Wildcats Open Conference Play with Sooners

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State Wildcats begin Big 12 Conference play on Wednesday night as they take on the Oklahoma Sooners at 7 p.m. at Ahearn Field House. K-State enters the contest after going 6-4 in a challenging nonconference schedule and the Sooners are currently 7-2 after winning two matches at a tournament hosted by UT-Arlington.

K-State is 6-7 all-time in Big 12 openers after falling to Nebraska to start league play last season while Oklahoma is 4-9 in its first Big 12 matches since 1996. Both teams are eyeing a chance to gain valuable Big 12 wins as K-State was picked to finish sixth in the league this year by the coaches with Oklahoma projected to finish behind the Wildcats in seventh.

Pledge for a Cure
In July, Oklahoma head coach Santiago Restrepo and his wife Heidi lost their youngest son Javi to a three-year battle with leukemia and the Oklahoma Athletics Department has initiated the Pledge for a Cure. Fans are being asked to pledge a dollar amount for every ace, dig, kill and/or block during the Sooners' home match against Nebraska on Sept. 30.

September also is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and K-State fans will have an opportunity to honor the life and memory of Javi Restrepo on Wednesday by donating to the Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at the Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center.

Donations will be collected at the Fan Experience & Sales gazebo for K-State to contribute to the Jimmy Everest Center and more information on childhood cancer awareness will be available.

For even more information on Oklahoma volleyball's Pledge for a Cure visit the volleyball team's home page at www.soonersports.com.

On The Airwaves
K-State's match against Oklahoma can be heard on 1350 KMAN with Brian Smoller calling the action and Rob Voelker on color commentary. This broadcast will also be available on the station's Web site www.1350kman.com.

Wednesday's match up will be available to watch online through the Powercat Passport service on k-statesports.com. Live stats are also provided on the site through the Multimedia menu on the site.

The Series
This is the 71st meeting between the Wildcats and Sooners. Oklahoma leads the all-time series 44-25-1 having dominated the matchups during the Big Eight era. Since the inception of the Big 12, K-State has turned the series in its favor winning 19 of 26 matches including a 14-match winning streak from 1999-2005.

K-State won both matches last season against Oklahoma and came up with one of its most impressive comebacks on the road against the Sooners. Trailing 0-2 at Oklahoma last year, the Wildcats faced match point in the third set but battled back to win the set 26-24 and keep the match alive. K-State won the fourth set 25-20 and claimed the match with a 15-9 victory in the fifth. Libero Lauren Mathewson tallied 30 digs in the come-from-behind win while three Wildcats posted 12 or more kills.

Against Oklahoma at home last year, K-State got the victory 3-1 with another great defensive effort by Mathewson as she posted 27 digs.

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 (177) and winning percentage (.681).

Oklahoma: Santiago Restrepo (East Stroudsburg '86) is leading the Sooners for his sixth season and has helped rebuild the program since his arrival. Restrepo was the 2006 Big 12 Coach of the Year and CVU.com National Coach of the Year.

Scouting the Sooners
Oklahoma returns six starters to this year's team losing just the libero position from a team that went 12-16. Junior middle blocker Francie Ekwerekwu leads the way with 2.57 kills per set and fellow middle blocker Sarah Freudenrich also averages 2.52 kills. The pair help the Sooners hit .225 as a team.

The Sooners spread the ball offensively with a total of six players averaging at least 2.00 kills per set and none with 3.00. Freudenrich leads with a .361 hitting percentage of those players killing the ball for the Soonres. Ekwerekwu is flirting with a .300 percentage currently swinging at .293.

Freshman Maria Fernanda has taken on the starting libero position this year and is averaging 4.56 digs per set. Fernanda comes to Oklahoma from Puerto Rico where she was a member of the U20 National Team. She recently posted 21 digs in a 3-2 win at UT-Arlington.

Oklahoma is no longer receiving votes in this week's AVCA Coaches Top 25 poll after being listed among other teams receiving votes in the previous three polls. The Sooners opened the season 4-0 winning the Rice Mizuno Invitational. They then struggled at the Bets Western Shocker Classic at Wichita State needing five sets to defeat Grambling State before losing to North Carolina in five and getting swept by the Shockers.

- k-statesports.com -