Wildcats Face Shockers in Return to NCAA Tournament

Alex Muff

Nov. 29, 2011

Tournament Central

Complete K-State Game Notes
Get Acrobat Reader

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State volleyball team is headed back to the NCAA Tournament as the Wildcats received an at-large bid to the 2011 tournament after a two-year hiatus. The Wildcats will travel to Lincoln, Neb., and take on Wichita State in the first round as K-State and the Shockers are set to take the court at 4:30 p.m. Thursday from NU Coliseum in the first postseason matchup between the two teams.

This is the 13th NCAA Tournament appearance for the Wildcats and eighth in the 11 years head coach Suzie Fritz has led the program. K-State is 12-12 all-time in the tournament with the deepest run by the Wildcats coming in 2003 and 2000 when the team reached the Regional Semifinals. Fritz is 7-7 in her seven tournament appearances and has advanced out of the first round each year but 2008 against Santa Clara.

Wichita State is entering its sixth NCAA Tournament and fifth straight. The Shockers are 4-5 in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the second round in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets through the K-State Ticket Office from the allotment given to the department. Tickets can be purchased online at kstatesports.com/tickets or by calling 1-800-221-CATS. Fans may also go through the Nebraska Ticket Office by calling 800-8-BIGRED. All-session tickets are available for $34 in reserved seating or $30 for general admission and include all three matches at the site.

Other teams in K-State’s Lincoln subregional are host Nebraska (24-4) as the Huskers are the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament. Nebraska will take on Jackson State (30-9) from the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Tigers won their first SWAC title this season. Nebraska and Jackson State will face at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with the winner of both matches playing Friday. Of the two potential opponents, K-State has never faced Jackson State and is 3-80 against Nebraska.

On the Airwaves
Thursday’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 kstatesports.com. Pregame starts at 4 p.m.

Live stats provided by NeuLion may be found on huskers.com. Free live audio of KMAN’s call will also be available at kstatesports.com.

The Series
K-State vs. Wichita State: The Wildcats lead the all-time series 37-15 and have won the last eight matches against the Shockers. The two teams have not met since 2007 when K-State won 3-1 in Wichita.

K-State vs. Jackson State: The Wildcats and Tigers have never met.

K-State vs. Nebraska: The Huskers lead the series 80-3. The Wildcats have not defeated the Huskers since winning both matches in 2003.

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 215-126 gives her a winning percentage of .630.

Wichita State: Chris Lamb (Sonoma State ‘98) is in his 12th year with the Shockers. He has taken the team to the NCAA Tournament six times. This is the team’s fifth straight postseason appearance.

Jackson State: Rose Washington (Jackson State ‘77) is in her 10th season leading her alma mater where this season she took the Tigers to their first SWAC title and NCAA Tournament appearance this season.

Nebraska: John Cook (San Diego ‘79) is in his 12th year with the Huskers and he has kept the program among the top in the nation winning two NCAA titles and reaching five NCAA semifinals.

Scouting the Shockers
The Shockers are making their sixth NCAA Tournament appearance and fifth straight. Wichita State is 21-10 on the year and fell in the championship match at the Missouri Valley Conference Championship.

Wichita State has a number of quality wins this season defeating then-No. 14 Colorado State on the Rams’ home floor in four sets. The Shockers also bested No. 22 Oklahoma in five sets in Wichita in a match that saw four of the sets decided by the minimum of two points. Two of the sets also went to extra points.

The Shockers have two hitters posting more than 3.00 kills a set led by Emily Adney at 3.49. The junior is hitting .268 on the year and contributes 1.57 digs a set. Camri Zwiesler is putting down 3.10 kills a set on a .219 hitting clip and plays a much bigger role on defense as she is second on the team in digs at 3.35 per set.

Wichita State is a strong defensive team posting 16.21 digs a set and limiting opponents to a hitting percentage of just .174 while hitting .262. Libero Sarah Waldorf has strong numbers for the Shockers posting 5.05 digs a set. She ranks 44th in the latest NCAA statistical standings.

