov. 11, 2000, against Oklahoma.

Consecutive .300+ Matches
Kansas State finished the weekend with three-consecutive matches of hitting better than .300 as a team. This is the first time since 2003 (11/19: .348 at Oklahoma; 11/22: .343 Texas Tech; 11/26: .308 Texas A&M) that the Cats have done so.

Against Fresno State on Fri., Sept. 7th, K-State had a percentage of .306 and finished with its best hitting of the weekend against UNI that evening with .391. The final match of the Varney’s Kansas State Invitational had K-State with .389 hitting.

In all this season, the Wildcats have six matches out of 10 contests that have a team hitting percentage of .300 or better. That total is more than the entire 2006 season, when K-State had five total matches. The 2005 and 2004 season had nine occasions.

Without Error
During the home tournament the weekend of Sept. 7th, the Wildcats finished with strong hitting in large part to two games of no errors. Against UNI, K-State finished game one with 17 kills and zero errors on 31 attempts (.548). The following day versus Fresno State, KSU again had a game of no errors in the first set with 19 kills on 28 attempts for .679 hitting.

Three and Out
During the Varney’s Invitational, K-State finished with three wins with all being 3-0 sweeps. With the consecutive sweeps, 2007 marks the sixth consecutive year that the Cats have had three sweeps in a row and 11th of last 12 seasons.

Aces for Spiegelberg and Jantsch
Senior Stacey Spiegelberg and junior Jenny Jantsch have been tallying the aces for the Wildcats and have combined for 33 of the 75 (44 percent) for the Wildcats. Spiegelberg leads with 17 and has put together a string of nine matches with one or more aces. The last time the Overland Park, Kan., native had a match without an ace was the season opener on Aug. 24th against Cal Poly.

Jantsch has 16 aces on the year to average 0.46. She has also strung together consecutive matches with one or more and sits at eight; she has nine matches this season with one or more.

During last season, Spiegelberg had 23 matches of one or more and finished with 45 aces on the year (0.39 sapg). Jantsch led the Cats with 51 (0.45 sapg) and finished with 25 of the 30 matches with one or more.

Varney’s All-Tournament
After winning its own tournament title, Kansas State had three members named to the Varney’s Kansas State Invitational All-Tournament Team, including being honored with the most valuable player.

Megan Farr was given the MVP title after helping the Cats to three wins against Arkansas, Fresno State and Northern Iowa. Farr finished the weekend with 28 kills on .522 hitting and led in blocks with 13 (one solo, 12 assisted) to average 1.44 per game.

Rita Liliom and Kelsey Chipman were also named to the team. Liliom led the team in kills with 33 and a 3.67 average on .296 hitting. She contributed three service aces and three digs. Chipman had 29 kills (3.22 kpg) with .464 hitting, two service aces and 12 block assists.

Varney’s All-Tournament Team
Megan Farr, Kansas State, MVP
Rita Liliom, Kansas State
Kelsey Chipman, Kansas State
Ashton Stelken, UNI
Shannon Aschoff, UNI
Lacey Gera, Fresno State
Jessica Dorrell, Arkansas