Wildcats Set to Host No. 22 Iowa State

Lilla Porubek

Oct. 2, 2012

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TV: Fox College Sports -- Ch. 265 or 2265 Cox Cable; Ch. 623 DirecTV; Ch. 648 AT&T U-Verse

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State volleyball returns home this week for two matches against ranked opponents that hold high value in the Big 12 Conference standings. The Wildcats open the exciting action against the No. 22 Iowa State Cyclones on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Ahearn Field House. The match pits two of the top setters in the conference against each other as well as two teams receiving strong play from their middle blockers.

Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue currently ranks second in the Big 12 in assists per set for the Wildcats, and Iowa State brings senior Allison Landwehr into Ahearn Field House after earning AVCA First Team All-America last year. Landwehr is currently third in the Big 12 in assists.

K-State’s Kaitlynn Pelger is the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week and combined with fellow middle blocker Alex Muff the Wildcats have two strong options on offense and defensively on the block. Iowa State has experienced middles as well in Jamie Straube and Tenisha Matlock.

Wednesday’s match will be 80’s Night and the first 250 students will receive a free K-State T-shirt designed to fit the 80’s Night theme. It also is Manhattan Community Night and fans from Manhattan can receive tickets for only $3. There is a promo code to purchase tickets online for the Community Night special or fans can show their ID to prove they live in Manhattan and receive the discounted price at the ticket window in Ahearn. For information on promo codes contact the Fan Experience and Sales Office at 785-532-6650.

On the Airwaves
Wednesday’s match can be heard on KMAN 1350 with Rob Voelker calling the action. Live audio feeds can also be heard on 1350kman.com and kstatesports.com. Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.

On the Tube
Fox College Sports will broadcast the match Wednesday as K-StateHD.TV will be sharing its feed with the network. FCS can be found Channel 265 or 2265 on Cox Cable in Kansas, Ch. 623 on DirecTV, Ch. 648 on AT&T U-Verse.

The match will be broadcast on K-State’s online network K-StateHD.TV for fans subscribing to the service.  Live stats will also be available at kstatesports.com provided by CBS GameTracker.

The Series
Iowa State leads the all-time series with K-State 44-36. After the Wildcats tied the series at 36-36, the Cyclones have won the last eight matches with K-State’s last victory coming in 2007. K-State has dominated the Big 12 era, holding a 22-10 advantage.

The Coaches
Kansas State: Suzie Fritz (Florida Atlantic ’94) is in her 12th year as head coach of the Wildcats she is the winningest coach in the program’s history with 232 wins and has taken the team to eight NCAA Tournaments, including three runs to the Regional Semifinals.

Iowa State: Christy Johnson-Lynch (Nebraska ‘96) has taken Iowa State from the bottom of the Big 12 to one of the top programs in the country in a short time. After taking over the program in 2005, the Cyclones have been to the NCAA Tournament all but her first year. Iowa State has made deep runs to the Regional Semifinals four times and advancing to the Regional Final two of those years.

Scouting the Cyclones
Iowa State enters Wednesday’s match looking to keep its winning streak against the Wildcats going, but Iowa State has had an up and down year so far. The Cyclones played one of the most challenging nonconference schedules in the nation this year facing No. 12 Florida State and No. 15 Tennessee at the Lady Vols’ home tournament. Iowa State went 1-2 in the tournament with a win over Cincinnati and followed that with a two-night series against No. 19 Illinois on the road, splitting the two matches.

The Cyclones also have wins over No. 25 Northern Iowa and No. 1 Nebraska at home to their resume. But the win over Nebraska followed a loss to an unranked Syracuse team in five sets on the Cyclones’ home floor. Last week, the Cyclones closed with a sweep of TCU but opened with a 3-2 loss on the road to Kansas, helping the Jayhawks jump into the Top 25 this week.

Senior setter Allison Landwehr is considered one of the top setters in the nation as she earned AVCA All-America First Team status last season. This year is currently ranked third in overall matches in the Big 12 in assists per set and is guiding the Cyclones to a team hitting percentage of .228.

With senior middle blocker Jamie Straube returning along with fellow middle Tenisha Matlock, the Cyclones have traditionally received strong contributions from that position, but this year it is a freshman outside hitter leading the way. Mackenzie Bigbee paces the Cyclones with 3.22 kills per set and is hitting .249. Straube is contributing 2.23 kills on a .282 clip, and Matlock is hitting .294 on 2.04 kills.

