SE: Fritz Saw it Coming

Dec. 8, 2011

By Mark Janssen
K-State Sports Extra

Suzie Fritz said this prior to the first serve of the 2011 Kansas State volleyball year:
“More than any team I can remember, this team seems committed as far as time put in with our strength and conditioning coach, and a lot of gym time that was organized with the upper-classmen. I promise you, I don’t know where it will take us, but there is not another volleyball team in America that out-worked us this summer.”

Then entering postseason play, she hoped, “We want to play our best volleyball in December.”

And Kansas State certainly is that, and where it has taken the Wildcats is a great distance … as in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Friday in a 9 p.m. (Central time) match, the unranked and 22-10 Kansas State Wildcats will face No. 18 and 24-6 Pepperdine in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats stormed into the month of December with wins over Texas Tech, and then over arch-rival Kansas to finish fourth in the Big 12. Then when the calendar flipped to December, the play improved even more with a win over Wichita State in the NCAA’s first round, and then … and then … knocked off No 2-ranked Nebraska on its home court.

With a win tonight, K-State would play either host No. 3 Hawaii (31-1) or No. 1 USC (27-4) in the Elite Eight round for an invitation to the NCAA Final Four in San Antonio on the line.

This is K-State’s 13th NCAA tournament, which includes a 14-12 record. This is the Wildcats’ third Sweet 16 appearance with the first coming in 2000 when they lost to Wisconsin.

“I think they just need to do what got them here,” said Fritz. “I don’t think that we have the time to all of the sudden reinvent the wheel. I think that we have progressively gotten better, which is a source of tremendous pride for me as their coach. I think we just need to do what we have done that got us to this point.”

Fritz added of her team that does not include a senior, “This is a very cohesive group with good chemistry. It’s a likeable group in that they seem to want to get better, they make good grades and are just terrific young people,” said Fritz. “It’s been a low-maintenance group that is still working on becoming a good volleyball team.”

If not a great volleyball team.

SPECIAL MATCH FOR KABALIS: It’s a homecoming for K-State libero Kuulei Kabalis as she is a native of Hilo, Hawai’i.

“It is so exciting for me and my team. I am so excited to bring them back with me to my home rock and play in front of people that I know and my family,” said Kabalis, a transfer to K-State from Western Nebraska. “It is huge.”

On her parents making the trip from Hilo, she added, “It is a couple islands away from each other, so it is just a 45-minute plane ride. It is nothing too terrible.”

Fritz added, “She is so excited. I think she has about 900 people that are planning to attend that match to support her and to support us, so we will have our own little cheering section.”

PELGER MAKES ALL-REGION: Kansas State middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger was named to the AVCA Central All-Region First Team on Tuesday as voted by the coaches.

By making the first team, Pelger is eligible for the AVCA All-America Team. The last time K-State had an All-American was 2008 when Nataly Korobkova was named to the third team. This is Pelger’s first AVCA All-Region honor and the 22nd for the Wildcats. It marks the seventh time a Wildcat has been named to the All-Region First Team.

STILL ALIVE FROM THE BIG 12: Along with K-State still playing volleyball, also from the Big 12 area Iowa State in the Minnesota Regional and Texas in the Kentucky Regional.

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