Wildcats Travel to Take on Tigers

Caitlyn Donahue

Sept. 27, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State volleyball team is looking for its ninth straight victory on Wednesday when the Wildcats travel to take on the Missouri Tigers at 6:30 p.m. from the Hearnes Center. The Wildcats have won eight straight matches tying their longest winning streak since 2008 and hope to extend that mark by ending a losing streak to the Tigers. Missouri has won the last three meetings with K-State, including the four of the last six played in Columbia. Missouri is receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll as the Tigers have been all season, but the Wildcats jump onto that list this week as well.

Missouri is coming off a 1-1 week last week to open conference action defeating Texas A&M at home on Saturday and falling at No. 16 Iowa State last Wednesday. The Tigers are one of the more efficient offenses in the Big 12 as they rank third in hitting percentage with a team mark of .264. Missouri’s efficiency has dropped of late, however, as the Tigers struggled to find a rhythm against Iowa State hitting .191 compared to the Cyclones’ .402 in the loss. Missouri hit .249 in the win over Texas A&M in a tightly contested match that saw the Aggies hit .231.

K-State is riding the momentum of that eight-match winning streak, but the last three matches have been the most consistent streak for the team as the Wildcats from an execution standpoint. The Wildcats have distributed the ball offensively and the block continues to be among the best in the nation.

On the Airwaves
Wednesday’s match will be aired live on KMAN 1350 with Rob Voelker calling the action. The match also can be heard live online for free at kstatesports.com.

Wednesday’s match will have free audio of KMAN’s broadcast available at kstatesports.com. There also will be a webcast at mutigers.com/allaccess. There is a monthly fee for the service. Live stats provided by GameTracker may also be found on kstatesports.com and mutigers.com.

The Series
Kansas State leads the all-time series against Missouri 40-33. The Tigers have got the best of the Wildcats lately as Missouri has won the last three matches. K-State has lost to Missouri only eight times in the Big 12 era, however, with a 22-8 record since 1996. Head Coach Suzie Fritz is 13-7 against Missouri through her first 10 seasons at the helm and is 6-4 in matches played at Missouri.

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. She is the winningest coach in K-State history and her career record of 207-119 gives her a winning percentage of .635.

Missouri: Wayne Kreklow (Drake ‘80) is in his seventh year leading the Tigers where he and his wife have led the program a combined 11 season heading into this year. Kreklow returned Missouri to the NCAA Tournament last year taking the Tigers to the Regional Semifinals.

Scouting the Tigers
Missouri enters Wednesday’s match after defeating Texas A&M at home in four sets and falling to Iowa State on the road last week. The Tigers were picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 this season and that is where they currently stand through the first week of league action. They are led by sophomore setter Molly Kreklow as she ranks third in the conference in assists per set.

Kreklow has helped guide the Tigers to an overall record of 14-4 this season and has a variety of weapons to set the ball to on offense. Sophomore outside hitter Lisa Henning leads the team in kills with an average of 3.73 per set and ranks fifth in the conference. She also is hitting at a .274 clip on the year and provides 2.20 digs a set on defense.

Emily Wilson and Brittney Brimmage are Missouri’s other two top offensive threats with Wilson adding 2.86 kills per set on a .285 hitting percentage, and Brimmage contributes 2.59 kills with a strong efficiency of .388. Brimmage ranks second in the conference in hitting percentage.

Defensively, libero Priscilla Armendariz leads the team in digs with 3.66 per set to rank seventh in the conference. She had a strong night against Texas A&M on Saturday posting 25 in four sets for the win.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
K-State is currently 12-3 on the year and riding an eight-match winning streak. The streak marks the longest winning streak for the Wildcats since winning eight in a row in 2008, and a win would be the first time since 2003 that K-State has won nine in a row. The Wildcats went on separate winning streaks of 12 and 16 matches in 2003 when K-State went 30-5 and won the Big 12 title. K-State has two other winning streaks of 13 matches set in 1997 and 2002 that best the current streak of eight.

The Wildcats have already matched their win total from last season and are looking to build on. A win on Wednesday would snap a three-match losing streak to Missouri and give K-State a 2-0 start to conference play for the fifth time under Suzie Fritz.

The Wildcats got the eighth win in the current winning streak by defeating the Baylor Bears in three sets. K-State saw a trio of players reach double digits in kills led by sophomore Kaitlynn Pelger with 17. She was joined by Lilla Porubek with 13 and Kathleen Ludwig with 11. Pelger posted her sixth double-double of the season with a career-high 18 digs. Setter Caitlyn Donahue also had her sixth double-double with 37 assists and 10 digs in the victory.

K-State dominated the match jumping to a 5-0 lead in the first set and then a 9-0 lead in the second before Baylor scored a point. The Wildcats rolled to the win 25-19, 25-15, 25-18 to keep the winning streak alive, which is tied as the fifth-longest streak in school history.

The Wildcats also are back among the top blocking teams in the nation in 2011 standing with a team average of 2.62 per set and holding the No. 25 spot on the list. K-State has tallied eight matches with 10 or more blocks. The Wildcats also rank in the top 50 nationally in aces with an average of 1.56 per set at 42nd and kills at 13.69 to stand 46th.

