Senior Night on Saturday against Sooners
Nov. 23, 2012
MANHATTAN, Kan. – K-State closes out the regular season at home on Saturday when the No. 25-ranked Wildcats take on the Oklahoma Sooners at 7 p.m. from Ahearn Field House. It will be Senior Night and four Wildcats seniors Caitlyn Donahue, Kuulei Kabalis, Kathleen Ludwig and Alex Muff will be honored following the match.
Saturday’s match is an important one for conference standings. The Sooners bested the Wildcats in their first meeting this season and are one game ahead of K-State in the Big 12 standings. A win by the Wildcats would tie them with the Sooners for fourth place at 9-7 in league action. A loss would put K-State alone in fifth place.
The Wildcats are looking to rebound from two losses last week on the road. K-State fell to No. 19 Iowa State in four sets and then lost to Texas Tech in four sets as well. The loss to Tech was the first since 2004. After a mid-week bye on Wednesday, the Wildcats will be rested and ready for the Sooners on Saturday.
K-State is offering a Wildcat 4 Pack for fans. The ticket package includes four general admission tickets and vouchers for four hot dogs, chips and beverages at the concession stand.
On the Airwaves
Saturday’s match will not be heard on 1350 KMAN due to coverage of the K-State football game at Baylor. The action can be heard exclusively at kstatesports.com with Rob Voelker on the call.
The match will be broadcast on K-StateHD.TV for subscribers of K-State’s online network. Audio can also be heard on kstatesports.com and 1350KMAN.com.
Live stats for Saturday’s match can be found at kstatesports.com and soonersports.com with stats provided by GameTracker.
Oklahoma leads the all-time series at 50-26-1 and has claimed six of the last seven meetings after winning the first match this season. Suzie Fritz is 13-10 against the Sooners, including a 7-4 at home.
Kansas State: Suzie Fritz (Florida Atlantic ’94) is in her 12th year as head coach of the Wildcats she is the winningest coach in the program’s history with 238 wins and has taken the team to eight NCAA Tournaments, including three runs to the Regional Semifinals.
Oklahoma: Santiago Restrepo (East Stroudsburg ‘86) is in his ninth year leading the Sooners where he has turned the program into a regular NCAA Tournament team. Oklahoma has been to the postseason five of the last six years and reached the Regional Semifinals in 2010.
Scouting the Sooners
Oklahoma looks to close the regular season with back-to-back wins heading into the NCAA Tournament as the Sooners are among the teams expected to receive an at-large bid to the postseason with the No. 30 RPI. The Sooners have one of the Big 12’s top middle blockers in Sallie McLaurin as she leads the team in multiple areas.
McLaurin leads OU in kills averaging 2.84 per set. She also is the team’s top blocker, stuffing 1.40 per set and has the highest hitting percentage at .365. McLaurin is the only attacking Sooner hitting higher than .300.
During conference play, the Sooners have seen Grace Whitley emerge as a threat as well with a .329 hitting percentage in Big 12 matches and 0.84 blocks to rank second on the team in those categories. In league play, McLaurin is hitting .345 and killing at a 2.96 rate.
The Sooners are one of the top defensive teams in the conference this season led by libero Maria Fernanda with 4.71 digs. In Big 12 action, Fernanda averages 4.36 digs. As a team, OU ranks third in digs and second in blocks overall among Big 12 teams.
Oklahoma is able to spread its offense around with three players averaging at least 2.50 kills in conference play. Joining McLaurin are Tara Dunn (2.67) and Morgan Reynolds (2.62) on the outside.
In their most recent match, the Sooners put together a very balanced victory over TCU. OU had four players reach double digits in kills over the four sets while cracking 60 kills as a team and 60 digs. In addition to the 60 digs, the Sooners had 11 blocks to help slow TCU to a hitting percentage of .203 while hitting .302 themselves. McLaurin and Grace shined, combining for 22 kills and hitting .556.
Catching Up with the ‘Cats
The Wildcats are 8-7 in Big 12 Conference play with one match remaining. K-State can tie for fourth place with Oklahoma if the Wildcats can defeat the Sooners on Saturday. The Sooners bested the Wildcats to open Big 12 play and snap the perfect 12-0 start to K-State’s season.
K-State is coming off a 1-3 loss at Texas Tech. It marked the first time the Wildcats had lost to the Red Raiders since 2004. It also was the first win over a ranked opponent for Texas Tech since that match in 2004. The Wildcats and Red Raiders both put up strong blocks in the match with K-State tallying 12 blocks to Tech’s 14.5. Senior middle blocker Alex Muff had seven block assists for K-State as she continued her strong season at the net for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats are looking to snap a two-match losing streak as they also fell in their first match last week on the road at No. 19 Iowa State. K-State had its lowest hitting percentage of the season in the loss.
Middle blockers Kaitlynn Pelger and Muff continue providing a strong amount of offense for the Wildcats as both have posted 10 or more kills in nearly every conference match. Pelger is second in the league in kills during conference play and Muff ranks eighth in hitting percentage.
