Ranked Rivals to Play Sunflower Showdown

Alex Muff

Oct. 16, 2012

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The rivalry between K-State and Kansas goes back generations, but Wednesday night will mark something that has never happened in the long history of the Dillons Sunflower Showdown. Wednesday’s volleyball match will be the first time both teams are ranked when they face each other as the No. 14 Wildcats travel to Lawrence to take on the No. 21 Jayhawks at 6:30 p.m.

K-State (17-2, 4-2) entered the season at No. 22 in the AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll and has climbed as high as No. 11 this year with a strong nonconference showing and now a 4-2 record in Big 12 play. KU (17-3, 5-1) on the other hand, has climbed into the poll recently thanks to a strong showing during nonconference play losing only to Arkansas and Notre Dame, both on the road. The Jayhawks then won their first five conference matches before falling to No. 9 Texas on Saturday.

The Wildcats will be looking to hand their rivals their first loss of the season on their home floor. The Jayhawks are a perfect 10-0 at home this season with victories over NCAA Tournament teams Tulsa, Creighton and No. 19 Iowa State. It will be a full house at Horejsi Family Athletics Center as KU has announced a sell out as well.

It will be another battle of middle blockers with KU’s Caroline Jarmoc and K-State’s Kaitlynn Pelger representing the only two players in the Big 12 Conference to rank in the top 10 in four different statistical categories in the league. Jarmoc leads the league in hitting percentage while Pelger is third, and conversely Pelger is second in kills per set with Jarmoc ranking third. In conference action, Pelger ranks first in both categories.

On the Tube
The Dillons Sunflower Showdown will be broadcast by Metro Sports at 6:30 p.m. with Nick McCabe and Jill Dorsey-Hall calling the action. Check your local listings for availability.

On the Airwaves
Wednesday’s match can be heard live on 1350 KMAN with Rob Voelker calling the action. Pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m. It will also be online at 1350kman.com and kstatesports.com.

Live stats will be available at kstatesports.com and kuathletics.com provided by CBS GameTracker.

The Series
K-State leads the all-time series at 62-41-1 and claimed each of the last four meetings. Head Coach Suzie Fritz is 18-4 against KU and the Wildcats lead the series during the Big 12 era 28-4. Wednesday’s match marks the first time both teams are ranked in the Top 25 when they face each other.

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

Kansas: Ray Bechard (Fort Hays State ‘80) is in his 15th year leading the Jayhawks. He has the team looking for a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since back-to-back-back trips from 2003 through 2005.

Scouting the Jayhawks
KU is looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005 after making three straight trips. The Jayhawks are currently ranked No. 21 in the latest AVCA Poll and hold the No. 13 RPI in this week’s NCAA statistics report with KU holding a 3-3 record against teams in the RPI Top 50.

The Jayhawks have had winning streaks of six and nine matches this season and dropped their first conference match this weekend when they fell on the road to No. 9 Texas in three sets. Those winning streaks have helped KU move into the AVCA Top 25 for the first time since 2004. The Jayhawks have a number of quality wins to earn that ranking with a 4-1 record against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the poll this season.

Junior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc leads the way for the Jayhawks as she is one of the top players in the Big 12 this season. She is one of only two players to rank in the top 10 overall in the Big 12 in four statistical categories. She is averaging 3.55 kills per set to rank third in the conference but has been slowed to 2.84 kills in conference play, which ranks ninth. She has been very efficient this season with a hitting percentage of .389 and stands 28th in the NCAA this year.

In conference play, Manhattan native Catherine Carmichael leas the Jayhawks with 3.40 kills per set and sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton is not far behind Jarmoc with 2.75 kills in league action.

Defensively, KU is one of the top teams in the league averaging 16.04 digs per set to rank second in Big 12 matches. Junior libero Brianne Riley is second in the league in digs. In KU’s 3-2 victory at Oklahoma, Riley set a school record with 43 digs and earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
The Wildcats had one of their most efficient performances of the season last week when they swept the TCU Horned Frogs. In their first-ever meeting with TCU, the Wildcats hit .337 to get their 14th sweep of the season. Three Wildcats tallied double digits in kills and hit at least .400.