Repeat Performance
For the second straight week Kansas State middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger has been recognized for her prowess on the court being named Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week. Pelger received the honor last week after averaging 5.19 kills per set over four matches. This week she repeats with an amazing average of 5.67 kills in a sweep over the Baylor Bears in K-State’s only action of the week.

Pelger pounded out 17 kills in a win over Baylor to open Big 12 play for the Wildcats with a strong hitting percentage of .333. But it was not only her offensive play that aided in the win. Pelger also tied her career-high of 18 digs in the victory, a mark she had previously reached in five sets against Drake. The sophomore also had four blocks and a service ace in the win. The match marked her sixth double-double of the season as well.

The Wildcats have won eight straight matches with Pelger playing a major role in the team’s success midway through the season. She currently leads the Big 12 in kills per set and points per set and is the only player in the conference to rank among the top 10 in five of the seven statistical categories.

Killer Kaitlynn
Kaitlynn Pelger is leading the Big 12 Conference in kills as she is averaging 4.78 kills per set through 15 matches this season. The sophomore middle blocker has already posted six matches with 20 or more kills, including 32 against Drake. It was the first time since Valli Hejjas in 2004 a Wildcat has posted 30 or more kills. Pelger has been killing balls efficiently as well this season as she leads the team in hitting percentage coming in at .362 and ranks fourth in the league. Pelger also has six double-doubles to her name this season, including one with 26 kills and 14 blocks against Missouri State.

Pelger is one of the top players in the nation midway through the season as she ranks in the top 100 in five of seven categories. She ranks fifth in kills per set and second in points (5.89) trailing only Northern Illinois’ Lauren Wicinksi. Pelger also ranks in aces (73rd, 0.40), blocks (57th, 1.18) and hitting percentage (47th, .362).

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. Her 32 kills against Drake rank fifth in school history for a five-set match, and her six solo blocks against Missouri State tie for second in a five-set match as well.

She is among the top players at not only her position but in the entire conference. Second place in terms of kill average is Kansas’ Allison Mayfield, who is averaging 4.36. Missouri’s Lisa Henning has 239 total kills, which is 24 behind Pelger, and she has reached that total after playing nine more sets than the Wildcats have. Pelger 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 3.19 kills per set and ranks seventh in the Big 12. She has posted 10 or more kills in every match but two thus far, including a career-high 16 against South Dakota State. She accomplished that feat in just three sets, 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 also is one of the team’s top servers averaging 0.26 aces per set. She tallied three in the win at Saint Mary’s.

Porubek had one of her most consistent performances of the season against Baylor on Saturday as she tallied 13 kills and hit .278. She also earned two all-tournament team honors this season during nonconference play receiving the recognition at the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational at Missouri State and the Varney’s Invitational hosted by K-State.

Setting the Table
Junior setter Caitlyn Donahue has grown more comfortable in her second year playing the role, and it is showing. Donahue currently leads the Big 12 in assists per set at 11.35 after improving her numbers steadily through the first five weeks of the season. Donahue earned two all-tournament team honors during nonconference play and opened Big 12 action with her sixth double-double of the season.

The Overland Park native is directing the offense to a hitting percentage of .242 to rank seventh in the conference, but the kill average of 13.69 is fourth in the league. She is ahead of Iowa State’s Alison Landwehr by 0.18 assists per set.

Against Drake, Donahue reached a new career-high with 61 assists in the victory. She also played a key role defensively in the win with a season-high 17 digs. One of her best matches this season 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. She distributed the ball well to the hitters against South Dakota State as the Wildcats combined to hit .423 in the win.

Sensational Southpaw
Junior opposite Kathleen Ludwig has found her stroke over the last few matches for the Wildcats to provide more punch on the offense and give K-State another threat during the eight-match winning streak. Ludwig is averaging 2.30 kills per set and hitting .239 on the year. Her averages over the last three matches have jumped exponentially.

Ludwig is tallying 3.30 kills per set on a .333 hitting clip in wins over Utah Valley, Saint Mary’s and Baylor. In the Big 12 opener against Baylor, Ludwig joined two of her teammates in double-digit kills with 11 and a hitting percentage of .296. During that win, Ludwig also provided four digs and two blocks. Her increased production has opened up hitting lanes for her teammates as Kaitlynn Pelger and Lilla Porubek have each seen increased kill production during this three-match stretch as well.

Packed with Purple
Ahearn Field House is again rocking in 2011 with an average attendance of more than 1,500 fans. K-State fans have always been loyal to their Wildcats when it comes to volleyball with the fans ranking in the Top 30 in national attendance regularly. This season K-State is again among the most highly attended volleyball matches in the nation currently ranking 23rd with an average of 1,506. K-State is fourth in the conference in attendance trailing only Missouri (7th, 2859), Texas (14th, 2269) and Iowa State (18th, 1895). Texas A&M (26th, 1391) also is in the top 30 in attendance within the conference.

Last year, K-State was 18th in the nation in attendance for the entire season and third in the Big 12 Conference behind only Nebraska (2), Texas (7) and Missouri (15). Iowa State (19), Texas A&M (23) and Kansas (42) all ranked among the top 50 and averaged more than 900 in attendance.

The Wildcats had nearly 3,000 fans at their home opener against Creighton this season and are looking for more excitement all season in Ahearn to again make it one of the best environments in the conference to play volleyball in.