Sunflower Showdown in Ahearn Wednesday

Lilla Porubek

Nov. 22, 2011

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State volleyball team closes the regular season on Wednesday when the Wildcats take on their in-state rivals the Kansas Jayhawks at 7 p.m. The second Sunflower Showdown of the season will be televised on Metro Sports in the Kansas City area and available on Kansas 22 in the rest of the state. A win by the Wildcats would guarantee at least a tie for fourth place in the Big 12 Conference after being picked to finish eighth in the preseason by the league’s coaches.
The Wildcats are looking for a possible return to the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid. K-State currently stands at 19-10 on the year and hold the No. 27 RPI in the nation. 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 the Jayhawks as KU has the No. 47 RPI. KU is 14-13 on the year and just 2-12 in Big 12 play, but the Jayhawks have a quality win over Minnesota.

K-State enters the match following a 3-1 win over Texas Tech on Saturday to get the Wildcats one step closer to the coveted 20-win mark. A victory on Wednesday would be the first 20-win season for K-State since 2008 when the Wildcats went 24-8 and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Saturday’s match will offer a number of different ticket discounts as well. Fans may purchase general admission bench tickets for just $3 when they bring a canned food item to be donated to the Flint Hills Breadbasket. There also is a promotion code online for members of the Manhattan community to purchase discounted tickets. Tickets purchased by members of the military for Saturday’s match but were unable to attend due to the time change will be honored on Wednesday. Those tickets must be redeemed at the ticket booth. The concessions stand will also be offering nachos, popcorn and pretzels for $1.

On the Tube
Wednesday’s match will be aired on Metro Sports in the Kansas City area with Brenda VanLengen calling the action and Liz Wegner-Busch providing color commentary. The telecast will also be available on Kansas 22 throughout the state.

On the Airwaves
Wednesday’s match will be broadcast on 1350 KMAN with Rob Voelker calling the action. The match will also be available on the station’s website and free online at

Live stats provided by GameTracker may be found on Free live audio will also be available at

The Series
K-State leads the all-time series 61-41-1 and have dominated the Jayhawks during the Big 12 era with a 27-4 record since 1996. Head Coach Suzie Fritz is 17-4 against KU and 8-2 at home.

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 214-125 gives her a winning percentage of .631.

Kansas: Ray Bechard (Fort Hays State ‘80) is in his 14th year leading the Jayhawks and has taken the team to the NCAA Tournament three times. KU just missed an at-large berth last season going 17-14.

Scouting the Jayhawks
Kansas opened the season 11-1 before starting conference play and has stumbled in Big 12 action. The Jayhawks are just 2-12 in league action to bring their overall record to 14-13 after another nonconference game. The only two wins in conference play for KU have come against last-place Texas Tech.

The Jayhawks do have an RPI in the Top 50 and are still in the hunt for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament if they can end the season with a winning record. That means Kansas must defeat either K-State on Wednesday or Baylor on Saturday in Lawrence.

Allison Mayfield leads the Jayhawks with 4.17 kills per set on the year, which ranks first in the Big 12. Her numbers are still strong in conference play where she is posting 4.02 kills but her hitting percentage takes a dip down to .164. Caroline Jarmoc is KU’s second offensive threat with her 2.89 kills per set and .309 hitting percentage. Jarmoc is one of the league’s top middle blockers as she is stuffing 1.22 blocks a set overall and 1.18 in league play.

The Jayhawks are fifth in the Big 12 in blocks but their defense only ranks eighth in digs. Kansas is the only team in the league to have two players averaging more than 1.00 block per set in conference matches as Tayler Tolefree joins Jarmoc as one of the league’s top blockers.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
With a record of 19-10 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 3-1 win over Texas Tech that saw setter Caitlyn Donahue spread the offense around as four players reached double digits in kills. Donahue also posted her 13th double-double of the season in the contest.

K-State is poised to finish in the top half of the conference standings after being picked to finish eighth out of nine in the preseason. The Wildcats currently stand alone in fourth place, and the worst they can finish is in fifth if Oklahoma wins both its remaining matches.

Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek has stepped up her play over the last three weeks with Kaitlynn Pelger limited in her role until recently. 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 3.28 kills per set on the year.
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 moved her way into the Top 10 in career assists at K-State already and needs 102 to catch Chi Dau in sixth.

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 is second in the Big 12 overall in kills with 4.13 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 three of the last five 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. She tied her career-high with 13 kills in the win over Texas Tech on Saturday.

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 11.01 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 13 double-doubles, including a run of six straight.

The Overland Park native is directing the offense to a hitting percentage of .220 to rank sixth in the conference. The team’s kill average of 13.38 is fourth in the league as well. In conference play, K-State is averaging still 13.20 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 11.01 following last week’s matches ranks 35th in the NCAA this season. A total of 14 of the setters with a higher assists per set average than Donahue play for ranked teams. The average team ranking of those 14 setters is 13.4, including No. 1 USC, No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 Hawai’i and No. 6 Stanford.

“Por”ing it On
Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek has continued where she left off her freshman campaign as she is averaging 3.28 kills per set and ranks ninth in the Big 12. She has posted 10 or more kills in every match but four 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 as she has filled the role of the No. 1 option while Kaitlynn Pelger was limited after an ankle injury. 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 to give K-State two players in the top 10 within the Big 12.

Killer Kaitlynn
Kaitlynn Pelger is second in the Big 12 Conference in kills as she is averaging 4.13 kills per set through 29 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 .318 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 2.62 balls a set to stand third 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 37th in kills per set and 14th in points (5.06) 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 2.36 kills per set in Big 12 play and posted a season-high 17 kills twice in the last six 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, Ludwig posted 17 kills and 14 digs to notch her fourth double-double of the season. 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. She followed that with 12 kills and 14 digs in the win against Oklahoma.

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 25th with an average of 1,495. K-State is fifth in the conference in attendance trailing only Texas (6th; 2,700), Missouri (14th; 2,298), Iowa State (15th; 2,270) and Texas A&M (24th; 1,525).

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.