Scouting the Huskers
The Huskers are making their 30th NCAA Tournament appearance. Nebraska is 82-26 all-time in the tournament and ranks second  in both wins and winning percentage in the postseason.

Nebraska is again among the top teams in the nation this season as the Huskers are the No. 2 seed in the tournament. The Huskers are led by outside hitter Gina Mancuso with 3.54 kills per set. She is hitting .278 on the year, leads the team in aces and plays a major role defensively with 2.67 digs per set.

Mancuso is joined by right side hitter Morgan Broekhuis as a major offensive threat as the sophomore is averaging 3.06 kills. The Huskers have multiple weapons with All-American Hannah Werth averaging 2.83 kills and 3.07 digs. As a team Nebraska is averaging 13.46 kills and hitting an impressive .262, which ranks 16th in the nation this season.

Setter Lauren Cook makes the Huskers go on offense as she directs the team with 10.94 assists per set. She also adds 2.76 digs to help shore up the defense. Nebraska is allowing opponents to hit only .143 this season thanks to 14.94 digs per set and 2.65 blocks.

Scouting the Tigers
Jackson State is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance after the Tigers claimed their first-ever Soutwestern Athletic Conference title. The Tigers are 30-9 on the season and went undefeated in conference play.

The Tigers are led by Christine Edwards as she pounded out 4.21 kills per set on a .286 hitting percentage to lead the team in both categories and be named SWAC Newcomer of the Year. Edwards also leads the team in aces with 51 on the year. Daedra Carline was this year’s SWAC Defensive Player of the Year as she averages 3.33 digs per set.  

Jackson State had four players named to the All-SWAC First Team with middle blocker Paige Williams and setter LaToya Clark joining Edwards and Carline. Williams averages 1.26 blocks a set, and Clark posts 10.04 assists.

Catching Up with the ‘Cats
With a record of 20-10 overall the Wildcats are returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. The Wildcats have eight 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 into the tournament.

The Wildcats are one of seven Big 12 Conference teams selected for the NCAA Tournament tying the conference for second most. Only the Big Ten has more teams (8), and the Pac-12 also has seven. With only nine teams playing volleyball in the Big 12, the league does have the highest percentage of inclusion in the NCAA Tournament at 77.8 percent.

K-State is making its 13th tournament appearance where the Wildcats are 12-12 all-time. Head Coach Suzie Fritz is 7-7 in her seven appearances. This makes it eight NCAA Tournaments for her in her 11 years leading the program. The Wildcats have advanced to at least the second round of the tournament every year but one under Fritz, with the lone first round loss coming in 2008.

Pelger, Porubek Named All-Big 12
After finishing fourth in the Big 12 Conference this season and being selected to their 13th NCAA Tournament, the Kansas State Wildcats had a pair of volleyball players recognized by the league’s coaches as members of the All-Big 12 Conference Team. Sophomores Kaitlynn Pelger and Lilla Porubek were voted to the team by the coaches with Pelger receiving first team status and Porubek being named honorable mention.

Pelger led the Wildcats throughout the season as she currently stands at 453 kills and ranks third in the conference in kills per set with an average of 4.12. She was first in the conference through much of the season and was one of the league’s top all-around players as she also ranks in the top 10 in aces, blocks and points. Pelger’s 453 kills are just 15 shy of cracking the top 10 list for a single season at K-State, and she will have an opportunity to make that move up the list during the NCAA Tournament. Last season, she was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team after posting the first triple-triple season by a freshman in school history. She accomplished the feat again this year as she has 297 digs and 112 blocks to go with her kills. Pelger also has 12 double-doubles on the season.

Porubek receives her first honorable mention award as she ranks seventh in the Big 12 in kills per set with 3.39. She closed the season strong with a career-high 26 kills against Kansas on Wednesday while also hitting .305 for the match. Porubek stepped up for the Wildcats while Pelger was limited with an injury for a few matches, and helped carry the team to victories over Texas A&M and No. 23 Oklahoma. She had her first career double-double in the win over Oklahoma when she played all six rotations for the first time and tallied 14 digs to go with 23 kills.

