Wildcats Host Horned Frogs at Ahearn

Alex Muff

Nov. 9, 2012

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The K-State volleyball team looks to get back on the winning track on Saturday when the No. 17 Wildcats play host to the TCU Horned Frogs at 3 p.m. from Ahearn Field House. K-State has dropped its last two matches, both to ranked opponents, but is still in the hunt to finish in the top three in the Big 12 Conference and make its 14th NCAA Tournament appearance.

The Wildcats won the first match with TCU earlier this season on the Horned Frogs’ home floor and have their sights set on sweeping the series in TCU’s first season in the Big 12. K-State again will be in a battle of middle blockers with Yvonne Igodan among the conference leaders in kills and Mattie Burleson is one of the top blockers as the Wildcats boast the tandem of Kaitlynn Pelger and Alex Muff at the position. Pelger is currently second in the league in kills and Muff is fourth in hitting percentage as well as third in blocks.

Serving will again likely play a role in the matchup between the Wildcats and Horned Frogs. In their first meeting with TCU, the Wildcats boasted 11 aces. That is the most in the conference this season in a conference match, even despite it being a 3-0 sweep for K-State. Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue had a career-best four aces in that victory and Kathleen Ludwig and Lilla Porubek each added two. TCU also has one of the best servers in the league in senior setter Megan Munce.

Saturday’s match will offer a variety of ways for fans to receive discounted tickets in addition to other promotions. General admission tickets are available for only $3 to fans who bring a canned food item to be donated to the Flint Hill Breadbasket. It also will be Olathe Community Day in honor of middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger. Fans from her hometown can purchase tickets for only $3 when they buy tickets online and use a special promo code. For more information on Community Day and promo codes please contact the Fan Experience and Sales Office at 785-532-6650.

The match will also be Social Media Day. Fans will be able to interact with K-State’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts throughout the match and the week leading up to the contest. Be sure to follow the social media outlets for various promotions, giveaways and other activities.

On the Airwaves
Saturday’s match will not be aired on 1350 KMAN due to pregame coverage of the K-State football game at TCU. Instead, the radio call will be available exclusively online at kstatesports.com with Rob Voelker calling the action for 1350 KMAN.

The match between K-State and TCU can be seen on K-StateHD.TV for fans subscribing to the online network. Pregame coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. with Brian Smoller before Rob Voelker’s call of the action.

Saturday’s match can be heard online at kstatesports.com. Live stats will be available at kstatesports.com and gofrogs.com provided by CBS GameTracker.

The Series
K-State won the first ever meeting between the Wildcats and Horned Frogs earlier this season in Fort Worth. The Wildcats swept TCU 25-20, 25-18, 25-19.

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 237 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 currently in seventh place in the Horned Frogs’ first season in the Big 12 Conference. The Horned Frogs have major weapon on offense in Yvonne Igodan as she is averaging 3.30 kills per set on the year but is posting just 2.76 in conference play as TCU has been slowed in league action.

Igodan led TCU to a 3-0 victory over Texas Tech on the road Wednesday night as she tallied 17 kills on a very strong .438 hitting percentage. She also led the team with four blocks to defeat the Red Raiders in a tightly contested match 32-30, 25-22, 25-19.

The Horned Frogs have been spreading their offense in conference play among Igodan and the tandem of Sloane Sunstrum and Stephanie Holland on the outside. Sunstrum is a senior outside hitter averaging 2.58 kills in league play and Holland will attack from the right side at a 2.26 average. Mattie Burleson is TCU’s other threat up the middle with Igodan and she has the highest hitting percentage in Big 12 play for the Horned Frogs at .269.

TCU’s senior setter Megan Munce is one of the top servers in the conference as she ranks first overall in aces. Her strong top spin jump serve has been able to take opponents out of system throughout the season. She also is active in the offense as she is averaging nearly a kill per set in conference games.