K-State also served its way to the win over TCU with a season-high 11 aces to shutdown the Horned Frogs. Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue posted four aces for the most in her career. Senior Kathleen Ludwig and junior Lilla Porubek also each had two aces. A total of six Wildcats played a part in getting those 11 aces. The Wildcats have reached double digits in aces twice this season and both times were in 3-0 sweeps.

K-State is still ranked among the top teams in the country in the polls and have the stats to back it up. The Wildcats are 48th in aces after the 11-ace performance at TCU, now averaging 1.45 per set. With Donahue directing the offense the team is 16th in the NCAA in assists per set, 17th in hitting percentage and 28th in kills. Defensively, K-State is stuffing its opponents with 2.65 blocks per set to rank 35th in the nation.

The Wildcats are posting those strong numbers thanks to a number of individuals having great seasons for the team. Donahue ranks eighth in the NCAA in assists and in league play leads the conference by more than a full assist per set. She also has seven double-doubles on the year. Senior Alex Muff is one of the best blockers in K-State history and is showing it by ranking 15th in the nation this season at 1.49 per set. Lastly, junior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger is 46th in hitting percentage at .368 and 32nd in points while standing just outside the top 50 in kills per set.

K-State Ranked No. 14
The Wildcats held steady in this week’s AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll again after winning their only match at TCU last week. After the best start in school history at 12-0, K-State climbed to No. 11 four 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 ranked with Kansas crashing the Top 25 two weeks ago and moving up to No. 21. Texas climbed one spot this week to No. 8, and Iowa State also jumped one spot to No. 22. 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. Creighton and Oregon State are also on the list of teams receiving votes and this week.

Triple Threat
In Saturday’s win at TCU the Wildcats accomplished a rare feat. K-State had three players reach double digits in kills, and all three of those players hit at least .400 for the match. The combination of Kaitlynn Pelger, Lilla Porubek and Alex Muff provided the firepower for the victory and did so in commanding fashion. Pelger led the way with 12 kills on a .476 hitting clip. Porubek tallied 11 kills on .409 hitting and Muff added 10 kills to go with her hitting percentage of .400. All three had just two errors apiece.

It is the first time since playing South Dakota State at the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational (Sept. 10) last year the Wildcats had this type of performance. Against the Jack Rabbits, it was Pelger (15K, .667), Porubek (16K, .433) and Dakota Kaufman (11K, .500) that provided the spark.

Winning Formula
The NCAA released its updated RPI rankings on Monday, and the computers continue to love the K-State Wildcats. With a 17-2 record entering this week the Wildcats stay at No. 9 in the latest RPI report. 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 20 in Texas (4), Minnesota (10), Kansas (13) and Oklahoma (19).

Elite Company
K-State’s football team is a perfect 6-0 and ranked No. 4 following a victory over No. 25 Iowa State this weekend. With K-State’s No. 14-ranked volleyball team at 17-2, the Wildcats join only seven other schools that can boast the same accomplishment so far with their football and volleyball teams ranked.

The Wildcats are the lone Big 12 school with  to have football and volleyball both ranked as Texas and Iowa State both saw their football teams drop out of the Top 25 this week. The Pac-12 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 17-2, but the way the Wildcats have been winning is just as impressive. A total of 14 of those victories have been 3-0 sweeps of their opponents. That total already far 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 15 sweeps. Towson and No. 8 Texas are right behind K-State with 13 3-0 victories. Seven other teams have 12 sweeps, including some of the best teams in the country like No. 1 Penn State, No. 3 Oregon, No. 5 Washington, No. 7 USC and No. 16 BYU.

The 3-0 sweeps have come against strong competition as well, including then-No. 22 Iowa State. 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 even better with the Wildcats ranked No. 20 in this week’s NCAA attendance report, averaging more than 1,800 per match.

More than 3,000 fans packed the stands last 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 an 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.