Wildcats Host No. 16 Iowa State

Tristan McCarty

Oct. 4, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State volleyball team is set to take on its first ranked opponent of the season on Wednesday night when the Wildcats play host to the No. 16 Iowa State Cyclones. The match pits two teams playing strong volleyball midway through the season as K-State is receiving votes in this week’s AVCA Top Coaches Poll for the first time in more than two years. First serve is set for 7 p.m. as the match will be televised on Metro Sports and also will be available throughout the state of Kansas on Cox Communications channel 22.

Wednesday’s match will feature two of the Big 12 Conference’s top players in K-State’s Kaitlynn Pelger and Iowa State’s Carly Jenson. Pelger currently leads the league in kills with a 4.76 kills per set average. Jenson is averaging 3.85 overall. In league action the pair is still among the best with Pelger pounding out 4.32 per set and Jenson coming in at 4.14.

The Wildcats had their nine-match winning streak snapped on Saturday at Texas A&M and are looking to get back on the right track with a victory over the Cyclones. A win would snap a losing streak of six straight matches to Iowa State for the Wildcats as well. K-State has not defeated Iowa State since Oct. 27, 2007, as the Cyclones have taken both matches each of the last three seasons.

Both teams enter the match following their first conference loss of the season as the Cyclones fell to No. 8 Texas at home on Sunday in a dramatic five-set match. K-State and Iowa State are also in a group of four teams jammed near the top of the conference standings with just one loss in league play.

On the Tube
Wednesday’s match can be seen on Metro Sports in the Kansas City area. The network also will share its feed throughout the state of Kansas making the broadcast available on Cox Communications channel 22.

On the Airwaves
Wednesday’s match will be aired live online by 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. Live stats provided by CBS GameTracker may also be found on kstatesports.com.

The Series
Iowa State leads the all-time series against K-State 42-36 as the Cyclones have won the last six matches to take the edge. The Wildcats dominated the series throughout much of the Big 12 era winning 20 straight from 1996-2005. The Cyclones have won eight of the last 10, however, to reclaim the overall series lead.

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 208-120 gives her a winning percentage of .634.

Iowa State: Christy Johnson-Lynch (Nebraska ‘96) is in her seventh year leading the Cyclones where she has taken the program from the bottom of the Big 12 to one of the top in the nation. The Cyclones have been to the NCAA Tournament five straight years missing out only in Lynch’s first season at the helm.

Scouting the Cyclones
Iowa State is coming off a grueling five-set loss to then-No. 8 Texas at home on Sunday. The Cyclones fell 16-25, 25-14, 20-25, 21-25, 8-15 as the Longhorns found a way to slow down Iowa State in the fifth set for the win. The cyclones combined to hit -.056 in the final set while the Longhorns were an efficient .353 to get the win on national television with the match shown on ESPNU.

The Cyclones are led by outside hitter Carly Jenson with an average of 3.85 kills a set. On Sunday, Jenson was slowed by the Longhorns as she tallied only 14 kills and a hitting percentage of .100. She was one of four players to reach double digits in digs as the Cyclones have one of the best defenses in the conference.

Iowa State is second in the Big 12 in digs per set averaging 17.11 overall and 16.07 in league action. Libero Kristen Hahn is putting up 5.00 digs in conference play and 5.48 overall this season. She had 20 in the loss to Texas on Sunday. In a 3-0 win over Kansas last Wednesday, Hahn posted 16 digs.

This season, the Cyclones are again ranked among the top teams in the nation holding steady this week at No. 16 in the AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. Iowa State has also played a challenging schedule with a 3-2 win at No. 9 Florida and losses at No. 15 Northern Iowa and No. 10 Nebraska during nonconference play.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
K-State is currently 13-4 on the year after having its nine-match losing streak snapped on Saturday at Texas A&M. The streak was the longest winning streak for the Wildcats since winning 12 in a row in 2003. 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 bested the streak of nine, which ties for the fifth-longest streak in school history.

In the loss at Texas A&M, Porubek shined with 14 kills over the three sets with a hitting percentage of .476. Lilla Porubek averaged 4.00 kills last week including her 20 kills at Missouri. The win over Missouri and loss to A&M brings K-State’s record to 2-2 against teams receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. The Wildcats also defeated Saint Mary’s and fell to Louisville.

The Wildcats have already surpassed their win total from last season and are looking to add on with the trio Kaitlynn Pelger, Porubek and Kathleen Ludwig leading the attack. Pelger leads the Big 12 in kills and ranks fifth in the nation in the category as well. Porubek also is in the top 10 in the Big 12 for kills and is coming off the first 20-kill match of her career against Missouri. Ludwig has found a rhythm of late with a season-high 15 kills at Missouri as well.

K-State ranks in the top half of the conference three matches into league play in every statistical category except digs. The Wildcats are first in kills per set and second in assists in conference matches.

