Final Notes: Wildcats Wrap Up 2013

Dec. 4, 2013

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K-State Athletics

The K-State volleyball team wrapped up its third straight winning season, going 18-11 during the 2013 season. The Wildcats jumped out to a 7-0 start on the season and finished 12-1 in their nonconference schedule, had five wins over teams ranked in the top 50 the NCAA’s RPI rankings and had a .833 winning percentage at home.

The Wildcats finished fifth in the Big 12 with a 6-10 record, but after a sweep of #25 Oklahoma on Nov. 3 in Manhattan, K-State went 4-4 over its final eight conference matches.

    •  10-2 in Ahearn Field House
    •  Three wins over ranked opponents
    •  Two All-Big 12 Awards
    •  Nine Academic All-Big 12 honors – tying the school-record and most in the conference
    •  Five Big 12 Player of the Week awards – most since 2008
    •  One of the Big 12 (2nd) and national leaders in blocks (22nd)
    •  Suzie Fritz, K-State’s all-time winningest coach, tallied career victory No. 250 - on Sept. 22 at Missouri St.

Kaitlynn Pelger and Katie Brand were honored by Big 12 coaches with a spot on the All-Big 12 First Team and All-Big 12 Freshman Team, respectively. The All-Big 12 awards are voted upon by conference coaches and coaches cannot vote for their own players. It is Pelger’s third career All-Big 12 First Team honor, making her the second Wildcat in program history to achieve that feat, joining Gabby Guerre (2002-04). Brand, meanwhile, joins Pelger (2010) as the only Wildcats to be selected to the conference’s All-Big 12 Freshman Team in the program history. In conference-only matches, Pelger was 10th in kills per set (3.07), third in aces per set (0.35) and ninth in blocks per set (1.07). Brand led all Big 12 freshmen in assists and finished ninth in conference-only matches in aces per set.

The Wildcats lose six seniors to graduation this season, including two-time AVCA All-America honorable mention Kaitlynn Pelger. The middle blocker is a rare middle blocker who plays all six rotations, and she once again showcased her skills all across the court in 2013. Pelger finished the year with 322 kills, 249 digs, 112 blocks, 80 assists and 37 aces. She was the only Big 12 player to finish in the top 10 in conference-only matches in kills per set (3.36), blocks per set (1.09) and aces per set (0.33).

Pelger has cemented her name among many of K-State’s career lists, including:
    •  Points – 2nd, 1,879
    •  Kills – 4th, 1,501
    •  Aces – 7th, 130
    •  Sets Played – T-7th, 438
    •  Blocks – 8th, 424

She also leaves as the only Wildcat in program history to lead K-State in kills for four different seasons, have 300+ kills in four different seasons and have more than 1,500 kills, 900 digs, 400 blocks and 100 aces in a career. Her career kills and points are the most in program history in the rally-scoring era (since 2001).

Ahearn Field House has historically proven it is one of the toughest places to play and the 2013 season was no different. The Wildcats went 10-2 at home, their third straight season with at least 10 home wins and 11th time in the last 14 seasons they have posted double-digit victories at home. K-State is 300-156-5 (.651) all-time in Ahearn Field House since playing its first season in the structure back in 1974. In 40 seasons of playing Ahearn Field House, the Wildcats have finished with a winning home record 29 times, including 18 times in the last 20 seasons.

K-State’s defense stood tall throughout the season. The Wildcats finished second among Big 12 teams in blocks per set (2.76) and third in opponent hitting percentage (.185). K-State also finished second in the Big 12 with 2.72 blocks per set in conference-only matches. K-State’s 2.76 blocks per set for the overall season are its highest average since 2009 when the Wildcats averaged 3.0 blocks per set (357.5 blocks/119 sets). The Wildcats also had 13 matches this season in which they finished with double-digit blocks, their most since 2011 when K-State had 15 matches with 10 or more blocks.

Junior Taylor Johnson had her role increased in 2013, and she made a presence at the net. The Grand Island, Neb. native led the Wildcats with 116 blocks (8 solo, 108 block assists) and finished third among Big 12 players with 1.23 blocks per set for the entire season. Entering 2013, Johnson had a career total of 52 blocks over 59 sets. Johnson had a career-high 10 blocks at Texas Tech on Nov. 6, becoming the only Wildcat to post double-digit blocks in a single match this season and first since Kaitlynn Pelger had 10 vs. Missouri State in September of 2012. Johnson had eight blocks three days later on Nov. 9 vs. West Virginia, helping her earn her first career Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week award.

Senior Courtney Traxson had a career-year in her final season with K-State volleyball. The native of Cheney, Kan. had a career-high 255 kills, 67 blocks and 290.5 points this season. She averaged 2.55 kills per set for the entire season, the first time Traxson had averaged more than 2.0 kills per set for an entire season. Her previous best was 1.88 kills per set in 2012. Traxson also had 2.95 kills per set in Big 12-only matches, nearly one more kill per set than her previous best (2.0) in 2012. Traxson had 11 matches this season with 10 or more kills after she entered the season with only eight matches with 10+ kills in her career.

