Wildcats Set to Take on No. 8 Texas

Caitlyn Donahue

Nov. 11, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State volleyball rides a wave of momentum into its road match against No. 8 Texas on Saturday after defeating Texas A&M and No. 25 Oklahoma in back-to-back five-set matches. The Wildcats find themselves in fourth place in the Big 12 standings entering the contest and looking to continue their strong play of late.

First serve is set for 4 p.m. from Gregory Gymnasium where the Wildcats have not won since 2001. The Longhorns stand atop the conference standings with their lone loss in league play coming on the road to Oklahoma. Texas brings one of the nation’s most efficient offenses to the court, as the Longhorns are hitting .270 on the year and looking for their fourth straight trip to the Final Four.

In the first meeting in Manhattan this season, Texas swept the Wildcats with the Longhorns hitting .463 for the match. The Wildcats will have to find a way to slow down Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year Rachael Adams and freshman sensation Haley Eckerman. In a sweep over Texas Tech on Wednesday, Eckerman pounded out 23 kills.

The Wildcats have been playing in marathon matches lately as each of the last four contests have gone five sets. K-State won three of those matches with the loss at Baylor being the first five-set loss for the Wildcats this season. K-State is 7-1 in five-set matches overall.

On the Tube
The match will be televised by the Longhorn Network with Mark Followill calling the action and Kelli Tennant providing color commentary. Longhorn Network is offering a free preview weekend online and the match will be available for free on longhornnetwork.com. as well

On the Airwaves
K-State’s audio of the match will be available online only on Saturday due to coverage of the football game against Texas A&M. The call from 1350 KMAN’s Rob Voelker can be heard for free online at kstatesports.com as well as 1350kman.com.

Live stats provided by CBS GameTracker may be found on kstatesports.com and texassports.com. The audio broadcast will be available at kstatesports.com as well.

The Series
Texas leads the all-time series against K-State 26-7 as the Wildcats have dropped 16 straight matches to the Longhorns. Texas last lost to K-State in Manhattan in 2003 when the Wildcats won the Big 12 Championship.

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 213-124 gives her a winning percentage of .632.

Texas: Jerritt Elliott (Cal State Northridge ‘91) is in his 13th year leading the Longhorns where he has turned the program into one of the nation’s best. He has taken the Longhorns to the Final Four three straight years.

Scouting the Longhorns
Texas entered the year as the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 Conference and are currently ranked No. 8 in the latest AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. The Longhorns are coming off a 3-0 win on the road over Texas Tech on Wednesday night that saw Texas hit .396 as a team in the victory while holding the Red Raiders to just .126. Freshman sensation Haley Eckerman tallied 23 kills in the victory.

The Longhorns are undefeated at home with a perfect 10-0 record. Texas has swept every home match in conference play as the Longhorns have only lost three sets in Gregory Gymnasium all season.

Texas boasts the Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year in Rachael Adams and the Preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year in Khat Bell, but it is another freshman who is leading the team thus far. Eckerman is leading the team in kills with 3.41 kills per set. Adams has still been a force for the Longhorns as she is hitting .385 on the year to lead the Big 12 in the category. Bell was also have a strong year for the Longhorns before going down with an injury against Kansas last Saturday.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
With a record of 18-8 overall the Wildcats are eyeing a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. The Wildcats have seven wins over teams with an RPI in the top 50 in the nation, including three on the road. Those victories help put K-State at No. 28 in the latest RPI standings and on the bubble for an at-large bid to the postseason.

K-State is 18-8 on the year after rallying from behind to defeat No. 25 Oklahoma on Wednesday. It marked the first win for the Wildcats over a ranked opponent since defeating No. 23 Texas A&M on Nov. 4, 2009. The Wildcats had lost 17 straight matches to ranked opponents heading into the contest with OU.

The win over Oklahoma was important for the Big 12 standings as well as it pulled the Wildcats half a game ahead of the Sooners in the conference standings and one behind Texas A&M putting K-State in fourth place after being picked to finish eight in the preseason.

Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek has stepped up her play over the last two matches with Kaitlynn Pelger limited in her role. Porubek posted a career-high 23 kills in the win over Oklahoma and tallied her first career double-double with 14 digs. It was her first match playing all six rotations as a Wildcat and she helped carry the team to the victory. Against Texas A&M last Saturday, Porubek also came up big with 18 kills to shoulder the burden after Pelger left the match on the first play. Porubek is now averaging 3.33 kills per set on the year.
Junior setter Caitlyn Donahue has highlighted the Wildcats’ play of late with as well with six straight double-doubles. Included in that stretch was the first triple-double by a Wildcat in nearly seven years. In the win over OU, Donahue accomplished another amazing feat as she had the first 20-20 double-double by a Wildcat since Lisa Mimick did it in 2000. Donahue had 51 assists and 20 digs in the victory. Donahue has a chance to crack the top 10 in school history for most double-doubles in a season as she currently has 12. She needs 15 to tie for 10th.

Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger continues to lead the team in kills but did only play sparingly against Oklahoma after leaving the match against Texas A&M last week. Pelger has 10 matches this season with 20 or more kills and has posted 11 double-doubles.

Kathleen Ludwig and Courtney Traxson are also increasing their production for the Wildcats as Ludwig has had three straight double-doubles and Traxson reached double digit kills in back-to-back matches. Ludwig posted her fourth double-double on the year with 17 kills and 14 digs on a .382 hitting percentage in the win over Texas A&M and tallied 12 kills and 14 digs against OU. Traxson had a career day with 13 kills and on a .278 clip against the Aggies and backed that up with 12 kills against the Sooners.

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. The Wildcats accomplished that feat again in the win Wednesday with Kabalis (26), Donahue (20), Ludwig (14), Porubek (14) and Gina Madonia (13) helping K-State post 98 digs for the victory.

Donahue Dishing
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 11.10 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 12 double-doubles, including six straight.

The Overland Park native is directing the offense to a hitting percentage of .225 to rank sixth in the conference. The team’s kill average of 13.52 is third in the league. In conference paly, K-State is averaging still 13.46 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 Oklahoma on Wednesday, Donahue posted her 12th double-double on the year as she has played a major role defensively for the Wildcats. She posted 51 assists and 20 digs in the 3-2 win over the No. 25 Sooners. It was the first 20-20 double-double by a Wildcat since 2000.

“Por”ing it On
Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek has continued where she left off her freshman campaign as she is averaging 3.33 kills per set and ranks seventh in the Big 12. She has posted 10 or more kills in every match but three thus far, including a then career-high 20 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 even more lately as she has filled the role of the No. 1 option while Kaitlynn Pelger has been limited. Porubek pounded out a new career-high 23 kills in the win over No. 25 Oklahoma on Wednesday, and notched her first double-double as she had 14 digs in her first action as a six rotation player.

Two of her best matches this season have come against Texas A&M, including last week’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 Hungarian, has increased her kill numbers throughout the season ti give K-State two players in the top 10 within the Big 12.

Killer Kaitlynn
Kaitlynn Pelger is leading the Big 12 Conference in kills as she is averaging 4.28 kills per set through 26 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 2.72 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.