The Wildcats are leading the league in kills (14.73) thanks in part to the pair of Pelger and Porubek. Pelger leads the league in kills overall (4.67) and is second in league play (4.36). Porubek has improved her kill production steadily of late and is now eighth overall (3.30) and fourth in conference play (4.09) to make K-State one of two teams with two players in the top 10.

Killer Kaitlynn
Kaitlynn Pelger is leading the Big 12 Conference in kills as she is averaging 4.67 kills per set through 17 matches this season. The sophomore middle blocker has already posted seven matches with 20 or more kills, including 32 against Drake and most recently 23 at Missouri last week. Her 32 kills against Drake marked 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 .341 and ranks fourth in the league. Pelger also has seven double-doubles to her name this season as she is playing all six rotations from her middle blocker position and digging 2.62 balls a set to stand second on the team. One of her double-doubles came in the unconventional way with 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 11th in kills per set and third in points (5.73) through last week’s matches trailing only Northern Illinois’ Lauren Wicinksi and Georgia Tech’s Monique Mead. Pelger also ranks in aces (80th, 0.38), blocks (73rd, 1.14) and hitting percentage (75th, .341).

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 4.24. In terms of total kills, Missouri’s Lisa Henning has 263 total kills, which is 31 behind Pelger, and she has reached that total after playing six 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.

Setting the Table
Junior setter Caitlyn Donahue has grown more comfortable in only her second year playing the role, and it is showing. Donahue currently leads the Big 12 in assists per set at 11.41 and has steadily been improving her numbers throughout 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 against Baylor. She backed that up with a career-high 67 assists in the win at Missouri last week.

The Overland Park native is directing the offense to a hitting percentage of .241 to rank fifth in the conference. The team’s kill average of 13.78 is second in the league, and the marks get better in conference play. K-State is averaging an impressive 14.73 kills per set in league play to stand atop the list thanks to the direction of Donahue as she is averaging 12.00 assists in those matches as well.

Donahue is not only the top setter in the league so far this season, she is among the nation’s best. Her average of 11.41 following last week’s matches ranks 17th in the NCAA this season. Of the 16 setters with a higher assists per set average, seven of them are on Top 25 ranked teams. The average team ranking of those 10 setters is 12.3, including No. 4 Cal and No. 5 USC. Donahue moved ahead of the setter for the No. 1 team in the nation this week as Illinois’ Annie Lurhsen is averaging 11.41 but has fewer total assists on the year.

Against Missouri, Donahue reached a new career-high with 67 assists in the victory. She also played a key role defensively in the win with seven digs and three blocks. Donahue got involved on offense as well in the win posting five kills on 10 swings to keep the Tigers honest at the net. 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.

Donahue ranks third on the team in digs per set on the year and has put together a total of six double-doubles as she and middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger both are approaching the top 10 list for most double-doubles in a single season in school history.

“Por”ing it On
Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek has continued where she left off her freshman campaign as she is averaging 3.30 kills per set and ranks eighth in the Big 12. She has posted 10 or more kills in every match but two thus far, including a career-high 23 against Missouri on Wednesday. It was the first 20-kill match of her career. The native of Hungary has become a go-to player for the Wildcats and has lifted her hitting percentage and kills over the last few matches as well to be a more consistent threat for the team. Porubek also is one of the team’s top servers averaging 0.28 aces per set after posting two at Missouri last week. She also came up with a big solo block at Missouri to hold the momentum at a key point during the match.

Porubek had one of her most consistent performances of the season Saturday at Texas A&M as she pounded out 12 kills to lead the team. She also hit .476 for her for a new career-high in a match. The native of Budapest, Hungary, has increased her kill numbers each of the last three weeks to steadily rise up the rankings within the Big 12.

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 nine-match winning streak. Ludwig is averaging 2.31 kills per set and hitting .233 on the year.

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. She backed that up with a season-high 15 kills at Missouri on a .256 hitting percentage in the five-set match. She posted her second double-double of the year with 12 digs and also had six block assists. Her increased production has opened up hitting lanes for her teammates as Kaitlynn Pelger and Lilla Porubek have each seen increased kill production during Ludwig’s resurgence.

Repeat Performance
Kaitlynn Pelger was recognized for her prowess on the court being named Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks. Pelger received the honor the first time on Sept. 19 after averaging 5.19 kills per set over four matches. She then received the award the following week (9/26) 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.

Packed with Purple
Ahearn Field House is again rocking in 2011 with an average attendance of more than 1,200 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.

Kuulei Can Play
Junior college transfer Kuulei Kabalis has earned the starting libero spot for the Wildcats and is averaging 3.52 digs per set so far this season. The native Hawaiian tallied 20 digs in the win over Creighton for her first 20-dig match as a Wildcat and had a new career-high of 23 at Missouri last week. Kabalis showed she can produce in a win over South Dakota State as she tallied 16 digs in the 3-0 win. Kabalis has tallied 15 or more digs five times this season. She also has proven to be one of the team’s top servers to keep teams off balance. Kabalis is third on the team in aces and had three in the win over Hofstra. Kabalis also is the first player in the program’s history from Hawai’i.