Wildcats Seek Win Over Sooners

Kuulei Kabalis

Nov. 8, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State volleyball will look for another win against a quality opponent on Wednesday when the Wildcats host No. 25 Oklahoma at 7 p.m. in a match televised on Fox Sports Kansas City. The Wildcats are riding the momentum from a come-from-behind victory in five sets over the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday that helped keep K-State in the top half of the conference standings and in the hunt for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

K-State is 0-3 against ranked opponents this year, but came close to defeating the Sooners on their home floor earlier this season falling 3-1. The Wildcats were poised to take a 2-1 lead on OU holding the advantage 22-17 in the third set before the Sooners gathered their composure and won eight straight points to win the set and take the overall lead in the match. Oklahoma would take that momentum with them into the fourth set and win another close one to claim the match.

The Sooners have won five straight over the Wildcats in the series overall and four of the last five in Manhattan. Oklahoma is coming into the match off a loss to No. 13 Iowa State to give the Sooners their first home loss of the season. The Cyclones bested the Sooners in four sets.

K-State is offering a Wildcat 4 Pack ticket special for Wednesday’s match. Fans can purchase four general admission bench tickets for just $40 and receive vouchers for four hotdogs and drinks.

On the Tube
The match will be televised by Fox Sports Kansas City with Brian Smoller providing play-by-play and former K-State All-American Liz Wagner-Busch on color commentary.

On the Airwaves
Wednesday’s match will be aired live on 1350 KMAN with Rob Voelker calling the action. It will be available for free online at kstatesports.com as well.

Live stats provided by CBS GameTracker may also be found on kstatesports.com. The audio broadcast will be available at kstatesports.com as well. The match will not be available on K-StateHD.TV since it is on FSKC.

The Series
Oklahoma leads the all-time series 49-25-1 with K-State, but the Wildcats are 19-12 against the Sooners in the Big 12 era. Head Coach Suzie Fritz is 12-9 against OU and 6-4 at home. Oklahoma has won the last five meetings overall and four of the last five in Ahearn Field House.

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 earlier in the season was her 200th. She is the winningest coach in K-State history and her career record of 212-124 gives her a winning percentage of .631.

Oklahoma: Santiago Restrepo (East Stroudsburg ‘86) is in his eighth year leading the Sooners where he has turned the program into a regular NCAA Tournament team. Oklahoma has been to the postseason four of the last five years and reached the Regional Semifinals last year.

Scouting the Sooners
Oklahoma returned six starters from last year’s team that reached the Regional Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament and is looking for a return trip in 2011. The team has five seniors on the roster, three of them with extensive experience. The key cogs in the wheel for the Sooners are senior setter Brianne Barker and senior right side hitter Suzy Boulavsky.

Barker is one of the nation’s top setters and directs the offense to a team hitting percentage of .251 and 13.46 kills per set. Barker also plays a key role on defense as she is second on the team in digs. She also is an offensive threat as she tries to keep defenses off balance with a number of attacks and 1.15 kills per set.

Boulavsky leads the team in kills averaging 3.32 per set on a .308 hitting percentage. Her numbers get even better in conference play where she is averaging 3.50 kills and hitting .317. She was strong against Iowa State in the loss last week with 17 kills and a .378 hitting clip. Against the Wildcats in Norman, Boulavsky struggled as the Wildcats slowed her to just eight kills over the four sets and a .152 hitting percentage.

Oklahoma’s middle blocker has emerged as threats for the Sooners when Boulavsky does not get her usual numbers. Sophomore Sallie McLaurin averages 2.54 kills and hits .352. McLaurin also is one of the league’s top blockers as well posting 1.41 stuffs per set overall and 1.59 in conference play. Freshman outside hitter Tara Dunn averages 3.10 kills but is not as efficient as McLaurin and Boulvsky.

Similar to what one Wildcat did last season, the Sooners have a two-sport athlete on their team this year. After completing her volleyball eligibility last year, JuliAnne Chisholm joined the K-State women’s basketball team and she will play again this year. Oklahoma senior Carlee Roethlisberger joined the volleyball team this season after completing her basketball eligibility. She has made an impact as well in her limited action on the court.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
K-State is 17-8 on the year after rallying from behind to defeat Texas A&M on Saturday. The win pulled the Wildcats half a game behind Oklahoma in the conference standings and one behind the Aggies, making Wednesday’s match full of implications regarding the standings.

Junior setter Caitlyn Donahue has highlighted the Wildcats’ play of late with as she posted the first triple-double of her career against Missouri two weeks ago 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. She has followed the triple-double with double-doubles in each match following to giver 11 for the season.

Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger also continues to play strong with her 10 20-kill matches on the season. She posted her11th double-double at Baylor with 20 kills and 14 digs.

The trio of Lilla Porubek, Kathleen Ludwig and Courtney Traxson carried the Wildcats to the win over A&M on Saturday as Pelger was unable to play. Porubek led with 18 kills as Ludwig posted her fourth double-double on the year with 17 kills and 14 digs on a .382 hitting percentage. Traxson had a career day with 13 kills and on a .278 clip to go along with a pair of digs and blocks. Defensively, four players reached double digits in digs with Kuulei Kabalis posting 16. Donahue added 13, and Gina Madonia had a career-high 12 in the victory.

K-State’s defense has been strong lately as five Wildcats reached double digits in digs in the loss at Baylor. Kabalis led with 30 digs for a career-high. Donahue had 16, and Tristan McCarty added 12 in the losing effort. Ludwig had a season-high 17 kills and tallied 10 digs to give three Wildcats double-doubles in the match.