Pelger posted her ninth double-double of the season in the loss to Iowa State last week as she tallied 12 kills and 16 digs. Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue also had her ninth double-double leading the team with 18 digs and 36 assists. At Texas Tech, Pelger had nine kills and 12 digs while Muff pounded out 10 kills and registered seven blocks. Both hit .300 or better for the match as well.
The Wildcats are still ranked among the top teams in the country in the polls and have the stats to back it up. In addition to ranking 39th in hitting percentage the Wildcats are 29th in the NCAA in assists per set in the NCAA’s latest statistics report on Monday averaging 13.26. Thanks in part to senior setter Caitlyn Donahue’s direction the Wildcats are also killing at a rate of 13.94 per set to rank just outside the top 50.
The Wildcats are posting those strong numbers thanks to a number of individuals having great seasons for the team. Donahue ranks seventh in the NCAA in assists (11.82) and in league play leads the conference by a wide margin. Muff is one of the best blockers in K-State history and is showing it by ranking 23rd in the nation this season at 1.36 per set and with her all-around game Pelger is 63rd in points.
Senior setter Caitlyn Donahue has joined an exclusive club this season for the Wildcats. She is just one of only two players in school history to post 1,000 assists and 1,000 digs. Donahue currently ranks in the top 10 in school history in both categories along with All-American Gabby Guerre.
Guerre helped lead the Wildcats to the 2003 Big 12 Championship and posted 4,943 assists to rank second in school history. Her 1,013 digs place her11th. Donahue moved her way up the digs list this season and currently has 1,092 to stand ninth. Donahue’s 3,555 assists put her fifth.
Five other players in school history are in the double grand club but with kills and digs.
Round and Round
Middle blockers rarely play all six rotations in volleyball, especially now with additional substitutions allowed this season. That puts K-State’s Kaitlynn Pelger in a select group as she is playing all six rotations for a second year in a row for the Wildcats.
Pelger is among four middle blockers playing all the way around at the NCAA Division I level this year joining Madeline Westman of UNLV, Xitlali Herrera from UTEP play all six rotations and Michigan’s Jennifer Cross, who recently became a six rotation player for the Wolverines midway through the season.
Pelger is averaging 3.69 kills per set and has increased her defensive production on the back row to average 2.79 digs this year. The junior has tallied nine double-doubles on the year with eight of them coming by way of kills and digs.
Senior middle blocker Alex Muff has been one of the top blockers in the Big 12 Conference her entire career, and now she is adding more offense to her numbers in her final year to give the Wildcats another consistent weapon to go to in conference play thanks to her newfound firepower at the net. Muff is averaging 2.42 kills per set in conference play this season, adding nearly a full kill per set more than her three previous years in league play. She also is hitting .326 to lead the team in that category and rank eighth in the conference.
Muff has posted10 or more kills in eight of the last 11 matches and hit .341 over that span. Before this season, she had only nine matches with 10 or more kills. She posted 10 kills and hit .353 against the No. 9 Texas Longhorns to start the hot streak and followed it with 10 kills on a .400 clip at TCU the next week. She also had six blocks at TCU. Against Kansas, Muff again had 10 kills. Last weekend at Texas, Muff hit .455 with 11 kills and on Monday night against KU Muff tallied 10 kills on 18 swings to hit .556.
During her hot streak, Muff has hit .400 or better in half of those matches, including clips of .593 against Texas Tech and the .556 mark against KU. In that match against Texas Tech four weeks ago, Muff posted a new career-high 17 kills in the victory. Her .593 hitting percentage also ranks fourth in school history for a five-set match.
Defensively over the last 11 matches, Muff has averaged 1.23 blocks, after stuffing seven attacks against Texas Tech last Saturday. She now ranks second in the league in that category with 1.23 in conference matches.
For her career, Muff ranks fifth in school history in block assists with 408 and is tied for fourth. She has now posted three straight seasons with at least 100 total blocks.
K-State Ranked No. 25
The Wildcats dropped five spots to No. 25 in this week’s AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll after falling on the road to No. 19 Iowa State and at Texas Tech. It marked K-State’s first loss to Texas Tech since 2004 and first road loss to the Red Raiders since 2001.
After the best start in school history at 12-0, K-State climbed to No. 11 seven weeks ago and still remain among the top teams in the country. The No. 11 ranking was the highest the Wildcats had been ranked since being No. 11 on Nov. 26, 2007.
Four Big 12 teams remain ranked, as Texas holds onto the No. 3 spot with only three losses on the year. After defeating K-State last week, Iowa State climbed one spot to No. 18. The Kansas Jayhawks moved up two spots to No. 20.
A number of K-State’s nonconference foes are among the top teams as well. Minnesota and Dayton are still ranked with the Golden Gophers climbing three spots to No. 11 after defeating Nebraska. Dayton slipped one spot to 13. The Wildcats defeated both the Gophers and the Flyers. The Creighton Bluejays are ranked No. 21this week after cracking the poll for the first time in school history two weeks ago at No. 25. After cracking the Top 25 three weeks ago, St. Mary’s dropped out when Creighton moved in but is still the top vote getter outside the Top 25.