Wildcats Face Horned Frogs for First Time

Lilla Porubek

Oct. 12, 2012

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State volleyball will face an unfamiliar foe on Saturday as the Wildcats take on the TCU Horned Frog for the first time. With the Horned Frog joining the Big 12 Conference this year, TCU is an unfamiliar opponent to many of the teams in the league, but K-State and TCU have never met before this weekend. First serve is set for 1 p.m. from Fort Worth.

The Wildcats and Horned Frogs will both be well rested with each team receiving one of its midweek byes in the conference schedule this week. Both teams have had all week to prepare for their only match and slowing down the other’s offense with the Wildcats and Horned Frogs among the most efficient attacks in the conference so far this season.

K-State and TCU are both looking to get back on the winning track with the Wildcats falling at home on Saturday to No. 9 Texas. The Horned Frogs have dropped three straight matches to Iowa State, Texas and Oklahoma after opening league action with victories over West Virginia and Texas Tech.

TCU went 11-2 during nonconference play winning nine matches in a row at one point. All five of the Horned Frogs’ losses have come to teams that went to the NCAA Tournament last year, three of which were ranked at the time.

On the Airwaves
Saturday’s match can be heard online only at kstatesports.com and 1350kman.com due to coverage of K-State’s football game against Iowa State on KMAN 1350.  Rob Voelker will be calling the volleyball action and pregame coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.

TCU has agreed with K-StateHD.TV to share its video feed from Frog Vision, allowing fans subscribing to K-State’s online network to be able to watch the match. Live stats will also be available at kstatesports.com and gofrogs.com provided by CBS GameTracker.

The Series
This is the first time K-State and TCU have played each other in volleyball.

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 233 wins and has taken the team to eight NCAA Tournaments, including three runs to the Regional Semifinals.

TCU: Prentice Lewis (Long Beach State ‘95) is in her 11th year leading the Horned Frogs. Last season TCU had its second highest winning percentage in school history going 25-7 after opening the year 13-0. It was the sixth 20-win season under Lewis’ direction. She also took TCU to its first NCAA Tournament in 2009.

Scouting the Horned Frogs
TCU is led by a junior middle blocker similar to K-State. Yvonne Igodan is averaging 3.54 kills per set overall on the season and 2.94 in conference play. She ranks fourth in the conference in hitting percentage at .333 and is fifth in kills overall. Igodan has been slowed in conference play recently as the Horned Frogs have had to face No. 19 Iowa State, No. 9 Texas and an Oklahoma team just outside the AVCA Top 25 their last three matches.

Facing No. 14 K-State on Saturday extends the long stretch of NCAA Tournament teams TCU must play consecutively. TCU enters the contest with a 13-5 record. All five of the losses have come to teams from the 2011 NCAA Tournament, three of which were ranked.

Igodan is not alone in providing points for her team during conference play. Sophomore right side Stephanie Holland has stepped up to average 3.00 kills in Big 12 matches to give the Horned Frogs to players ranked in the top 10 in the league. The pair combined for 21 of TCU’s 49 kills in a 3-0 loss to Oklahoma in their last match.

The Horned Frogs have an experienced setter directing the offense in Megan Munce. The fifth year senior is averaging 9.00 assists per set and adds 2.73 digs. With the setter taking so many digs, libero Meghan Horio is contributing some assists for TCU as well. Munce received AVCA All-America honorable mention in 2009 when she helped guide the Horned Frogs to their first NCAA Tournament. She also was named Mountain West Conference Setter of the Year.

TCU is a strong defensive team ranking second in digs during conference play. The Horned Frogs are led on the back row by Horio, who is posting 4.29 per set herself.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
The Wildcats are coming off only their second loss of the season after falling to No. 9 Texas 0-3. K-State kept it close with the Longhorns in the first set before Texas won seven straight points to win 25-17. The Wildcats also had opportunities to win the second set with multiple set points Texas was able to fight off.

K-State is still ranked among the top teams in the country and boast a 3-1 record against ranked opponents after defeating then-No. 22 Iowa State just days before playing Texas. The Wildcats dominated the match against the Cyclones hitting .417. It marked the highest hitting percentage allowed by Iowa State all season and the highest for K-State against the Cyclones since hitting .348 in 2002. Conversely, K-State held Iowa State to only a .178 hitting percentage, marking the 11th time this season K-State has held its opponent under .200 for the match. The victory also snapped an eight-match losing streak to the Cyclones.

In the loss to Texas, junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger traded blows with Texas star Haley Eckerman. Pelger finished the match with 15 kills while Eckerman had 19. The two were neck and neck heading into the third set before Eckerman and the Longhorns pulled away.

