Wildcats Set to Battle Bulldogs

Kathleen Ludwig

Sept. 11, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State volleyball team closes out its nonconference schedule this week beginning with a Monday night matchup against the Drake Bulldogs at home. First serve is set for 6 p.m. from Ahearn Field House as the Wildcats are looking for their fourth straight victory after winning the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational this weekend. K-State will finish the nonconference portion of the season at a tournament hosted by Saint Mary’s this upcoming weekend.

K-State enters the match with a record of 7-3 after the three straight wins at Missouri State. The Wildcats stormed back from behind against the Bears to win in four sets before defeating Hofstra in four sets and putting together one of the most complete performances of the season in a sweep over South Dakota State. Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger was named MVP of the tournament for her performances. Setter Caitlyn Donahue and outside hitter Lilla Porubek joined Pelger on the all-tournament team.

Drake competes in the Missouri Valley Conference, and the Wildcats have played two others teams from The Valley this season defeating them both. K-State bested Creighton and Missouri State each in five sets, both also played in the NCAA Tournament last season. The Bulldogs are currently 3-7 on the year with wins coming against Denver, Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne and Southern Utah.

The match will also be Women of K-State Night. Members of the group are encouraged to attend the match and arrive early for a meet and greet with some of K-State’s women’s athletics teams in Ahearn.

On The Airwaves
Monday’s match against Drake will be aired live on KMAN 1350 with Rob Voelker calling the action.

The match will be available on K-StateHD.TV for fans subscribing to the online network. The audio broadcast from 1350 KMAN will be available for free online at kstatesports.com. Live stats will be provided via Gametracker at kstatesports.com.

The Series
Kansas State has dominated the series with the Drake Bulldogs leading 23-7. The Wildcats have won the last four meetings with Drake and are 13-3 all-time in the series in matches played at Ahearn Field House. Suzie Fritz swept Drake in her only meeting against the team as head coach of the Wildcats.

The Coaches
Kansas State: Suzie Fritz (Florida Atlantic ’94) is in her 11th year as head coach and recently reached the 200-win milestone. The 3-2 win at Missouri State on Thursday was her 200th. Her career record of 202-119 gives her a winning percentage of .629.

Drake: Tony Sunga (Drake ‘88) is in his first year as the head coach at Drake after serving three years as an assistant coach at Wyoming. Sunga also was an assistant coach at Drake before coaching at Wyoming.

Scouting the Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are coming off a 1-3 performance at the Pioneer Classic hosted by Denver this weekend. Drake’s win came in five sets against the hosting Pioneers. Drake also has wins this season over Southern Utah and IPFW.

Drake is led by junior outside hitter Whitney Westrum with 2.86 kills per set. She led the Bulldogs to their win over Denver on Saturday with 18 kills. She also is averaging 1.33 digs per set and 0.61 blocks to contribute defensively to the team.

Westrum is joined by Mikayla Sims and Michelle Reidy in averaging more than two kills a set. Sims has played in only 23 of Drake’s 39 sets, but she has posted 2.39 kills in those matches. Reidy is putting up 2.13 kills per set while also leading the team in hitting percentage at .210. Reidy also is one of the team’s top blockers. The Bulldogs are hitting just .101 as a team this season while their opponents are hitting at a .194 clip.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
The Wildcats are coming off three victories at the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational where they came home with the championship trophy. K-State defeated host Missouri State in five sets with an exciting come-from-behind win. The Wildcats trailed 1-2 in the match and won the fourth and fifth sets in dramatic fashion.

In the fifth set against Missouri State, middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger scored the final three points of the match to close the door 15-12 with a kill and back-to-back solo blocks. She had six solo stuffs in the match as she posted another double-double with a career-high 26 kills and 14 blocks while hitting an impressive .510 for a five-set match. Pelger averaged 4.50 kills per set during the tournament while hitting .459 and posting 1.50 digs and 1.92 blocks. She also had five aces over the three matches as she was recognized as the tournament MVP for her efforts.

Junior setter Caitlyn Donahue earned her first all-tournament team honor of the season at the Wynn Invitational as she guided the Wildcats to 13.67 kills per set and a .285 hitting percentage during the three wins. Donahue averaged 11.42 assists per set at the tournament, including a career-high 57 against Missouri State. She also had an impressive double-double in a sweep over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. During that win, Donahue posted 16 assists a set for a total of 48 and also had 10 digs.

Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek also was named to the all-tournament team at the Wynn Invitational after posting 3.42 kills per set and hitting .259. Porubek tied her career-high of 16 kills in just three sets against South Dakota State. Porubek reached double digits in kills in all three matches and also had four aces. It was her second all-tournament team of the season.

Killer Kaitlynn
Kaitlynn Pelger is leading the Big 12 Conference in kills as she is averaging 4.53 kills per set through 10 matches this season. The sophomore middle blocker has already posted four matches with 20 or more kills, one of those came in only three sets. Pelger has accomplished this feat efficiently as well as she leads the team in hitting percentage coming in at .375 and just outside the Big 12’s top 10. Pelger also has three double-doubles to her name this season. Her most recent came against Missouri State when she pounded out a career-high 26 kills on an impressive .510 hitting percentage for a five-set match. She also had 14 blocks in the win with six solo stops and eight assisted stuffs.

Pelger has put her name in the record books a few times this season beginning with the Georgia Tech Courtyard Classic against Tennessee Tech. Pelger posted a strong hitting percentage of .800. That percentage ranks fourth in school history for a three-set match. Against the Golden Eagles, she pounded out 13 kills on 15 swings with one error.

She is among the top players at not only her position but in the entire conference this season as she leads the Big 12 in kills per set at 4.53. Second place in terms of average is Kansas’ Allison Mayfield, who is averaging 4.16. Missouri’s Lisa Henning has 154 total kills, which is nine behind Pelger, but has reached that total after playing eight more sets than the Wildcats have.

Pelger also ranks among the conference leaders in hitting percentage at .375 (6th), aces (0.47, 2nd), blocks (1.22, 6th) and points (5.74, 1st). She is the only player in the conference to be ranked in the top 10 in five of the seven statistical categories.

“Por”ing it On
Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek has continued where she left off her freshman campaign as she is averaging 3.25 kills per set and ranks seventh in the Big 12. She has posted 10 or more kills in every match but one thus far, including a career-high 16 against South Dakota. She accomplished that feat in just three set, a mark she had previously reached in five sets against Kansas last season. The native of Hungary has become a go-to player for the Wildcats and also has come up with some key blocks early in the season. She had two solo blocks against Idaho to make an impact at the net defensively in the win.

Porubek recently earned her second all-tournament team honor of the season after averaging 3.42 kills during the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational at Missouri State. She also had contributed four aces during the tournament.

Setting the Table
Junior setter Caitlyn Donahue has grown more comfortable in her second year playing the role, and it is showing. Donahue currently ranks second in the Big 12 in assists per set at 11.14 after improving her numbers at the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational. In the three wins, Donahue averaged 11.42 per set to raise her season average. She also averaged 2.08 digs per set and was third on the team in blocks at 0.92 per set to receive her first all-tournament team honor of the season.

Donahue tied her career-high of 57 assists in the five-set win over Missouri State. She also had seven digs and five blocks in the victory. Perhaps her best match of the tournament came in a sweep over South Dakota State that saw her average 16.0 assists per set posting 48. Donahue also had 10 digs in the win over the Jackrabbits to post her second double-double of the season. She distributed the ball well to the hitters against South Dakota State as the Wildcats combined to hit .423 in the win.