Wildcats Face Second Place Cyclones

Courtney Traxson

Nov. 15, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State volleyball team is looking to close the season strong with three matches remaining and a possible return to the NCAA Tournament on the line. The Wildcats currently stand at 18-9 on the year and hold the No. 26 RPI in the nation following last week’s upset over the Oklahoma Sooners, ranked No. 25 in the AVCA Poll and loss to No. 8 Texas. Next up for the Wildcats is No. 13 Iowa State, and the Cyclones should help boost K-State’s RPI further as Iowa State has the No. 2 RPI in the nation. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m. from Hilton Coliseum, where the Cyclones returned near the end of last season after flooding prior to the season’s start.

Iowa State swept K-State in the first matchup this season, but the Wildcats kept it close losing 25-27, 21-25, 23-25. The Cyclones have won three straight coming into Wednesday’s match, including road wins at No. 25 Oklahoma and at Missouri. The Wildcats enter the match following the 1-3 loss to Texas but have been playing strong lately with 3-2 wins over Texas A&M and Oklahoma.

The Cyclones have won seven straight against the Wildcats as K-State hopes to end another losing streak to a Big 12 opponent. K-State snapped a five-match losing streak against OU with the victory last week. K-State has not won a match in Ames since 2007.

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

Live video of the match can be found on Iowa State’s website for a fee. Live stats provided by NeuLion may be found on cyclones.com. The audio broadcast will be available at kstatesports.com as well.

The Series
Iowa State leads the all-time series against K-State 43-36 as the Cyclones have won the last seven matches to take the edge. The Wildcats dominated the series throughout much of the Big 12 era winning 20 straight from 1996-2005. The Cyclones have won nine of the last 11, however, to reclaim the overall series lead.

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 213-125 gives her a winning percentage of .630.

Iowa State: Christy Johnson-Lynch (Nebraska ‘96) is in her seventh year leading the Cyclones where she has taken the program from the bottom of the Big 12 to one of the top in the nation. The Cyclones have been to the NCAA Tournament five straight years missing out only in Lynch’s first season at the helm.

Scouting the Cyclones
Iowa State is coming off a 3-1 win at Missouri that saw four Cyclones reach double digits in kills. The group of Carly Jenson, Kelsey Petersen, Jamie Straube and Victoria Hurtt led the way for the win as Iowa State currently leads the Big 12 in kills per set.

Jenson is one of the league’s top hitters as she averages 4.11 kills in Big 12 action and 3.94 overall. In the win over Missouri last Wednesday, Jenson pounded out 18 kills. She also had a double-double with 11 digs. Straube serves as Iowa State’s No. 2 option on offense as she averages 2.71 kills in league play from her middle blocker position. Straube is one of the more efficient attackers in the conference as she ranks second in Big 12 matches with a hitting percentage of .372 trailing only Texas’ Rachael Adams.

The Cyclones have traditionally been one of the Big 12’s top defenses under Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. This year is no different with the top libero again playing for Iowa State. Kristen Hahn is averaging 5.44 digs per set in conference play as the Cyclones are 21st in the nation in digs as a team at 17.78 per set.

This season, the Cyclones are again ranked among the top teams in the nation holding steady at No. 13 in the AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll for the third straight week. Iowa State opened the season at No. 18 and have steadily climbed up the poll. Texas (9) gives the Big 12 two ranked teams in the poll. K-State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M are receiving votes.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
With a record of 18-9 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. 26 in the latest RPI standings and on the bubble for an at-large bid to the postseason.

K-State recently defeated No. 25 Oklahoma after rallying from behind. 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. K-State followed that with a 1-3 loss at No. 8 Texas. By winning the first set, K-State became the first Big 12 opponent to win a set over the Longhorns on their home court this season in conference play.

The win over Oklahoma was important for the Big 12 standings as well as it pulled the Wildcats into fourth place after being picked to finish eight in the preseason. K-State currently trails Texas A&M by two games in the standings and holds a half-game lead over Oklahoma.

Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek has stepped up her play over the last three 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, 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. In the loss Saturday to Texas, Porubek led the team with 13 kills and hit .270. She also was a presence at the net with two solo blocks and a pair of block assists.
Junior setter Caitlyn Donahue has highlighted the Wildcats’ play of late with as well with a stretch of 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 has been limited  of late. She did return to her full role of playing all six rotations in the loss to Texas and tallied eight kills and nine digs to go with four blocks. Pelger leads the Big 12 overall in kills with 4.19 per set and 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 put together a recent string of 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. Ludwig tallied eight kills at Texas on Saturday, and Traxson contributed seven kills.

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 11.05 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 a run of six straight that ended Saturday at Texas.

The Overland Park native is directing the offense to a hitting percentage of .222 to rank sixth in the conference. The team’s kill average of 13.40 is sixth in the league as well. In conference paly, K-State is averaging still 13.23 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 11.05 following last week’s matches ranks 30th in the NCAA this season. Of the 29 setters with a higher assists per set average, 12 of them are on Top 25 ranked teams. The average team ranking of those eight setters is 12.9, including No. 1 USC, No. 3 Cal, No. 5 Stanford and No. 6 Hawai’i.

Against Oklahoma last week, 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 3.32 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 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 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 4.19 kills per set through 27 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 .322 and ranks ninth 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 2.70 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 26th in kills per set and 14th in points (5.11) through last week’s matches.

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.

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 2.38 kills per set in Big 12 play and posted a season-high 17 kills twice in the last four matches. Her defense has also come up big during conference play as she is averaging 1.88 digs a set and tallied a string of three straight double-doubles recently.

Against Texas A&M last week, 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-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. Wednesday against Oklahoma, Ludwig had 12 kills and 14 digs.

Packed with Purple
Ahearn Field House is again rocking in 2011 with an average attendance of more than 1,500 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 1,527. K-State is fourth in the conference in attendance trailing only Texas (6th; 2,702), Iowa State (13th; 2,332) and Missouri (15th; 2,226). Texas A&M comes in at 25th with 1,525 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.