Defensively, the Horned Frogs have a strong blocking presence from Burleson. She is averaging 1.29 per set to rank fifth in the conference. In league play she is stuffing 1.13 per set. On the back row, libero Meghan Horio is averaging 3.89 digs per set in conference action and ranks fifth in the Big 12. As a team the Horned Frogs are third in the Big 12 in digs at 15.71 per set. Freshman Sutton Sunstrum also helps Horio hold together the back row with a 3.05 average.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
The Wildcats are 7-5 in Big 12 Conference play with four matches left on the schedule. K-State is currently in fifth place. The Wildcats play two matches at home and two on the road to close out the season, beginning with a home contest against TCU on Saturday.

K-State is looking to snap a two-match losing streak after falling to No. 7 Texas last weekend on the road and at home to No. 23 Kansas on Wednesday night. The Wildcats are now two games behind KU for second place in the Big 12 standings with Oklahoma one game ahead and Iowa State 1.5 games ahead. The Sooners tangle with the Cyclones on Saturday and the Jayhawks play host to the now-No. 3 Texas Longhorns in a weekend sure to shuffle the standings.

Middle blockers Kaitlynn Pelger and Alex Muff continue providing a strong amount of offense for the Wildcats as both have posted 10 or more kills in nearly every conference match. Pelger is second in the league in kills during conference play and Muff ranks fourth in hitting percentage.

On Wednesday night, the Wildcats fell in a tight battle with their in-state rivals the Kansas Jayhawks as KU swept the season series for the first time since 2009. K-State dominated the first set winning 25-13 while hitting .444. KU made some adjustments and both teams fought in a see-saw battle as the next three sets all went to extra points with the Jayhawks winning the match 13-25, 28-26, 26-24, 27-25.

The Wildcats could not slow Sara McClinton as she pounded out 16 kills on a .364 hitting clip after finally getting blocked in the third set. Five Wildcats reached double digits in kills led by Courtney Traxson and Pelger. Traxson hit .333 for the match as she got hot on the left side for the Wildcats, but her and Muff’s .556 percentage was not enough to best the Jayhawks on the night. KU hit .247 to barely out-hit the Wildcats.

Despite the back-to-back losses to No. 7 Texas and No. 23 KU, the Wildcats are still ranked among the top teams in the country in the polls and have the stats to back it up. The Wildcats are 23rd in the NCAA in assists per set in the NCAA’s latest statistics report on Monday averaging 13.31. With senior setter Caitlyn Donahue directing the offense the team is also ranked21st in the NCAA in hitting percentage at .261 and 40th in kills averaging 14.05.

The Wildcats are posting those strong numbers thanks to a number of individuals having great seasons for the team. Donahue ranks seventh in the NCAA in assists (11.84) and in league play leads the conference by a wide margin. She also has eight double-doubles on the year. Muff is one of the best blockers in K-State history and is showing it by ranking 22nd in the nation this season at 1.39 per set. Pelger is 45th in points while standing just outside the top 50 in kills and hitting percentage.

Round and Round
Middle blockers rarely play all six rotations in volleyball, especially now with additional substitutions allowed this season. That puts K-State’s Kaitlynn Pelger in a select group as she is playing all six rotations for a second year in a row for the Wildcats.

Pelger is among four middle blockers playing all the way around at the NCAA Division I level this year joining Madeline Westman of UNLV, Xitlali Herrera from UTEP play all six rotations and Michigan’s Jennifer Cross, who recently became a six rotation player for the Wolverines midway through the season.

Pelger is averaging 3.74 kills per set and has increased her defensive production on the back row to average 2.76 digs this year. The junior has tallied eight double-doubles on the year with seven of them coming by way of kills and digs.

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 to give the Wildcats another consistent weapon to go to in conference play thanks to her newfound firepower at the net. Muff is averaging 2.52 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 .358 to lead the team in that category and rank fourth in the conference.

Muff has posted10 or more kills in seven of the last eight matches and hit .358 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 hot 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, Muff again had 10 kills. Last weekend at Texas, Muff hit .455 with 11 kills and on Monday night against KU Muff tallied 10 kills on 18 swings to hit .556.

