Wildcats Face Road Test at Texas Tech

Caitlyn Donahue

Nov. 16, 2012

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MANHATTAN, Kan. - K-State hits the road one last time this season as the Wildcats travel to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday at 6 p.m. The Wildcats are looking to bounce back with a win following a loss to the No. 19 Iowa State Cyclones on Wednesday. A win would help keep K-State in the top half of the conference standings as the regular season comes to a close next week.

Texas Tech is looking to snap a 15-match losing streak to the Wildcats. The two teams battled in a long match in the Red Raiders' visit to Ahearn Field House earlier this year that saw K-State get the win 3-2. The Red Raiders are coming off a loss to No. 3 Texas on Wednesday night.

The Wildcats have seen success in Lubbock, sweeping the Red Raiders in seven of the 11 trips there under Suzie Fritz including last season.

A Big 12 Conference title is out of the mix for K-State as the Texas Longhorns clinched first place on Wednesday night, but the Wildcats still have much to play for. With one of the top RPIs in the nation, the Wildcats are looking to close the season strong to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with a possibility of hosting the first two rounds if the selection committee chooses the Wildcats as a host.

On the Airwaves
Saturday's match will not be heard on 1350 KMAN due to coverage of the K-State football game at Baylor. The action can be heard exclusively at kstatesports.com with Rob Voelker on the call.

Live video of the match will be provided by TexasTech.TV, the department's recently launched online network. TexasTech.TV will be sharing its video feed with K-StateHD.TV allowing subscribers of K-State's network to watch with their login at K-StateHD.TV without having to pay for a subscription to TexasTech.TV.

Live stats for Saturday's match can be found at texastech.com and kstatesports.com with stats provided by GameTracker. Live audio online will only be available at kstatesports.com due to coverage of the K-State football game at Baylor on 1350 KMAN.

The Series
K-State leads the all-time series at 29-8 and has claimed the last 15 meetings, marking the longest winning streak in the series history. The Wildcats have not lost to the Red Raiders since 2004. Head Coach Suzie Fritz is 21-2 against Tech.

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 238 wins and has taken the team to eight NCAA Tournaments, including three runs to the Regional Semifinals.

Texas Tech: Don Flora (La Verne `90) is in his second year leading the Red Raiders where he is looking to build Tech back into a winning program. The Red Raiders have not had a winning season since 2001 and Flora had his team 15-17 in his first year in Lubbock and currently at 13-16 this year.

Scouting the Red Raiders
Texas Tech has a deep roster this season as Head Coach Don Flora is in his second year of rebuilding the team. The Red Raiders played 14 players in Saturday's loss to No. 3 Texas as well as in the first meeting with K-State.

Up front Breann David leads Tech with 2.78 kills in conference play to rank 10th in the league. The sophomore also ranks third on the team in blocks.

The Red Raiders appear to be running a 6-2 offense with two setters rotating in and out of the back row with hitters to provide a bigger block and three attackers in the front row at all times. Emily Ruetter led the team with 19 assists against Texas on Saturday and Nicole Hragyil had 12 assists.

Tech did hit .217 against the Longhorns on Saturday, which is significantly higher than the .146 opponent hitting percentage Texas is allowing in conference play this season. Freshman outside hitter Emily Ehrle tallied 10 kills while hitting .259 and middle blocker Miara Cave had nine kills and a .500 hitting clip. The Red Raiders hit over .300 in each of the first two sets before Texas began stuffing Tech with blocks to lower its percentage.

The Red Raiders are not one of the better blocking teams in the Big 12 averaging just 1.84 per set in league play to rank seventh. They also rank eighth in team hitting percentage and opponent hitting percentage.

Catching Up with the `Cats
The Wildcats are 8-6 in Big 12 Conference play with two matches left on the schedule. K-State is currently in a tie for fourth place with Oklahoma and will tangle with the Sooners to close the season at home next Saturday for Senior Night at Ahearn Field House.

K-State is coming off a 1-3 loss to No. 19 Iowa State on Wednesday that saw the Wildcats post their lowest hitting percentage of the season. The Wildcats hope to bounce back against the Red Raiders in Lubbock where K-State has not lost since 2001. Tech battled back to force the match to five sets earlier this season in Manhattan after K-State won the first two sets easily.

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 sixth in hitting percentage.

Pelger posted her ninth double-double of the season in the loss to Iowa State on Wednesday as she tallied 12 kills and 16 digs. Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue also had her ninth double-double leading the team with 18 digs and 36 assists.

The Wildcats are still ranked among the top teams in the country in the polls and have the stats to back it up. In addition to ranking 22nd in hitting percentage the Wildcats are 18th in the NCAA in assists per set in the NCAA's latest statistics report on Monday averaging 13.42. Thanks in part to senior setter Caitlyn Donahue's direction the Wildcats are also killing at a rate of 14.14 per set to rank 33rd.

The Wildcats are posting those strong numbers thanks to a number of individuals having great seasons for the team. Donahue ranks sixth in the NCAA in assists (11.95) 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 28th in the nation this season at 1.35 per set and with her all-around game Pelger is 50th in points.

Double Grand
Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue has joined an exclusive club this season for the Wildcats. She is just one of only two players in school history to post 1,000 assists and 1,000 digs. Donahue currently ranks in the top 10 in school history in both categories along with All-American Gabby Guerre.

Guerre helped lead the Wildcats to the 2003 Big 12 Championship and posted 4,943 assists to rank second in school history. Her 1,013 digs place her11th. Donahue moved her way up the digs list this season and currently has 1,073 to ninth. Donahue's 3,508 assists put her fifth.

Five other players in school history are in the double grand club but with kills and digs.

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 3.75 kills per set and has increased her defensive production on the back row to average 2.78 digs this year. The junior has tallied nine double-doubles on the year with eight 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 2.41 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 .328 to lead the team in that category and rank sixth in the conference.

Muff has posted10 or more kills in seven of the last 10 matches and hit .345 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 nine matches, Muff has averaged 1.17 blocks, dropping slightly after only stuffing one block against TCU on Saturday. She now ranks third in the league in that category with 1.18 in conference matches overall.

For her career, Muff ranks fifth in school history in block assists with 401 and is poised to move into fourth if she continues at her current pace. She has now posted three straight seasons with at least 100 total blocks.

K-State Ranked No. 20
The Wildcats dropped three spots to No. 20 in this week's AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll after falling at home to then-No. 23 Kansas on Wednesday and defeating TCU at home on Saturday. A week after seeing four teams in the Top 10 lose to unranked opponents there was less moving and shaking near the top of the poll.

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 holds onto the No. 3 spot with only three losses on the year. After defeating K-State and then taking Texas to five sets at home, the Kansas Jayhawks moved up one spot to No. 22. The Iowa State Cyclones moved up one to No. 19 with K-State's drop.

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 falling four spots to No. 14 after losing on the road to Michigan and Michigan State. Dayton held steady at No. 12. The Wildcats defeated both the Gophers and the Flyers. The Creighton Bluejays are ranked No. 23 this week after cracking the poll for the first time in school history last week at No. 25. After cracking the Top 25 three weeks ago, St. Mary's dropped out last week but is the top vote getter outside the Top 25.