Fifth year senior Rachel Hockaday is back to playing all six rotations after playing mostly a back row defensive position last year. She suffered a knee injury in the first match of the 2010 season and received a medical redshirt. She was second on the team in kills as a sophomore in 2009. This year Hockaday is third in kills and second in digs as she is again playing all six rotations.

The Cyclones have been the best defensive team in the Big 12 under Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch as the program has won four straight Big 12 Libero of the Year Awards. This year’s libero, Kristen Hahn has won the last three Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week Awards as she is averaging 4.96 digs per set this season.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
The Wildcats are fresh off a valuable road win in Big 12 Conference play after besting the Baylor Bears in four sets on their home floor Saturday night. K-State’s victory marked the first time the Wildcats had won at the Ferrell Center since 2008. After dropping the first set, junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger took control of the match posting a season-high 23 kills to help lead the team to the win.

K-State hit .255 for the match as a team and played solid defense with 72 digs. Four Wildcats reach double digits in digs, led by senior libero Kuulei Kabalis with 17. Pelger tallied 12 digs to post her fifth double-double of the year, and senior setter Caitlyn Donahue also had a double-double with 57 assists and 10 digs. Tristan McCarty also had 10 digs on the night.

Lilla Porubek and Courtney Traxson joined Pelger with double-digit kills. Porubek pounded out 11 to go with four digs and three blocks. Traxson got hot late in the match coming off the bench to start the third set. In only two sets, she tallied 10 kills on 21 swings to hit .476 for the match. Eight of her kills came in the fourth set alone when the Wildcats rolled with a team hitting percentage of .514 and 21 kills.

Pelger continues to lead the Wildcat offense with 3.77 kills and a .367 hitting percentage. She ranks among the top players in the nation in hitting percentage (47th) as well as points (37th). Pelger is one of only two players in the Big 12 to rank in the top 10 in the conference in overall matches in four statistical categories. She is just outside the top 10 in a fifth as well.

K-State’s offense and defense have both proven to be among the nation’s best this season as well. In addition to the Wildcats hitting .271 as a team to rank 21st in the latest NCAA statistical rankings of the season released Monday, the team is 27th in kills at 14.25 per set and 36th in blocking. Through last week’s matches, the Wildcats are stuffing 2.67 attacks from their opponents this season and have posted 10 or more blocks in five matches. The Wildcats are also posting 13.53 assists per set to rank 17th.

Individually, the Wildcats have some of the top talent in the nation in addition to Pelger. Senior middle blocker Alex Muff has proven to be one of the best at her position defensively as she is currently 19th in the nation in blocks per set, averaging 1.42.

Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue is again one of the leading setters in the Big 12 Conference and the nation. She currently stands 10th on the NCAA list averaging 11.92 assists per set. Her guidance as the setter has helped the Wildcats’ offense rank high in kills and hitting percentage.

Pelger Earns Second Big 12 Player of the Week
K-State middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger continues to prove she is one of the best players in the Big 12 Conference as she helped lead the Wildcats to a pair of wins last week and was named Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.

Pelger opened the week with 13 kills on 20 swings and only one error to hit .600 against new Big 12 member West Virginia. She also added nine digs to just miss out on her fifth double-double of the season as the Wildcats swept the Mountaineers 25-8, 25-19, 25-17. She did get that elusive double-double in Saturday’s match as the Wildcats posted their first road win at Baylor since 2008. K-State won the match 3-1 and Pelger took control blasting out 23 kills for a new season-high, surpassing her previous best of 22 in a five set match. The junior added 12 digs from the back row as she remains one of the few middle blockers in the country to play all six rotations, and she hit .321 for the match.

On the week Pelger averaged an impressive 5.14 kills per set while hitting .397. She also contributed 3.00 digs per set. She is one of only two players in the Big 12 to rank in the top 10 in four different statistical categories in overall matches. In conference play she is leading kills per set by nearly half a kill.

K-State Ranked No. 14
The Wildcats moved up one spot in this week’s AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll after posting wins over West Virginia and Baylor in Big 12 Conference action. BYU fell to K-State nonconference opponent St. Mary’s, allowing a number of teams to bump up one spot. After the best start in school history at 12-0, K-State climbed to No. 11 two week ago but still remain among the top teams in the country. The No. 11 ranking was the highest the Wildcats had been ranked since being No. 11 on Nov. 26, 2007.

