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Several Wildcats Earn Top Honors From Big 12

GO WILDCATS Junior L Laura Downey-Wallace became the inaugural winner of the Big 12's Libero of the Year award on Sunday.
Junior L Laura Downey-Wallace became the inaugural winner of the Big 12's Libero of the Year award on Sunday.

Dec. 1, 2002

Dallas, Texas - Highlighted by junior libero Laura Downey-Wallace and head coach Suzie Fritz, the 22nd-ranked Kansas State women's volleyball team had five individuals selected for postseason honors from the Big 12 Conference, in voting by the league's head coaches and released by the conference office late Sunday evening.

Downey-Wallace was named the conference's Libero of the Year, while Fritz was honored as the league's Coach of the Year. Junior middle blocker Lauren Goehring, junior outside hitter Cari Jensen and sophomore setter Gabby Guerre were selected first team All-Big 12 Conference, while Downey was an honorable mention selection. Kansas State's four selections to the all-conference teams broke the school-record of three set by the 1989, 1997, 1999 and 2000 squads, while the three first team honorees are also the most in the program's 29-year history. The four selections also tied Missouri and Nebraska for the most among league schools.

Goehring, Guerre and Jensen are the 12th, 13th and 14th players in Kansas State history to garner first team all-conference honors. The program has now had at least one player on the conference's first team for eight consecutive years. It also marks the second straight season and third overall that the program has had multiple selections to the first team. Goehring is one of just four middle blockers to be named first team all-conference, joining Kate DeClerk (1996), Val Wieck (1997, 1998) and Kelle Branting (2000), while Guerre joins Renee Whitney (1984, 1985) and Disney Bronnenberg (1999), as the only Wildcat setters on the first team.

Other honors given out by the Big 12 on Sunday included Nebraska seniors Greichaly Cepero, Amber Holmquist and Laura Pilakowski being named the conference's Tri-Players of the Year, Kansas' Josiane Lima and Jennifer Kraft being honored as Newcomer and Defensive Specialist of the Year and Texas A&M's Laura Jones being chosen Freshman of the Year.

Fritz becomes just the second coach in Kansas State history to be named league Coach of the Year, following Jim McLaughlin's selection in 1999. Fritz, who is 40-16 in her second season as head coach, guided the Wildcats to a 20-8 overall record and a school-record 16-4 mark in Big 12 Conference play in 2002. After being picked fifth in the preseason polls, she helped the team to a second-place finish in the league standings, which tied the 2000 squad for the highest conference finish in school history. The team also tied the school record for consecutive wins with 13 straight from Oct. 2 to Nov. 20.

Downey-Wallace becomes the inaugural winner of the league's Libero of the Year. A junior from La Mesa, Calif., she led the Big 12 and ranked third nationally in digs per game with a 5.40 average. She totaled double-digit dig totals in 27 of the team's 28 matches, including 20 or more on 12 occasions. She broke the Kansas State single-season record for digs with her 456th against Oklahoma on Nov. 20. She posted 10 against Nebraska for a season total of 513, which also ranks as the second-most by a player in a single-season in Big 12 Conference history. She is just 45 short of Elisha Polk's record of 557 set for Baylor in 1999.

Goehring registered arguably the greatest season by a middle blocker in Kansas State history in 2002. She posted the highest kills per game average (3.47) of any middle blocker in school history, while tallying the third highest hitting percentage (.366) in school history, including the highest by a Wildcat hitter in the program's 29-year history. She also paced the team in points in both overall (412.5) and conference-only matches (305.5). In addition to leading with 21 solo blocks, she was second to sophomore Lisa Martin in blocks per game (1.03), total blocks (98) and block assists (77). She also tied junior Kris Jensen for the second-most service aces (23) on the team, while adding a 1.34 digs per game average. She tallied double-digit kills in 21 of the team's 28 matches.

One of the most talented all-around setters in Kansas State history, Guerre paced the team with 12 double-doubles in 2002. She became just the second setter to join the program's triple-triple club, which is bestowed upon a player that registers triple-digit totals in three different categories (176 kills, 221 digs and 1,110 assists). She has posted five or more kills in 20 matches this season and needs just 21 kills to break the school's single-season record for kills by a setter held by Kristin Martin (188). She became the first Wildcat since 1998 and first setter since 1995 to tally a triple-double in a match when she posted 11 kills, 44 assists and 11 digs in a 3-0 win over Oklahoma on Nov. 20.

Jensen continued Kansas State's tradition of strong outside hitters in 2002, as the junior from Fowler, Colo., paced all Wildcats with 347 kills and a 3.65 kills per game average. She totaled double-digit kills in 22 of the Wildcats' 28 matches, including 16 in the last 19 matches dating back to the Baylor match on Sept. 21. The Big 12 Player of the Week on Oct. 28, Jensen trailed only Goehring with 395 points on the season, while she added 0.21 aces per game, 1.37 digs per game and 0.51 blocks per game.

Joining the trio on the first team were Colorado's Monique Gerlach, Kansas' Josiane Lima, Missouri's Christi Myers, Nebraska's Cepero, Holmquist, Pilakowski and Jennifer Saleaumua, Texas' Mira Topic, Bethany Howden and Kathy Hahn, Texas A&M's Laura Jones and Melissa Munsch and Texas Tech's Kelly Johnson.

Kansas State will be making its seventh consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament on Friday, Dec. 6, as the Wildcats play host to Michigan (16-14) in the first match of a doubleheader at Ahearn Field House beginning at 5 p.m. The winner of the match will play the winner of the Washington State-Oral Roberts match on Saturday at 7 p.m. for the right to advance to the Sweet 16.