Wildcats Host Dig Pink Match Saturday

Tristan McCarty and Kathleen Ludwig

Oct. 19, 2012

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The No. 14 K-State Wildcats return home Saturday to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders at 3 p.m. from Ahearn Field House. K-State is asking fans to show their support for Dig Pink and Breast Cancer Awareness Month by wearing pink to the match. The Wildcats will be wearing pink warmups prior to the match. Last season, the players wore pink bows in their hair as well.

K-State (17-3, 4-3) is looking to rebound after losing to in-state rival Kansas on Wednesday night on the road. The Red Raiders (12-11, 1-6) are hoping to snap a 14-match losing streak to the Wildcats. The last win for Tech in the series came in 2004 in a dramatic five-set match in Ahearn.

The Wildcats are 9-1 at home this season where fans have packed Ahearn Field House with more than 1,800 fans per match to rank 20th in the nation in attendance. In conference play, K-State has seen crowds over 1,900 for all three home matches, including  more than 3,000 to see No. 9 Texas take on K-State. This will be K-State’s first home match since playing Texas two weeks ago.

As part of the Dig Pink event, fans can receive pink Point Cats signs at the Fan Experience and Sales gazebo before the match. Various health care organizations will be on hand with information on breast cancer available  for fans during pre-game.

K-State is also offering free youth general admission tickets to Saturday’s match with the purchase of an adult ticket. It also is Cheney Community Day with $3 tickets available to fans from junior outside hitter Courtney Traxson’s hometown. For information on a promo code to purchase Cheney Community Day tickets please call 785-532-6650.

On the Airwaves
Saturday’s match can be heard exclusively online at kstatesports.com with 1350 KMAN’s Rob Voelker calling the action. The match will not be available over the airwaves due to pregame coverage of the K-State at West Virginia football game.

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

The Series
K-State leads the all-time series at 28-8 and has claimed eacthe last 14 meetings. The Wildcats have not lost to the Red Raiders since 2004. Head Coach Suzie Fritz is 20-2 against Tech.

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.

Texas Tech: Don Flora (La Verne ‘90) is in his second year leading the Red Raiders where he is looking to build Tech back into a winning program. The Red Raiders have not had a winning season since 2001 and Flora had his team 15-17 in his first year in Lubbock.

Scouting the Red Raiders
Texas Tech has the task of replacing four-year star Amanda Dowdy who ended her career ranked second in kills in school history. The kills this season have been spread around to two main threats on offense in Emily Ehrle and Miara Cave.

Ehrle is a freshman outside hitter who has stepped up early for the Red Raiders averaging 2.49 kills per set overall and 2.12 in conference play. Cave is a senior right side averaging 2.62 kills in Big 12 action to lead the team.

Tech’s roster is young with nine freshman on the team and seven sophomores. The Red Raiders have just four upperclassmen on the team with two seniors in Cave and defensive specialist Tory Vaughan.

The Red Raiders dropped their most recent conference match to the Oklahoma Sooners at home on Wednesday night. The Sooners got the win in three sets, but all three were tight contests. With a young roster, Tech went to the bench and 15 players saw action in the loss with valuable experience being gained.

Two setters see action from the Red Raiders with freshman Emily Ruetter getting the majority of the assists. Sophomore Nicole Hragyil also is contributing for Tech at the position.

Tech is 1-6 in conference play this year with a win over West Virginia on the road last weekend. The Red Raiders hit .236 as a team in the victory with Cave posting 15 kills on a .303 clip herself. Meghan Stacy tallied 10 kills off the bench and hit .296.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
The Wildcats are now 4-3 in Big 12 Conference play after falling to in-state rival Kansas on Wednesday night in the Dillons Sunflower Showdown. It marked the first time in the history of the series both teams were ranked they played each other. The No. 21 Jayhawks got the best of the Wildcats with 18 blocks playing a major role in the win for KU. It was the most blocks allowed by K-State this season.

Senior opposite Kathleen Ludwig had her best match of the season as she tallied a season-best 17 kills, just one shy of her career-high. She hit .366 for the match and added seven digs defensively. Three other players were in double digits with Kaitlynn Pelger adding 15 kills and six digs. Lilla Porubek had 12 kills and seven digs and Alex Muff contributed 10 kills.

K-State’s back row saw strong play from libero Kuulei Kabalis and defensive specialist Tristan McCarty. Kabalis posted 17 digs to tie her season-best and McCarty contributed 13 digs.

The Wildcats are now 17-3 on the year, which is the best record through 20 matches since 2008 when the team also went 17-3. Two other times K-State has opened a season at 17-3 (2003 and 1996). The best start to a season came in the AIAW era when the Wildcats went 18-1-1 in 1977.

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 in the NCAA’s latest statstics report on Monday. 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.

Hot Hand
Senior middle blocker Alex Muff has been one of the top blockers in the Big 12 Conference her entire career, and now she is adding more offense to her numbers in her final year with the Wildcats. Muff is averaging 2.26 kills per set in conference play this season, adding nearly a full kill per set more than her three previous years in league play. She also is hitting .292 to rank second on the team in that category.

Muff has posted three straight matches with 10 or more kills and hit .317 over that span. Before this season, she had only nine matches with 10 or more kills. She posted 10 kills and hit .353 against the No. 9 Texas Longhorns to start the streak and followed it with 10 kills on a .400 clip at TCU the next week. She also had six blocks at TCU. Against Kansas on Wednesday, Muff again had 10 kills. Muff has added another consistent weapon for the Wildcats to go to in conference play thanks to her newfound firepower at the net.

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 17-3, 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. No. 1 Penn State, No. 8 Texas, No. 16 BYU and Towson are right behind K-State with 13 3-0 victories. Six other teams have 12 sweeps, including some of the best teams in the country like No. 3 Oregon, No. 5 Washington and No. 7 USC.

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.