After four home matches and four victories, K-State Volleyball team headed west to participate in the Cal Invitational. The Wildcats left for California on Wednesday afternoon, a day removed from a 3-1 victory against the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. Last night K-State opened the tournament against the Santa Clara Broncos. The Wildcats lost the match 3-0, moving their record on the season to 7-1. Here’s a recap of K-State’s loss, and a preview of their next two games. The Wildcats will face off against the Cal Poly Mustangs on Friday evening, and complete the tournament with the Cal Bears on Saturday.
K-State vs. Santa Clara Broncos
In the first set, the Wildcats got down early, trailing 12-4 before either team had really settled in. It was evident from the first serve that the atmosphere, and opponent, would be different than what the Wildcats had faced in their previous seven games. From start to finish, Santa Clara outplayed the Wildcats. K-State failed to lead in any of the three sets, and simply could not put the ball away on offense. The Broncos won set one 25-18, and won the next two sets both 25-17. Although the sweep wasn’t ideal, head coach Suzie Fritz was able to take away a few positives from the loss.
“We stayed low error,” Fritz said after the match. “That is going to be the mark of this team. We are going to make you beat us, but we are not going to hurt ourselves.”
Senior middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger, who finished with seven kills and an attack percentage of .333, led the Wildcats. Dakota Kaufman was second on the team with five kills. K-State will look to regroup heading into tomorrow’s game against the Cal Poly Mustangs. The game will take place at 6:30 at Haas Pavilion in Berkley, California.
Here’s a preview of what to expect from the other teams in action this weekend:
Cal Poly Mustangs
Cal Poly is coming off a 3-0 weekend at the Sacramento State tournament last weekend. The Mustangs, currently 4-2, also have a win over K-State conference opponent Baylor. Offensively, senior middle blocker Megan McConnell leads the Mustangs. McConnell currently sits in 3rd in the Big West Conference in kills, averaging nearly 3.7 kills per set. The Mustangs are defend by committee — the team uses multiple players to anchor the back row and force offenses to be precise in their hitting. Sam Crosson is the head coach for Cal Poly, currently in his second season at the Mustang helm. In 2010, as an assistant, Crosson helped coach California all the way way to the 2010 national championship game. K-State has met Cal Poly two others times, both at neutral sites. In both instances, the Wildcats came out on top, with the most recent match occurring in 2009.
On paper, the Cal Bears will be the best team the Wildcats face this weekend. The Bears enter their home tournament with a record of 5-0, with wins over Nevada and South Florida. Cal currently sits at No. 23 in the AVCI poll and have yet to drop a set in their five matches this season. The Bears have twelve players who are either freshman or sophomores, so the undefeated start and early ranking in the polls should show how talented this young team really is. Statistically, the Bears are very similar to K-State due to the fact that they have several quality hitters that all put up imposing numbers. While the Bears have six players averaging 1.75 kills per set or more, perhaps the more impressive stat is the team’s .336 kill percentage. Senior setter Joan Caloiaro orchestrates the Bears’ attack, averaging nearly 12 assists per game to go along with 3 digs per set. Rich Feller is entering his 15th season as the head coach for the Bears. In the past nine years, Feller has led Cal to seven 20-win seasons, and the Bears have currently earned bids to eleven straight NCAA Tournaments. K-State and Cal have faced off only once, with the Bears sweeping the Wildcats 3-0 in 2004.
For the third consecutive week, the K-State Wildcats received votes in the AVCI poll, but have yet to be able to crack the top 25. With three games upcoming against stiff competition, a successful weekend could mean big advances in that regard. The Wildcats have played four straight matches at Ahearn Field House and will likely be looking forward to the change in scenery. Through seven games, the Wildcats have remained balanced and diligent in their offensive approach. Even among senior stars like middle blocker Kaitlynn Pelger and outside hitter Lilla Porubek, redshirt freshman setter Katie Brand has stood out with her consistent approach to distribute the ball evenly. The Wildcats currently have five hitters that average over 2 kills per set, and have an attack percentage of .217. Defensively, the senior leadership has been visible from the start. The Wildcats always seem to be to be aligned properly, evenly covering the court and making it difficult for opposing hitters to find open spots. Suzie Fritz is in her 13th year as head coach for the Wildcats. Fritz, who went to Clay Center High School, is the all-time wins leader in K-State volleyball history, with 245.
If K-State hopes to move to 10-0 on the season, the Wildcats will need to bring their A-game to California. The three-game stretch will likely be the toughest the Wildcats have had all year and will show a lot about the team’s character and ability to fight adversity. Check Monday’s Collegian for results and a complete recap of the weekend’s games.