The Wildcats continue to boast an offense and defense that have both proven to be among the nation’s best this season. In addition to the Wildcats hitting .270 as a team through last week’s matches to rank 22nd in the latest NCAA statistical rankings of the season released Monday, the team is 31st in kills at 14.19 per set and 34th in blocking. Through last week’s matches, the Wildcats are stuffing 2.65 attacks from their opponents this season and have posted 10 or more blocks in five matches. The Wildcats are also posting 13.44 assists per set to rank 18th.

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 15th in the nation in blocks per set, averaging 1.46.

Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue is again one of the leading setters in the Big 12 Conference and the nation. She currently stands eighth on the NCAA list averaging 11.86 assists per set. Her guidance as the setter has helped the Wildcats’ offense rank high in kills and hitting percentage.

Thanks to Donahue’s setting, the Wildcats have had fewer errors this season. In the win over Iowa State, the Cyclones had four blocks for the match. Taking those four hitting errors out of K-State’s stats to account for the blocks, the Wildcats hit only two balls out of bounds for unforced errors.

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 two weeks ago and was named Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.

Pelger tallied 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 held steady in this week’s AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll after splitting matches with two ranked opponents at home. Purdue lost to an unranked Iowa team to provide the shuffling in the poll, dropping five spots to No. 17. With the movement, San Diego jumped K-State to take No. 13. After the best start in school history at 12-0, K-State climbed to No. 11 three weeks 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 last week and moving up to No. 21 this week. Texas climbed one spot this week to No. 8, and Iowa State dropped one to No. 23. Oklahoma is listed among the teams also receiving votes.

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 holding onto No. 10 and Dayton remaining at No. 18. Three more of K-State’s nonconference opponents are receiving votes. St. Mary’s is just outside the Top 25 as the third leading vote getter. Oregon State also is still receiving votes and this week Creighton moves back onto the list.

Winning Formula
The NCAA released its updated RPI rankings on Monday, and the computers continue to love the K-State Wildcats. With a 16-2 record entering this week the Wildcats come in at No. 9 in the RPI report, dropping two spots from last week’s first rankings. Similar to basketball, the NCAA selection committee uses RPI as a major factor in determining at-large bids and seeding for the NCAA Tournament. The selection committee only seeds the top 16 teams for the postseason, with regional sites hosted at Purdue, Texas, Cal and in Omaha. The first two rounds of the tournament are played at campus sites to be determined.

Nine of K-State’s opponents are in the Top 50 of the RPI, including three in the top 15 in Texas (8), Minnesota (10) and Kansas (14).

Elite Company
K-State’s football team is a perfect 5-0 and ranked No. 6 following a victory over in-state rival KU. With K-State’s No. 14-ranked volleyball team at 16-2, the Wildcats join only 9 other schools that can boast the same accomplishment so far with their football and volleyball teams ranked.

The Wildcats are one of three Big 12 schools to have football and volleyball both ranked. The Pac-12 also has three schools on the list. Oregon is the only school with both teams in the Top 10 as football is No. 2 and volleyball drops to No. 5 this week.

Cleaning Up
K-State currently stands at 16-2, but the way the Wildcats have been winning is just as impressive. A total of 13 of those victories have been 3-0 sweeps of their opponents. That total already surpasses last year’s eight sweeps and is one shy of the most by any team in the nation so far. Western Kentucky leads NCAA Division I with 14 sweeps and Towson joins K-State with 13. Five other teams have 12 sweeps, including some of the best teams in the country like No. 2 Washington, No. 9 Texas and No. 16 BYU.

The 3-0 sweeps have come against strong competition as well, including No. 22 Iowa State last week. 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, and St. Mary’s has defeated two ranked opponents in then-No. 18 Pepperdine and No. 11 BYU.

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. 17 in this week’s NCAA attendance report, averaging more than 1,800 per match.

More than 3,000 fans packed the stands on Saturday as the Wildcats played host to No. 9 Texas. It marked the first crowd to crack the 3,000 mark since posting two such attendance marks during the 2010 season.

This season started off strong with more than 2,700 fans in attendance 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.

Conference play has seen some of the largest crowds of the season at Ahearn Field House. In the conference home opener 1,912 fans came to Ahearn Field House to welcome West Virginia to the Big 12 Conference. Then against No. 22 Iowa State, fans filled the stands with 2,060 at Ahearn. With Saturday’s attendance of 3,044 against Texas, K-State fans are averaging nearly 2,400 strong during Big 12 matches.

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.

Singled Out
The Wildcats did something they have never accomplished in a sweep over West Virginia two weeks ago. 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.