Wildcats open Big 12 at West Virginia

By The Mercury

The Kansas State volleyball team will be riding a 12-1 start as it heads to Morgantown, West Virginia, for its Big 12 opener against West Virginia (13-1) Saturday night. 

First serve is set for 5:30 p.m. at WVU Coliseum.

K-State head coach Suzie Fritz has her Wildcats mentally break down the season into four distinct parts — non-conference, first and second halves of the conference season, and if they earn their way in, the postseason.

Despite K-State’s early success, which included three tournament championships and a win over then-No. 23-ranked Cal, the Wildcats are focused squarely on the future.

“We play a double round-robin in Big 12, so that means we play everyone home and away,” Fritz said. “So you have a true champion when everything is said and done. Our focus has literally shifted very quickly away from the preseason.

“It is now time to look toward the first half of the Big 12, knowing where we have to be and where we have to go.”

K-State, which returns nine letterwinners from last season, swept the Mountaineers in the two meetings last season. The Wildcats finished fourth in the Big 12 last year with an 8-8 conference record.

West Virginia returns nine players from a team that went winless in Big 12 play last season, but has found success so far in 2013.

Unanimous preseason All-Big 12 pick Kaitlynn Pelger has led an experienced K-State front line all season.  The senior middle blocker has been a force for the Wildcats, leading the team in total kills (137) and total blocks (52). She leads three other Wildcats — Lilla Porubek, Courtney Traxson and Dakota Kaufman — giving K-State four players who average at least two blocks per set to give the Wildcats balance up front. 

K-State’s strength in the front translates to defense as well.  The Wildcats are averaging a Big 12 best 2.81 blocks per set this season. Pelger was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for her individual efforts last week.

West Virginia has found success thus far behind the steady setting of Brittany Sample. The sophomore ranks fourth in the Big 12, averaging 10.63 assists per set, and has earned MVP honors in two of the tournaments that her Mountaineers have played in. 

Her K-State counterpart, preseason Big 12 Co-Freshman of the Year Katie Brand, paces the Wildcats with 9.86 assists per set. 

The Wildcats, who have played just four of their 13 matches in the friendly confines of Ahearn Field House say they’re ready to hit the road again to open the conference season.

“Were really excited,” Brand said. “We’ve been playing really well away.  We’re ready to get started in Big 12 play, and go play our first game.”

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