Defense Helps Pelger Join Rare Company

Nov. 21, 2013

K-State Athletics

The K-State volleyball team put forth another balanced performance at home when it swept Baylor on Wednesday. No player reached double-digit kills, but the Wildcats did not need to rely on a single player. Six Wildcats had at least three kills and two blocks as the team finished with 36 kills and 13.0 blocks.

Senior Kaitlynn Pelger was one of those six as she turned in seven kills - on a .429 hitting percentage - and six blocks. The half-a-dozen stuffs by Pelger were her most in a match since Oct. 23 when she had eight. Against whom? Baylor.

"That was by far her defensive effort," said head coach Suzie Fritz about Pelger's Wednesday night performance against the Bears. "There was a lot that went into that, her serving and her digging, but when we talk about being on task, she was very good at the net."

With the six blocks, Pelger now has 102 on the year, her most in a season since 2011. Crossing the century mark in blocks is noteworthy because it gives Pelger her third career Triple-Triple season (100 or more in each kills, blocks, digs and/or assists). The middle blocker joins Val Wieck (1996-98) and Kate DeClerk (1994-96) as the only Wildcats in program history with three career Triple-Triple seasons.

All six of Pelger's blocks on Wednesday came over the second and third sets. Two of her most important blocks came in the second set when she teamed with Katie Brand for back-to-back blocks that turned a narrow two-point lead into an 18-14 K-state advantage. The Wildcats never let the Bears come any closer than four points over the remainder of the set and never looked back in the match.

"We stressed [Baylor] a lot with our serve," said Pelger, who had a team-best three aces along with eight digs in the match. "Our block is usually what we are truly doing well in. Everyone did their job in taking away the seams that they normally like to hit. (Kersten) Kober and Gina (Madonia) were back there digging a ton of balls for us and that is exactly what we needed."

Pelger is averaging 3.07 kills, 2.39 digs and 1.06 blocks per set this season. The two-time All-America Honorable Mention has only averaged 1.0 block per set in a season once in her career (2011). K-State will play in at least 105 sets this season as it has three matches remaining on its regular season schedule, meaning Pelger would need three more blocks over the final week of the season to maintain her one block average. Pelger is averaging 1.4 blocks per set over the last three matches.

Pelger, a rare middle blocker who plays all six rotations, is among the top 10 on K-State's career records list in several categories, including ninth in career blocks with 414.

"Blocking has not always been her strength," added Fritz. "It is something that she really has to spend some time on. She is always an offensive presence, but when she can do that on both sides of the ball, that is something special."