Wildcats Ready to Battle Bears

Courtney Traxson

Oct. 28, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State volleyball hits the road this weekend to take on the Baylor Bears in a match that will hold much value in terms of conference standings at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Wildcats are currently in fifth place and two games ahead of Baylor in the Big 12 standings. A win could help further separate the Wildcats and create a gap to help ensure they stay in the hunt to finish in the top half of the conference by season’s end.

The Wildcats opened Big 12 play this season against the Bears with a win at home in three sets. K-State snapped a four-match losing streak to the Bears with that victory, and now they look to get their first win in Waco, Texas, since 2008. The last time K-State won in the Ferrell Center, it went five sets after the Wildcats battled back losing the first two sets. The fifth set went to extra points before the Wildcats got the win 21-19.

Baylor is hoping to get back in the win column after falling on the road Wednesday night to Texas Tech in five sets. The Bears dominated the fourth set 25-10, but the Red Raiders battled with them in the fifth to win 15-13. It marked Tech’s first Big 12 win of the season and just the fourth in the last five seasons as first-year head coach Don Flora is trying to turn the program around in Lubbock.

Baylor has lost only twice on its home floor this season with both of those coming to ranked teams. The Bears fell to then-No. 25 Oklahoma to open Big 12 play on Sept. 21. Baylor did claim the second set against No. 10 Texas last week but fell in four sets.

On the Airwaves
Saturday’s match will be aired live by KMAN 1350 with Rob Voelker calling the action and also is available for free at kstatesports.com.

Baylor will be providing K-State with its online video feed so subscribers to K-StateHD.TV may watch the match online. Fans can subscribe to K-StateHD.TV for a monthly fee of $9.95 or annually for $79.95. Live online video also will be available on Baylor All-Access through baylorbears.com. Live stats provided by CBS GameTracker may also be found on kstatesports.com and baylorbears.com. The audio broadcast will be available at kstatesports.com as well.

The Series
Kansas State leads the all-time series against Baylor 22-10. The two teams only met once prior to the inception of the Big 12 Conference. K-State snapped a four-match losing streak against Baylor in the first matchup this year in Manhattan. K-State has not won in Waco since 2008 when the Wildcats won in a dramatic 21-19 fifth set after dropping the first two sets.

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 210-123 gives her a winning percentage of .631.

Baylor: Jim Barnes (McNeese State ‘94) is in his eighth year leading the Bears where he as accumulated a record of 132-115 and took Baylor to the Regional Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament in 2009. Prior to coaching at Baylor he saw success at Wyoming and Lamar.

Scouting the Bears
Baylor is coming off a loss to Texas Tech on Wednesday that saw the Red Raiders tally their first conference win of the season. The Bears fell in five sets on the road to remain winless on the road in conference action.

The Bears rely on a pair of middle blockers in Briana Tolbert and Torri Campbell to provide much of their offense. Tolbert is averaging 2.77 kills per set to lead the team and has the highest hitting percentage as well at .340. Campbell posts 2.70 kills on a .291 hitting clip. Tolbert and Campbell also are the team’s top two blockers averaging 0.94 and 0.91, respectively. Three other Bears average more than 2.00 kills a set.

Baylor is again one of the top defensive teams in the Big12 this season averaging 17.53 digs per set to rank second in the league. In conference play, Baylor is posting more than 18.00 digs a set to stand atop the league. Libero Allison King is second in the conference individually at 5.01 digs. She ranks fourth in Big 12 history in career digs with a total of 1,898 as she surpassed former Wildcat Lauren Mathewson this season.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
K-State is 16-7 on the year after besting Missouri in five sets on Wednesday night at home. The win began to separate K-State from the teams below the Wildcats in the conference standings creating a two-game lead over sixth place with seven matches remaining.

Junior setter Caitlyn Donahue highlighted the win over Missouri as she posted the first triple-double of her career with 48 assists, 16 digs and 10 kills. It was the 18th triple-double in school history and the first since Gabby Guerre posted her fifth triple-double on Nov. 3, 2004 at Iowa State. Donahue notched the triple-double early on in the fourth set of the 3-2 win with her 10th kill.

The win also saw sophomore middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger continue her strong play with her ninth 20-kill match of the season. It also was her 10th double-double as she tallied 19 digs to just miss the rare 20-20 double-double, which has not been accomplished by a Wildcat since 2000.

