SE: Wildcats Take 7-Match Streak into Big 12 Opener

Kaitlyn Pelger and the Wildcats open Big action Saturday night in Ahearn Field House.

Sept. 23, 2011

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By Mark Janssen

The preseason polls may have Kansas State picked ninth out of the 10 teams that play Big 12 volleyball, but to that, coach Suzie Fritz says, “I don’t get into that stuff. It doesn’t mean anything. It usually has to do with where you finished last year, so I guess it’s a fair placing.”

But riding a seven-game winning streak entering Big 12 play on Saturday against Baylor, Fritz says, “I’m eager to start. We’re attacking our work list and I think we have the potential to finish higher than expected. Where that is, I don’t know.”

K-State will be hosting the Bears in a 7 p.m., Saturday match in Ahearn Field House. The match can be seen live on K-StateHD.TV with K-State Gameday preceding the match at 6:15 p.m.

“I just want to be as good as we can be starting with the Baylor match,” said Fritz. “I’m not someone who looks too far ahead or concerns myself where we might finish. I focus on what’s going on right now, and that’s trying to improve this team to play Baylor. I know they’re very good, but I think we can play with them.”

No one is playing any better for the Wildcats than sophomore Kaitlynn Pelger, who is this week’s Big 12 Player of the Week and CVU.com’s National Player of the Week coming off an MVP performance last week at the Saint Mary’s Tournament.

Pelger was joined on the all-tournament team by Caitlyn Donahue and Kathleen Ludwig, who helped the Wildcats sweep through Sacramento State, Utah Valley and Saint Mary’s.

Pelger is the only player in the Big 12 to rank in the Top 10 of five statistical categories: No. 1 in kills, No. 1 in points, No. 3 in aces, No. 4 in hitting percentage and No. 8 in blocks. This season Pelger already has six 20-plus kill matches, which ties for ninth in school history.

Fritz doesn’t hesitate to mention Pelger in the same breath as 2003 K-State All-American Lauren Goehring.

“What sets Kaitlynn apart is her ability to play in six rotations. She’s not only attacking, but her defense has significantly improved. She’s passing and digging at a high level,” Fritz said of her sophomore middle blocker. “We’re asking her to do a lot, and she’s handled all the responsibilities well.

“The last one we had with the ability to do so many things was Lauren Goehring,” said Fritz. “With the numbers she’s putting up, it’s not too early to compare the two.”

Fritz also has raving reviews on the play of setter Caitlyn Donahue, who now ranks 10th in school history in assists.

“Her decision making is significantly better. She’s very much a risk-taking setter, but she’s doing a better job of making a bad situation better. She makes bad plays into decent plays,” said Fritz. “She’s developing the ability to put our hitters in a better situation. She’s thinking faster and really taking command of our offense instead of just relying on her athletic ability.”

In the Polls: The latest national rankings show Texas as the No. 8 team in the nation, followed by Iowa State at No. 16 and Oklahoma at No. 25. Also receiving votes are Texas A&M, Kansas and Missouri.

K-State Runners Off to Minneapolis
Kansas State’s men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete this weekend at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn., where coach Mike Smith expects to be facing up to eight of the top 25 women’s teams in America.

While Smith thinks that he will have individual runners compete for high finishes in Martina Tresch and Boglarka Bozzay, he adds, “We’re ranked 33rd as a team and I’m just not sure if we have the depth that we had last year at this point in the season to compete at a meet like this.”

Rounding out the K-State team are Avery Clifton and Laura Galvan, followed by Laura Lee Baird, Erika Schiller or Sarah Swenson competing for the fifth spot.

At the top, Smith says, “Martina is as good as Beverly Ramos was a couple years ago when she was among the top six or seven in the Big 12 two years in a row. I think she can be an All-American.”

With his men’s team Smith says it’s still a story of Kansas kids developing.

“We’re better than we were, but the money we have invested in the team are more with guys that run the 800 and 1500 on the track,” said Smith. “Guys we brought in for cross country are all walk-on guys.”

Making up the team are Adam Porter, Kyle Hanson, Lane Porter, Armando Del Valle and Phil Banowetz.

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