This marks the 15th time a Wildcat has been named All-Big 12 First Team under head coach Suzie Fritz and 23rd overall. Porubek is the 14th honorable mention in the Big 12 era and 10th with Fritz at the helm.

Six Wildcats Make Grade
The Kansas State Wildcats has six volleyball players recognized for their hard work in the classroom as the Big 12 Conference announced its annual Academic All-Big 12 Volleyball Team. Five of the recipients were named to the first team, and three received the honor for the first time.

The five Wildcats named to the first team were junior setter Caitlyn Donahue, junior opposite Kathleen Ludwig, junior middle blocker Alex Muff and sophomore outside hitters Lilla Porubek and Courtney Traxson. Sophomore outside hitter Dakota Kaufman was named to the second team.

Donahue and Muff each were named to the first team last year as well, and Ludwig receives her second honor after being named to the second team in 2010. Porubek, Traxson and Kaufman all receive the honor in their first year of eligibility for the Academic All-Big 12.

Three of the Wildcats are majoring in education with Ludwig and Kaufman studying elementary education. Donahue is majoring in secondary education. Muff is majoring in marketing, and Porubek is studying economics. Traxson is an open option student, but will begin her major in communication and science disorders this spring.

A total of 61 volleyball student-athletes made the team this year for the most in conference history. The mark surpasses the previous high of 59 student-athletes in the league’s inaugural season. The league also had 51 of those student-athletes make the first team. K-State has now had 87 Academic All-Big 12 selections under Head Coach Suzie Fritz in her 11 years.

Killer Kaitlynn
Sophomore middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger continues to lead the team in kills this season and has had another solid year. Her total of 453 kills entering the NCAA Tournament is just 15 kills of cracking the top 10 in school history for a single season. She also needs just three digs to post the 13th double-300 season in school history with 300 or more kills and digs, something never done by a middle blocker at K-State before.

Pelger is one of a very few middle blockers playing all six rotations in the nation and has played a major role defensively for the Wildcats as she ranks third on the team in digs with 2.70 per set. She has posted 12 double-doubles this season with 11 of them as kills-digs. One of her double-doubles came with kills and blocks in a 3-2 win at Missouri State.

Kaitlynn Pelger is third in the Big 12 Conference in kills as she is averaging 4.12 kills per set. The sophomore middle blocker has 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. She also was the first middle blocker in school history to crack the 30-kill mark.

Pelger is one of the top players in the nation this season as she ranks in the top 100 in two of seven categories and is just outside the mark in two others. She ranks 39th in kills per set and 16th in points (5.03) 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.

“Por”ing it On
Sophomore outside hitter Lilla Porubek has stepped up her play over the closing weeks of the season to increase her kill production and become a go-to player down the stretch. Porubek posted a career-high 26 kills in the final match of the regular season in a 3-1 win over Kansas. She was efficient in the victory as she .305 to lead the team in that category as well. The 26 kills surpassed her previous best of 23 kills in the win over No. 25 Oklahoma. In that match she also 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 Kaitlynn Pelger left the match on the first play. Porubek is now averaging 3.39 kills per set on the year. Porubek also ranks sixth in the Big 12 in conference play with 3.60 kills per set.

Two of her best matches this season have come against Texas A&M, including the 3-2 come-from-behind win at home. 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.

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 on Oct. 26 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 11.06. The team’s kill average of 13.44 is fifth in the league as well. In conference play, K-State is averaging still 13.33 kills per set in to stand fourth thanks to the direction of Donahue.

The defensive play of Donahue has helped the Wildcats keep opponents at bay as she is second on the team in digs with an average of 2.78 per set. She has tallied 14 double-doubles on the year and is one shy of cracking the top 10 for most in a single season in school history. During a key stretch of conference play, Donahue posted six straight double-doubles with the team going 4-2. Five of those matches were against teams in the NCAA Tournament. Donahue also 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 win over No. 25 Oklahoma at home.