Wildcats Ready for Red Raiders

Taylor Johnson

Nov. 18, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State volleyball team is hoping to close the season strong with two more matches remaining at home and a possible return to the NCAA Tournament on the line. The Wildcats take on Texas Tech at 3 p.m. Saturday in Ahearn Field House. K-State swept the Red Raiders on their home court earlier this season, and the Wildcats are looking for their 14th straight win over Tech.

K-State currently stands at 18-10 on the year and hold the No. 26 RPI in the nation following upsets over the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas A&M Aggies recently. The Wildcats have seven wins over teams with an RPI in the Top 50 to make an argument for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but they cannot overlook their last two opponents in Tech and Kansas.

Texas Tech is 15-14 on the year with matches remaining against Oklahoma and Missouri and have only one win in conference play. Tech is coming off a loss to San Jose State on the road Tuesday night as the Red Raiders travelled for the mid-week nonconference match during their scheduled bye in conference play. The Red Raiders have not had a winning season since 2001. The Wildcats have won 14 straight against the Red Raiders and lost only once to Tech in Manhattan. The loss came in five sets in 2004.

Saturday’s match will be Military Appreciation Day as the team is celebrating its partnership with the Combat  Aviation Brigade. Discounted tickets of $3 are available when fans show their Military ID. It also is a Wildcat Weekend as fans can purchase $3 general admission bench tickets when they bring their ticket from Friday night’s women’s basketball game against Missouri State. It also will be Youth Sports Day and fans age 14 and under can get in free when they wear their youth sports team jersey.

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

Saturday’s match will be broadcast on K-StateHD.TV and Texas Tech’s RaiderVision as K-State has agreed to share its video feed. Subscribers to either service can watch the match. Fans can subscribe to K-StateHD.TV for $9.95 a month or $79.95 for a year. Live stats provided by GameTracker may be found on kstatesports.com.

The Series
K-State leads the all-time series against Texas Tech 26-8 as the Wildcats have won the last 12 matches. The Wildcats have dominated the series and never lost back-to-back matches to the Red Raiders. Suzie Fritz is 18-2 against Tech with one loss at home and on the road. Her only road loss to Tech came in 2001, her first year as head coach of the Wildcats.

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.

Texas Tech: Don Flora (La Verne ‘90) is in his first year leading the Red Raiders and he has turned the program around quickly. After combing to win 10 matches over the last three years, Flora has Tech at 15-14 in his first  year with the team. Tech has not had a winning record since 2001.

Scouting the Red Raiders
Texas Tech has responded to head coach Don Flora in his first year leading the program. The Red Raiders are 15-14 entering this weekend’s match after the team won a total of just 11 matches from 2008-10. Tech is still searching for its second conference win of the season.

The Red Raiders are led by outside hitter Amanda Dowdy. The senior is the team’s top offensive weapon and also plays a key role defensively as she also is second on the team in digs with a 3.29 average. Dowdy pounds out an impressive 4.00 kills a set to rank fourth in the conference overall. She is one of the most decorated players in Tech history as she is second in career kills with 1,445 and trails only Kelly Johnson, who played from 2001-04.

Texas Tech is the top blocking team in the conference with an average of 2.83 per set overall. The Raiders’ mark of 2.49 in league action ranks second just behind Oklahoma’s 2.50. That strong block has helped limit Tech’s opponents to a hitting percentage of just .160, which ranks atop the league. That number flips, however, in league action as Big 12 teams are hitting .243 against Tech, which ranks eighth.

In Tuesday’s loss, Tech struggled in the serving game as San Jose State posted nine aces to Tech’s six. The Red Raiders had 12 service errors, however, which proved to be the difference in the match as the Spartans only had six. Tech lost 24-26, 25-15, 21-25, 29-27, 12-15 despite hitting .235 in the match compared to San Jose State’s performance of .192.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
With a record of 18-10 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.

The Wildcats are coming off a sweeping loss to No. 13 Iowa State on Wednesday night that saw K-State battle closely with the Cyclones through the first two sets before Iowa State ran away in the third. K-State did not have any players reach double digits in kills and the team hit just .104 compared to Iowa State’s .282.

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, but the Aggies still must face Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa State. Depending on how the final week of the season pans out next week, the Wildcats can finish anywhere from a tie for third place to alone in fifth place.

Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek has stepped up her play over the last two weeks 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 3.29 kills per set on the year.
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 last week and tallied eight kills and nine digs to go with four blocks. Pelger is second in the Big 12 overall in kills with 4.16 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 last week, and Traxson contributed seven kills.