During her hot streak, Muff has hit .400 or better in half of those matches, including clips of .593 against Texas Tech and the .556 mark against KU. In that match against Texas Tech three weeks ago, Muff posted a new career-high 17 kills in the. Her .593 hitting percentage also ranks fourth in school history for a five-set match.  

Defensively over the last eight matches, Muff has averaged 1.24 blocks. She now ranks third in the league in that category with 1.24 in conference matches overall.

For her career, Muff ranks seventh in school history in block assists with 390 and is poised to move into the fop five soon. She has now posted three straight seasons with at least 100 total blocks.

K-State Ranked No. 17
The Wildcats dropped one spot to No. 17 in this week’s AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll after falling on the road at No. 7 Texas and thanks to a number of upsets above the Wildcats in the rankings. Four teams in the Top 10 all lost to unranked opponents over the weekend. In addition, two other teams in the Top 15 lost causing a number of teams to slide down in the Top 25 this week.

After the best start in school history at 12-0, K-State climbed to No. 11 seven weeks ago and 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 remain ranked, as Texas benefited the most from the Top 10 losses. With their strong play recently and only three losses on the year, the Longhorns now stand at No. 3. After a loss at Baylor on Saturday, the Kansas Jayhawks dropped three spots for the second straight week down to No. 23. The Iowa State Cyclones moved up one to No. 20.

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 climbed to No. 12 thanks to the losss ahead of the Flyers. The Wildcats defeated both the Gophers and the Flyers. After cracking the Top 25 two weeks ago, St. Mary’s drops out this week but makes room for a different K-State opponent. The Creighton Bluejays are ranked No. 25 this week, marking the first time in school history the team is ranked. St. Mary’s is still listed among the teams also receiving votes and are essentially No. 29.

Winning Formula
The NCAA released its updated RPI rankings on Monday, and the computers continue to love the K-State Wildcats. With a 20-4 record entering this week the Wildcats moved up to No. 11 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 this year. The first two rounds of the tournament are played at 16 campus sites to be determined by the committee.

Eight of K-State’s opponents are in the Top 40 of the RPI, including three in the top 10 in Texas (3), Minnesota (6) and Kansas (10).

Elite Company
K-State’s football team is a perfect 9-0 and ranked No. 3 following a victory over Oklahoma State this weekend. With K-State’s No. 17-ranked volleyball team at 20-4, the Wildcats join 10 other schools that can boast the same accomplishment so far with their football and volleyball teams ranked.

The Wildcats are joined by fellow Big 12 school Texas to have football and volleyball both ranked with the Longhorns’ football team moving to No. 17 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 19 by the AP. The Pac-12 has four schools on the list as UCLA football continues to move up the polls this week. Oregon is the only school with both teams in the Top 10. Oregon is No. 2 in both football polls and No. 4 in volleyball.

Cleaning Up
K-State currently stands at 20-5, but the way the Wildcats have been winning is just as impressive. A total of 15 of those victories have been 3-0 sweeps of their opponents. That total already far surpasses last year’s eight sweeps and is among the most in the nation. Western Kentucky leads the nation with 21 sweeps and K-State opponent Dayton is second with 17 after this weekend’s action. Five teams are just ahead of K-State with 16 sweeps in No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Texas, No. 14 BYU and unranked Central Arkansas and Towson. Two other teams are now tied with K-State with 15 sweeps.

Some of the top programs in the nation are on this list with the Wildcats at 15 sweeps, including  No. 4 Oregon and No. 8 USC. One Top 10 team trails K-State in the category with 14 sweeps in  No. 5 Washington.

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 then-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 three ranked opponents in then-No. 18 Pepperdine, No. 11 BYU and No. 13 San Diego.

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. 20 in the nation. The 2012 season as been even better with the Wildcats ranked No. 20 in this week’s NCAA attendance report after playing on the road, averaging more than 1,800 per match after.

More than 3,000 fans packed the stands four weeks ago 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 2010.

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 and 2,943 against Baylor for Homecoming, K-State fans are averaging more than 2,200 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.