Senior Dakota Kaufman also enjoyed a career year after she had new career-highs in kills (199), digs (65) and blocks (58). The Hillsboro, Kan. native averaged 2.05 kills per set, the first time in her career she averaged more than 2.0 kills per set for a season. Kaufman had double-digit kills in seven matches this season, including a career-high 13 at Baylor on Oct. 23. She also had 12 kills at #23 Cal and posted a career-best .529 hitting percentage against Southern Illinois on Sept. 6.

Libero Tristan McCarty wrapped up her career by posting several personal-bests. The Manhattan native played in 102 of K-State’s 105 sets, helping her finish seventh on the Wildcats’ career sets played list with 438. McCarty also had a career-high 326 digs and 25 aces this season. She had a career-high 27 digs on Aug. 31 vs. Cal State Fullerton, which are the most digs by a Wildcat since Kuulei Kabalis had 30 in October of 2011. McCarty finished 2013 with 16 double-digit dig matches. She matched her career-high for aces in a match when she had four in a five-set win over #23 Cal.

Outside hitter Lilla Porubek had her season cut short, but that did not stop the Budapest, Hungary native from turning in an impressive nonconference season. Porubek was named the Arkansas Invitational MVP after hammering down 15 kills and two aces at Arkansas in the final match of the tournament. She also had a season-high 16 kills, along with 18 digs for a double-double, vs. Cal Poly in the Cal Invitational. Porubek ended the year with 114 kills (2.33 per set), 80 digs (1.63) and 23 blocks (0.47 per set) in 49 sets. Porubek became the 19th Wildcat in program history with 900+ kills as she finished with 904.

After sitting out all of 2012 as a redshirt, Katie Brand excelled in her role as the team’s new setter. Brand became just the third freshman in program history to register 1,000 assists in a season and first since Disney Bronnenberg set the school’s freshman record with 1,694 in 1998. Brand also became the first Big 12 freshman to average 10 or more assists per set for an entire season since 2010.

Katie Brand was the most productive setter in the Big 12 beyond the second contact. The native of Grand Island, Neb. paced all Big 12 setters in points (169.0), kills (95) and blocks (87). She was also third in digs (250) and tied for third in aces (27) among the conference’s setters. Brand’s points, blocks and kills were the most by a K-State setter since 2007 while her aces were the most by a Wildcat setter since 2008. Brand had a career-high six aces on Sept. 21 vs. Saint Louis, the most by a Big 12 player in a four-set match all season.

Kersten Kober finished the season with 213 digs, a mark few K-State freshmen have crossed before. The Southlake, Texas native became the 19th freshman in program history to cross the 200-dig mark for a season. Kober and redshirt freshman Katie Brand are the first freshman Wildcats to have 200 digs in a season since Kathleen Ludwig and Caitlyn Donahue crossed the mark in 2009. Kober is just the third freshman defensive specialist/libero in program history with 200 or more digs and first since Angie Lastra had 493 digs in 2004.

K-State had three wins against ranked opponents this season, which is the second straight season the Wildcats had three victories against teams ranked in the AVCA Top 25 Poll. K-State beat #23 Cal in Berkeley on Sept. 14, its first road win over a ranked opponent since the Wildcats beat Nebraska in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament in 2011. The Wildcats also beat #25 Oklahoma and #25 Iowa State, both of which were sweeps at home.

K-State posted a perfect record in five-set matches, going 5-0 in full matches in 2013. It is the second straight season and fifth time in program history that the Wildcats have gone undefeated in five-set matches in a season. K-State is 19-1 in its last 20 matches since 2010.

The Wildcats ended the season with a four-match winning streak at home, all of which were straight-sets victories. Prior to this season, K-State had not posted four straight Big 12 sweeps at home since 2002. Of the Wildcats’ 10 wins at home this season, eight were sweeps, their most straight-set home wins in a season since 2007 when they also had eight.

A conference-best nine K-State volleyball student-athletes were named to the 2013 Academic All-Big 12 Team, including seven on the First Team and five first-timers. The First Team of Wildcats featured redshirt freshman Katie Brand, senior Courtney Cook, junior Taylor Johnson, junior Gina Madonia, senior Kaitlynn Pelger, senior Lilla Porubek and senior Courtney Traxson. Senior Dakota Kaufman and junior Chelsea Keating earned Second Team honors. First-time selections included Brand, Cook, Johnson, Keating and Pelger while Porubek, Traxson and Kaufman each received their third career selections. It was Madonia’s second time being named Academic All-Big 12. The nine Academic All-Big 12 honors tied the program-record for most in season (Last: 1996). K-State has the most Academic All-Big 12 selections (First Team and overall) in conference history.

More notes here.