Wildcats Set to Host Varney's Invite

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State Wildcats continue their homestand this weekend with the Varney's Kansas State Invitational. This year's home tournament boasts one of the strongest fields put together with two NCAA Tournament teams coming to play the Wildcats in Ahearn Field House.

K-State is ranked No. 21 in the AVCA Coaches Poll and will face No. 17 Kentucky at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a match pitting Wildcats against Wildcats. The Kentucky Wildcats are the most experienced team at this weekend's tournament with six starters from last year's team back. It will also be the first time the two teams have met.

Big Ten Conference power Purdue is another strong team receiving votes in this week's poll after falling from the No. 24 perch after losing to Baylor last weekend. K-State will take on the Boilermakers in the finale at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The Boilermakers have 12 NCAA Tournament appearances - including five straight - and are making their first appearance in Manhattan to take on K-State after the Wildcats visited West Lafayette, Ind., last season.

The Portland Pilots round out the field for this year's Varney's Kansas State Invitational also visiting Manhattan after K-State travelled to the Portland Nike Invitational last year. Portland is 2-6 so far this season and will face K-State at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets for the Varney's Kansas State Invitational are available for $10 for all sessions or $7 for each individual session. Youth and senior tickets are just $7 for the all sessions pass or $4 individually. Friday night's match against Kentucky is also Group Night. Saturday night will be Team and K-State Volleyball Camper Night. For more information on group tickets please contact the K-State Ticket Office at 1-800-221-CATS.

On The Airwaves
K-State's matches this weekend will be broadcast by 1350 KMAN with Brian Smoller calling the action and Rob Voelker on color commentary Saturday. Friday's match with Kentucky will be available live at www.k-statesports.com and will be tape delayed over the airwaves. Saturday's match with Portland will be live online and on the air and the nightcap against Purdue will be available online.

The Series
This is the first time Kentucky and K-State have met in volleyball. The two storied programs have 22 NCAA Tournament appearances between them.

The Wildcats have played the Portland Pilots three times heading into this weekend winning two of those contests. Last year at the Portland Nike Invitational, K-State swept the Pilots en route to gong 4-0 and winning the tournament.

Against Purude, the Wildcats are 1-2 after falling to the Boilermakers at their home tournament last season. That match was tightly contested with Purdue edging out K-State in four sets. This is the first time Purdue has travelled to Manhattan to take on the Wildcats.

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 (176) and winning percentage (.685).

Kentucky: Craig Skinner (Ball State '93) has led the Wildcats to a 7-0 record to start the year in his fifth season with the team. He has taken Kentucky to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in school history.

Portland: Joe Houck (Portland State '87) is in his second season at Portland after leading the Pilots to an 8-24 record in 2008. Houck has a career record of 141-106.

Purdue: Dave Shondell (Ball State '81) has taken the Boilermakrers to the NCAA Tournament the last five years missing the postseason in only his first season at Purdue. This season Purdue is 4-2 with losses to Dayton and Baylor.

Scouting the Wildcats
Kentucky is 7-0 this season and have lost just four sets. The Wildcats enter this weekend's tournament ranked No. 17 in the nation and boast a veteran team with five starters plus their libero returning this season from a team that went 26-6 last year and went to a fourth straight NCAA Tournament.

Setter Sarah Rumely was an AVCA All-America Honorable Mention last season and is continuing in her leadership role as a senior averaging 12.00 assists per set along with 2.20 digs and 1.12 kills. She also plays a big role at the net for Kentucky as the third leading blocker on the team. Rumely leads the team in aces as well with 13.

Rumely is joined by fellow senior BriAnne Sauer at the libero position where she is averaging 3.64 digs per set. Last season, Sauer totalled 497 digs on the year and became the ninth player in Kentucky history to record 1,000 for her career.

Outside hitter Sarah Mendoza leads the Wildcat offense with 4.12 kills per set while hitting .281. She had 22 kills and 15 digs in Kentucky's win over Cincinnati on Tuesday night. She is joined by a trio of Wildcats with approximately 2.50 kills per set in Ann Armes, Becky Pavan and Lauren Rapp. Pavan and Rapp were both named AVCA All-Region Honorable Mention.

The Wildcats went five sets with the Bearcats on Tuesday in a tight match from beginning to end with Kentucky having to battle back against Cincinnati after losing the first two sets 21-25, 27-29, 25-23, 25-22, 15-9.

Scouting the Pilots
Portland is led by Jessica Clemens with 3.44 kills per set. The junior outside hitter is also shining on the defensive end digging more than three balls a set. Clemens also is one of the top servers for the Pilots and posted the most aces by any player in the West Coast Conference during a match last season with 10 against South Florida during their home tournament, which K-State participated in.

Athletics runs in the family as Jessica also plays basketball for the Pilots, and her sister Maria is on the volleyball team as well averaging 2.44 kills per set. Their father played football at Portland State, and their brother Kellen is a quarterback for the New York Jets.

Shelley Sievers leads the front line of defense for the Pilots averaging 1.12 blocks per set, and Danielle Dupar digs 5.25 per set to sure up the back line for Portland. Portland rotates two setters into the match with Kaylyn Jones leading with 6.08 assists to Madison Smith's 4.83.

Scouting the Boilermakers
Like K-State, Purdue has a young squad with just two seniors wearing Black and Gold. Sam Ainsworth and Carrie Gurnell are the lone seniors this season and three juniors round out the upperclassmen.

Gurnell lead the Boilermakers in kills averaging 3.96 per set. She also is hitting .246 percent on the court from the outside hitter position. Middle blocker Tiffany Fisher has stepped up after Purdue graduated two starting middles last season and is averaging 2.27 kills while hitting .369 and stuffing 1.23 blocks per set.

Kristen Arthurs is another middle for Purdue helping Fisher and Gurnell lead the attack. Arthurs is hitting .366 and killing 2.62 balls per set. Setter Jaclyn Hart is back for her junior campaign and is averaging 10.33 per set. Hart started all of last season and won the starting job shortly into her freshman year with the Boilermakers.

- k-statesports.com -