Four Big 12 teams are now ranked with Kansas crashing the Top 25 at No. 24 this week after defeating then-No. 19 Iowa State in Lawrence. Texas holds steady again this week at No. 9, and Iowa State dropped three spots to No. 22. Oklahoma is the leading vote getter outside the Top 25 for the second straight week.

A number of K-State’s nonconference foes are among the top teams as well. Minnesota and Dayton are still ranked with the Golden Gophers climbing holding onto No. 10 and Dayton climbing two spots for the second straight week up to No. 18. Two more of K-State’s nonconference opponents are receiving votes. Oregon State is just outside the Top 25 behind OU with 63 points in the poll. After defeating two ranked opponents last week, St. Mary’s is now listed among the teams receiving votes as well. Creighton is no longer listed after losing to Southern Illinois.

Elite Company
K-State’s football team is a perfect 4-0 and ranked No. 7 heading following a victory on the road over No. 6 Oklahoma. With K-State’s No. 14-ranked volleyball team at 15-1, the Wildcats join only 11 other schools that can boast the same accomplishment so far with their football and volleyball teams ranked.

The Wildcats are one of two Big 12 schools to have football and volleyball both ranked. The Pac-12 has the most at five schools. Oregon is the only school with both team in the Top 10 as each is ranked No. 2.

Cleaning Up
K-State is off to a great start to the season at 15-1, but the way the Wildcats have been winning is just as impressive. A total of 12 of those victories have been 3-0 sweeps of their opponents. That total already surpasses last year’s eight sweeps and is the most by any team in the nation so far, tied with St. John’s. Seven teams have 11 sweeps, including some of the best teams in the country like No. 1 Penn State, No. 2 Oregon and No. 16 BYU.

The 3-0 sweeps have come against strong competition as well. The Wildcats swept Creighton on the Bluejays’ home court while the team was receiving votes in the poll. K-State swept 2011 NCAA Tournament teams Missouri State and Tulsa, as well as No. 20 Dayton. Some opponents K-State swept earlier in the season have responded with signature wins as well. Oregon State defeated No. 2 Penn State in five sets, and Syracuse bested No. 23 Iowa State on the Cyclones’ home floor. St. Mary’s defeated two ranked opponents last week in then-No. 18 Pepperdine and No. 11 BYU.

Singled Out
The Wildcats did something they have never accomplished in that sweep over West Virginia on Thursday night. K-State held the Mountaineers to just eight points in the first set. It is the first time in the rally scoring era K-State has kept a conference foe from scoring double digits in a non-fifth set. It also is the first time the Wildcats have held any opponent under 10 points in rally scoring since Cornell in 2008.

In the 25-8 win to open the match, the Wildcats went on a 12-0 run while Donahue went on a long serving run, which included a pair of back-to-back aces. After West Virginia was able to stop the run, the Mountaineers found themselves down 22-6. West Virginia hit -.133 in the set as the Wildcats stuffed three blocks and the Mountaineers had four more unforced attack errors in addition to a pair of service errors.

Pelger Honored by AVCA
After helping the K-State volleyball team win the Golden Hurricane Classic and defeat to ranked teams two weeks ago at Tulsa, junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger was selected as the AVCA National Player of the Week. Pelger averaged 4.18 kills while hitting .440 in victories over Tulsa, No. 10 Minnesota and No. 20 Dayton to earn the award. In addition to her kills and hit hitting percentage for the weekend, Pelger added 2.45 digs per set and 1.09 blocks and her five aces led the team.

Pelger is the first Wildcat since Dawn Cady in 1999 to receive the nation’s top player of the week award after Cady guided the Wildcats to their first-ever win over Nebraska. This is the fourth AVCA National Player of the Week in K-State history with Kate DeClerk winning it in 1995 and again in 1996.

Pelger Named Big 12 Player of the Week
K-State won what was tabbed by many as the top tournament in the nation that week on the schedule claiming three wins at the Golden Hurricane Classic in Tulsa, and junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger walked away with tournament MVP honors and was also recognized by the Big 12 Conference as the Offensive Player of the Week.

Pelger played a major role in defeating ranked opponents in back-to-back matches for the first time in school history as the Wildcats bested No. 10 Minnesota in five sets on and followed that win with a victory over No. 20 Dayton at arguably the top nonconference tournament in the nation that week.

