Wildcats Set to Take on Texas Tech

Alex Muff

Oct. 7, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State volleyball team is looking to bounce back from two straight losses as the Wildcats travel to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday a 1 p.m. The Wildcats have dominated the series, but the Red Raiders are much improved this year under new head coach Don Flora as the team has already won more matches this season than it did the previous three combined.

K-State will have to find a way to slow down Tech’s go-to player Amanda Dowdy. The outside hitter has been the focal point of the Red Raider offense her entire career at Tech, and she is again among the top hitters in the Big 12 Conference. The Wildcats also must deal with the best block in the league as the Raiders are No. 1 in the Big 12 averaging 3.04 blocks per set.

The Wildcats are eyeing a win to snap the slight losing skid as the team has not lost three matches in a row yet this season. Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek has led the team in kills each of the last two matches as she has found her stroke and averaged 3.83 kills per set in those matches. Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger continues to lead the league in kills and junior opposite Kathleen Ludwig has had a bit of a resurgence of late to make a large contribution to the team’s success.

A win for K-State would help keep the Wildcats in the top half of the Big 12 standings while Tech is looking for its first league win of the season. The Red Raiders opened league play with back-to-back matches against ranked opponents before falling to Baylor on Wednesday.

On the Airwaves
Saturday’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.

Saturday’s match will have be available to fans subscribing to K-StateHD.TV as Texas Tech has agreed to share its own RaiderVision feed with K-State Athletics. Fans can subscribe to K-StateHD.TV for a monthly fee of $9.95 or an annual fee of $79.95. There will also be free audio of KMAN’s broadcast available at kstatesports.com. Live stats provided by CBS GameTracker may also be found on kstatesports.com and texastech.com

The Series
K-State leads the all-time series against Texas Tech 26-8 as the Wildcats have won the last 12 matches. The Wildcats have dominated the series and never lost back-to-back matches to the Red Raiders. Suzie Fritz is 18-2 against Tech with one loss at home and on the road. Her only road loss to Tech came in 2001, her first year as head coach of the Wildcats.

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 208-121 gives her a winning percentage of .632.

Texas Tech: Don Flora (La Verne ‘90) is in his first year leading the Red Raiders and he has turned the program around quickly. After combing to win 10 matches over the last three years, Flora has Tech at 14-4 midway through his first year with the team.  

Scouting the Red Raiders
Texas Tech has responded to Head Coach Don Flora in his first year leading the program. The Red Raiders are 14-4 entering this weekend’s match after the team won a total of just 10 matches from 2008-10. Tech is still searching for its first conference win of the season after a tough opening against No. 25 Oklahoma and No. 16 Iowa State. On Wednesday, the Raiders fell on the road to Baylor.

The Raiders are led by outside hitter Amanda Dowdy. The senior is the team’s top offensive weapon and also plays a key role defensively as she also leads the team in digs - a rarity for her position in the libero era. Dowdy pounds out an impressive 4.03 kills a set to rank third in the conference. Her 3.92 digs also put her fifth in the league. Her dig numbers are even better in conference play as she is putting up 4.82 digs a set.

Texas Tech is the top blocking team in the conference with an average of 3.04 per set overall. The Raiders’ mark of 2.36 in league action ranks third just behind K-State’s 2.39. Tech has four players averaging more than a kill per set this season with three of them ranking in the top 10 in the Big 12. That strong block has helped limit Tech’s opponents to a hitting percentage of just .106, which ranks atop the league.

In Wednesday’s loss, Tech struggled to slow down Baylor’s middle blockers as both Torri Campbell and Brianna Tolbert each hit more than .450. Campbell tallied 11 kills on a .476 hitting clip and Tolbert posted 15 kills and a .583 percentage. The Bears hit .260 for the match in the sweep.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
K-State is currently 13-5 on the year after dropping its last two matches following a nine-match winning streak. The Wildcats have not lost three matches in a row yet this season and are facing a team they have had much success against on Saturday.

The Wildcats’ most recent loss on Wednesday came at the hands of the No. 16 Iowa State Cyclones. Iowa State got the sweep in three sets, but all three sets were tightly contested as two of them were decided by the minimum two points. K-State kept it close with the Cyclones with backup setter Ashley Kelican getting the starting nod and playing the entire match in place of Caitlyn Donahue.

Kelican shined in her first extensive action of the season with a career-high 31 assists. She also had a career-high eight digs to just miss out on a double-double. Kelican also posted four blocks in the loss, including a solo stop against one of Iowa State’s top hitters.

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 has led the team in kills each of the last two matches. Ludwig has found a rhythm of late with a season-high 15 kills at Missouri and put together another complete performance against Iowa State.

The Wildcats are leading the league in kills (14.36) in league play thanks in part to the pair of Pelger and Porubek. Pelger leads the league in kills overall (4.59) and is third in league play (4.07). Porubek has improved her kill production steadily of late and is now seventh overall (3.31) and fourth in conference play (4.00) 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 4.59 kills per set through 18 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 .325 and ranks seventh 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 2.68 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 4.26. In terms of total kills, Missouri’s Lisa Henning has 279 total kills, which is 24 behind Pelger, and she has reached that total after playing eight 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 3.31 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 23 against Missouri. 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 0.25 aces per set after posting two at Missouri. She also came up with a big solo block at Missouri to hold the momentum at a key point during the match.

Porubek has led the team in kills each of the last two matches and put together one of her most consistent performances of the season last Saturday at Texas A&M as she pounded out 12 kills. She also hit .476 for her 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 its recent nine-match winning streak. She has continued that strong production as Ludwig is averaging 2.37 kills per set and hitting .241 on the year.

On Wednesday, Ludwig tallied 10 kills on a .364 hitting percentage in the loss to Iowa State. She also added six digs and a pair of aces. 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.