Four Wildcats reached double digits in digs as libero Kuulei Kabalis led with 22 digs and Tristan McCarty added 10 to the winning effort. The block also was solid for K-State on the defensive front with 13 total blocks against the Tigers. Junior middle blocker Alex Muff was strong at the net with seven block assists.

Pelger is still one of the top players in the league as she is contributing significant numbers in nearly every statistical category. She is second in the league in kills during conference play (4.27) and leads overall (4.55). Lilla Porubek has improved her kill production steadily of late to now stand eighth overall (3.28) and seventh in conference play (3.52). As a team, K-State is third in the league during conference play averaging 13.97 kills and 12.91 assists to rank third.

Killer Kaitlynn
Kaitlynn Pelger is leading the Big 12 Conference in kills as she is averaging 4.55 kills per set through 23 matches this season. The sophomore middle blocker has already posted nine matches with 20 or more kills, including 32 against Drake and most recently 20 against Missouri on Wednesday. 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 .328 and ranks seventh in the league. Pelger also has 10 double-doubles to her name this season as she is playing all six rotations from her middle blocker position and digging 2.82 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 four of seven categories. She ranks 11th in kills per set and third in points (5.63) through last week’s matches trailing only Northern Illinois’ Lauren Wicinksi and Georgia Tech’s Monique Mead. Pelger also ranks in blocks (74th, 1.13) and aces (95th, 0.36) and is just outside the top 100 in hitting percentage.

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.

Triple-Double for Donahue
Junior setter Caitlyn Donahue has grown more comfortable in only her second year playing the role, and it showed on Wednesday night as she posted the first triple-double by a Wildcat in nearly seven years. Donahue had 48 assists, 16 digs and 10 kills to help guide K-State to a 3-2 win over Missouri. She got the triple-double early in the fourth set when she tallied her 10th kill, to become the seventh Wildcat to accomplish the feat. It was the 18th triple-double in school history.

Donahue currently leads the Big 12 in assists per set at 11.29 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 and her triple-double also marks her ninth double-double of the season.

The Overland Park native is directing the offense to a hitting percentage of .230 to rank sixth in the conference. The team’s kill average of 13.73 is second in the league, and the marks get better in conference play. K-State is averaging 13.97 kills per set in league play to stand third thanks to the direction of Donahue as she is averaging 11.30 assists in those matches as well to stand third in the league.

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, six of them are on Top 25 ranked teams. The average team ranking of those six setters is 13.2, including No. 2 Cal and No. 4 USC.

Against Oklahoma on last week, Donahue posted her eighth double-double on the year as she has played a major role defensively for the Wildcats. She posted 53 assists in the 3-1 loss to the Sooners but made an impact in every aspect for K-State. Donahue posted six kills to keep Oklahoma’s defense honest while also putting up 14 digs. Donahue has now posted double-doubles in three straight matches as she also put up 10 digs in a 3-1 win over Kansas to go along with her 43 assists, five kills and two aces.

“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 eighth in the Big 12. She has posted 10 or more kills in every match but three thus far, including a career-high 23 against at 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 0.22 aces per set.

Porubek has led the team in kills in three of the last seven matches and put together one of her most consistent performances of the season at Texas A&M as she pounded out 12 kills. She also hit .476 for her new career-high in a match. At Kansas last week, Porubek pounded out 15 kills over the four sets along with a .303 hitting percentage. The native of Budapest, Hungary, has increased her kill numbers each of the last few weeks to steadily rise up the rankings within the Big 12.

Sensational Southpaw
Junior opposite Kathleen Ludwig has found her stroke during conference play for the Wildcats to provide more punch on the offense and give K-State another threat. She is producing 2.12 kills per set in Big 12 play and also adds 0.21 aces. Her defense has also come up big at time for the Wildcats averaging 1.64 digs.

At Kansas last week, Ludwig posted nine kills and six digs to play a key role in the victory for the Wildcats. She had four kills and hit .571 in the fourth set alone to apply pressure late to the Jayhawks. 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.

Packed with Purple
Ahearn Field House is again rocking in 2011 with an average attendance of more than 1,400 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 26th with an average of 1,455. K-State is fifth in the conference in attendance trailing only Texas (7th, 2658), Missouri (9th, 2413), Iowa State (11th, 2367) and Texas A&M (22nd, 1611).

Last year, K-State was 18th in the nation in attendance for the entire season and fourth 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.