Pelger opened the tournament with a double-double as she posted 11 kills on a .455 hitting percentage to go with 12 digs against Tulsa. She also was in on five block assists as the Wildcats stuffed Tulsa for 14.5 blocks, the fourth straight match K-State posted 10 or more blocks.

Against the Golden Gophers, Pelger played a huge role down the stretch as she led the team with 16 kills. She also added nine digs, five blocks and three aces. Four of her kills came in the shortened fifth set alone as K-State hit an amazing .818 as a team with nine kills and no errors to dominate Minnesota in the deciding set. To close the weekend, Pelger put on a show against No. 20 Dayton.

The middle blocker pounded out 19 kills and hit an impressive .654 to roll over the Flyers. Pelger opened the match with eight kills on nine swings in the first set. Against Dayton, Pelger also had six digs, two blocks and a pair of aces. For the weekend she averaged 4.18 kills per set while hitting .440 against some of the top teams in the nation. Pelger added 2.45 digs and 1.09 blocks and her five aces led the team.

This is Pelger’s first Big 12 Player of the Week award this season and her fourth overall, receiving Rookie of the Week once in 2010 and Offensive Player of the Week twice last season. Kristen Hahn earned Defensive Player of the Week for Iowa State as the libero helped the Cyclones defeat No. 1 Nebraska on Saturday, and Nikki Attea was named the Rookie of the Week for West Virginia.

Packed with Purple
K-State fans have traditionally made Ahearn Field House one of the greatest venues and atmospheres in the Big 12 Conference. In 2011, fans packed Ahearn with purple averaging more than 1,500 per match and ranked No. 22 in the nation. The 2012 season as been no different with the Wildcats ranked No. 18 in this week’s NCAA attendance report, averaging more than 1,600 per match.

More than 2,700 fans packed the stands at Ahearn for the season opener against UC Irvine and following the match Suzie Fritz again praised the fans and said K-State is one of the best atmospheres to play in all the country. For the final match of opening weekend more than 1,500 faithful came out to watch a come-from-behind victory over Oregon State to average 1,755 for the three matches at the Varney’s Invitational.

Last Thursday 1,912 fans came to Ahearn Field House to welcome West Virginia to the Big 12 Conference. The Wildcats swept the Mountaineers and the large crowd brought the season average attendance to more than 1,600 fans. Two weeks ago, nearly 1,600 fans came to see the Wildcats sweep Nebraska-Omaha, and nearly 2,000 fans took advantage of the Wildcat Weekend ticket special to see a victory over Utah State after watching the football team defeat Miami earlier in the day on Sept. 8.

This year more renovations have been done to Ahearn Field House to enhance the atmosphere. The entire balcony seating area has been painted purple and white. The railings have all been converted from cream to white and the bleachers are now K-State Purple instead of brown. Along with the seating renovations and Powercat banner installed over the previous two years, Ahearn Field House is now truly home to the Purple and the White. A new media center has been installed as well for journalists to cover matches for their respective media outlets.

Redesigned banners have been hung in Ahearn as well replacing the older ones. The traditional style banners commemorate the winning tradition at K-State, displaying all 13 NCAA Tournament banners, All-Americans and the 2003 Big 12 Championship.

Family Business
The Kansas State volleyball team has been run like a family under the direction of Suzie Fritz, and it can be seen on the roster as well. Senior middle blocker Alex Muff is a second generation Wildcat student-athlete as her father Kevin played basketball at K-State.

Junior outside hitter Courtney Traxson also is a Wildcat legacy. Her aunt Helen Bundy-Buchanan lettered for the K-State volleyball team in the mid-1980s and her older brother Cameron threw javelin for the Wildcat track and field team and her mother Patty also participated in track and field for the Wildcats.

Junior outside hitter Dakota Kaufman is the cousin of former Wildcat JuliAnne Chisholm as the two were able to play together last season after pairing up at Hillsboro High School for one season as well.

Junior defensive specialist Tristan McCarty’s rounds out the K-State family tree as her cousin Cory Boulanger threw javelin for the Wildcats.

One more Wildcat has family connections to the program. Outside hitter Lilla Porubek’s mother played professional volleyball in Europe with former Wildcat All-American Valli Hejjas in professional beach volleyball.