Killer Kaitlynn
Kaitlynn Pelger is leading the Big 12 Conference in kills as she is averaging 4.47 kills per set through 25 matches this season. The sophomore middle blocker has already posted 10 matches with 20 or more kills, including 32 against Drake and most recently 20 against at Baylor. 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 .330 and ranks seventh in the league. Pelger also has 11 double-doubles to her name this season as she is playing all six rotations from her middle blocker position and digging 2.79 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 two of seven categories and is just outside the mark in two others. She ranks 16th in kills per set and fifth in points (5.43) through last week’s matches trailing only Northern Illinois’ Lauren Wicinksi, Georgia Tech’s Monique Mead, Purdue’s Ariel Turner and Louisville’s Lola Arslanbekova. Pelger is 103rd in blocks and 101st 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 at home against Missouri two weeks ago 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 is second the Big 12 in assists per set at 11.15 and has steadily been improving her play 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 has since backed that up with a number of impressive performances bringing her season total to 11 double-doubles.

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 13.58 is third in the league. In conference paly, K-State is averaging still 13.58 kills per set in to stand fourth thanks to the direction of Donahue.

Donahue is not only one of the top setters in the league so far this season, she is among the nation’s best. Her average of 11.15 following last week’s matches ranks 25th in the NCAA this season. Of the 24 setters with a higher assists per set average, eight of them are on Top 25 ranked teams. The average team ranking of those eight setters is 12.9, including No. 4 USC, No. 5 Cal and No. 6 Hawai’i.

Against A&M on Saturday, Donahue posted her 11th double-double on the year as she has played a major role defensively for the Wildcats. She posted 49 assists and 13 digs in the 3-2 win over the Aggies. Donahue has had a double-double in five straight matches.

“Por”ing it On
Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek has continued where she left off her freshman campaign as she is averaging 3.26 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.

Two of her best matches this season have come against Texas A&M, including Saturday’s 3-2 come-from-behind win. Porubek led the team with 18 kills and hit .245. On the road at A&M in a loss, Porubek put together one of her most consistent performances as she pounded out 12 kills and hit .476 for her new career-high in a match. She followed that with 15 kills over four sets at Kansas along with a .303 hitting percentage. The native of Budapest, Hungary, has increased her kill numbers throughout the season ti give K-State two players in the top 10 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 2.42 kills per set in Big 12 play after a season-high 17 kills in back-to-back matches. Her defense has also come up big at times for the Wildcats averaging 1.81 digs.

Against Texas A&M on Saturday, Ludwig posted 17 kills and 14 digs to notch her fourth double-double of the season. She has had her best performances of the season in back-to-back matches now. Her hitting percentage against A&M was a strong .382 over five sets to help lead K-State to the win. On the road at Baylor, Ludwig 17 kills on a .368 clip with 10 digs.

Chasing Records
A number of Wildcats are poised to put their names in the K-State record books this season. Caitlyn Donahue made the transition to setter last season after playing both outside hitter and defensive specialist as a freshman. She averaged 9.51 assists per game in her first year as a setter for the Wildcats and has already cracked the career top 10 list at K-State. She currently has 2,066 assists and stands 10th on the list. She needs 41 to catch Kristin Martin in ninth.

Kaitlynn Pelger is making an impact on the program already in just her sophomore season. The middle blocker posted 10 blocks at Hawai’i as a freshman and tallied 14 against Missouri State this season to give her two 10-block matches for her career. That ties her for sixth on the list, and she is averaging 1.07 blocks per set this season through 25 matches. She also is beginning to climb up the season and career rankings for 20-kill matches with 10 this season and 11 for her career.

Alex Muff tallied 135 block assists during her sophomore campaign to tie for 10th in a single season in school history. That mark brought her career total to 176 and within striking distance of the career top 10 list with another solid year. This season Muff has 78 block assists and is just 34 away from cracking the top 10 list at K-State.

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 24th with an average of 1,566. K-State is fourth in the conference in attendance trailing only Texas (7th; 2,665), Iowa State (12th; 2,332) and Missouri (14th; 2,242). Texas A&M comes in at 25th with 1,563 per match.

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 and again when they hosted Missouri during Homecoming Week. They 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.

Kuulei Can Play
Junior college transfer Kuulei Kabalis has earned the starting libero spot for the Wildcats and is averaging 3.71 digs per set so far this season. The native Hawaiian tallied 30 digs in a loss at Baylor last week for a new career-high. It marked the fourth time this season she has cracked the 20-dig mark in a match with three of them coming in conference play where she is averaging 4.07 digs a set and ranks sixth in the league. She also has proven to be one of the team’s top servers to keep teams off balance and is tied for second on the team in aces and had three in the win over Hofstra. Kabalis also is the first player in the program’s history from Hawai’i.

Right on Trax
Sophomore outside hitter Courtney Traxson worked her way into the starting lineup early this season and has grown into the role throughout the season and exploded with her best match against Texas A&M on Saturday. Traxson stepped up after the Wildcats lost another key player on the first play of the match and responded with a career-high 13 kills in the win.

Traxson saw her first extensive action of the season against Tennessee Tech and put on a show. Traxson tallied seven kills on just eight swings for a near perfect performance. Her hitting percentage of .875 did not qualify for the school record books because she did not have enough attempts. That did not keep her from making an impact on the match. She also added three block assists at the net. Traxson also posted six kills on a .286 clip in a sweep over Idaho during the Varney’s Invitational. She has been a consistent producer during conference play as well averaging 1.34 kills to provide a fourth option for the offense.