Friday, September 30, 2011

Interview Series: Part 1, with IU's Melanie Hicks

by Jonathan Ketterer

After another great week in volleyball, the Friday blog is back, and this time, we will be kicking off a multi-part series of interviews with Indiana Hoosier defensive specialist Melanie Hicks. You will find that many of the girls in this series are from the Midwest region, specifically Louisville, Kentucky. This is in part due to the fact that these are some old friends of mine, and in case you haven't guessed, they are all fairly close with each other as well. For some background on Melanie, she attended Assumption High School in Louisville, which is a national powerhouse in the high school volleyball scene. She was part of both JVA (2009) and AAU (2006) national championship squads, and she held AAU All-American honors in her 2005 and 2006 seasons. As for school, she is currently a sophomore majoring in interior design. It took me a while to get ahold of Melanie this week, but earlier today, I managed to catch her after practice for a few questions:

What made you want to play for the Indiana Hoosiers?

"I knew that I didn't want to be that far away from home, so that my mom and family could come watch me play. Also, it's about an hour and a half drive, so if I ever get homesick, I can always drive home and see my friends and family. Also, the competition of play is amazing. We play in the Big Ten, which is arguably the best conference in college volleyball right now. Like tonight, I get the chance to play the #1 team in the nation, which is not something that everybody gets to do in the regular season."

Before you made the decision to play collegiately, were you weighing any other options?

"Well, I definitely knew that this was going to be like a job, but I just thought it would be really weird to drop volleyball, which has been such a huge part of my life. You have some days where you really dread it and just wonder what it's like to be a regular student, but for me, I'd rather dread it, than to not have it all."

What are your thoughts on playing #1 Illinois tonight?

"We were talking about it as a team, considering it's their first time being ranked number one, all of the pressure is going to be on them. Whereas we can just go out there and play and have fun with it. It should be exciting."

What's your favorite part of being an NCAA student-athlete?

"The perks and all that are great, but I'd say that the relationships I have with my teammates are my favorite part. A lot of people have that with sports in high school, but I still get to have the opportunity to continue building relationships, and these girls (her teammates) are my best friends, so I think it's great that I can still do that."

What's your least favorite part of being an NCAA student-athlete?

"I really don't have a lot of free time. My schedule gets pretty hectic sometimes, and anyone is going to say that they don't want to get up at six every morning in the Spring, but hey, it's all to get better."

Does your team have any interesting habits before or after the game?

"Like most teams, we will listen to music and that stuff, but one thing that really stood out to me was that we pray before every game, and Mary [Chaudoin], our senior captain, does the prayer. We also have an ace cheer that incorporates the 'Movin' like Bernie' song/dance into it, you know, we're all just trying to have fun with it."

Is there something about IU Volleyball that most people don't know that they should?

"Everyone on our team comes in every day with that passion and drive to get better. Right now we're trying to build our program, and we're trying to start a great tradition, so we put in the extra hours. And I think it's different because it's not just one or two of us, it's all of us, and we're also really helping one another when we do that as well."

Where did you want to be at this age when you were a kid?

"When I started playing sports, I knew I wanted to play in college. But the funny thing is, I always wanted to play basketball, because I was awful at volleyball for a while in grade school. But once I started playing club and that type of stuff, I became determined to play in college, and here I am. So I guess you could say I'm living out my dream, which is pretty awesome."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"I'd like to hope for a job, you know like a good career. It's really scary to think about being married and all that. I really just want to be happy with whatever I am doing, and if that pans out, I'm sure I'll be content. Then again, everyone always asks me if I want to become a coach, and I'd really like to still be around volleyball, but I'm not sure just yet if I'd want to coach or not."

What has been your highlight of the season thus far?

"We got to play a preseason tournament in San Diego. That was really neat for me, considering I've never been to California, and I got to touch the Pacific Ocean for the first time. It was also really cool to play the West Coast teams that we normally don't get the chance to play."

What are you looking forward to the most for the rest of the season?

"Mainly just being able to compete with the top teams in the nation now that conference play is starting. Plus we get to play Nebraska for the first time, and they're having a really good season so far, and I can't wait to encounter that atmosphere, which will be next weekend."

Melanie and the Hoosiers will be in Champagne, Illinois tonight as they take on #1 Illinois. I'd like to wish them good luck with tonight's game and the rest of season. I'd also like to give special thanks to Melanie and the Indiana Athletic Department for making this interview possible. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions, feel free to e-mail me at Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Look At The Weekend – Sept. 23-25

By Jen Armson- Dyer

SoCal Ousts NorCal
Both No. 7 UCLA and No. 12 Southern California picked up wins over No. 1 California and No. 2 Stanford over the weekend. On Friday night, the Women of Troy handed the Golden Bears their first loss of the season in three sets (25-23, 25-20, 25-22), and the contest also marked USC’s first win over a top-ranked opponent since 2004. Senior outside hitter Alex Jupiter led the way with 16 kills and four blocks, including two solo efforts. The following night, Southern California again picked a sweep, ousting the Cardinal in three deuce games, 25-23, 26-24, 25-23. The win was the first time that USC had swept Stanford since the 2006 season (at Stanford), and the last time that the Women of Troy swept the Cardinal at home was the 2003 national championship season. Jupiter again led USC with 15 kills and also added in 11 digs while for the weekend, sophomore libero Natalie Hagglund picked up 42 digs through six sets. “I’m pretty happy we competed like that,” said USC head coach Mick Haley after the Stanford match. “Sometimes winning a little bit ugly is ok. I thought we kept our composure and confidence. I felt pretty good that we could play that close and still come out on top. It was fun to watch us compete through the game. I think we’re growing up pretty good. We had way too many errors and I could tell you about all of the things we want to do better, but you still have to come back to winning 3-0.”

For UCLA, its weekend began with Stanford, as the Bruins outlasted the Cardinal in five sets (25-18, 25-18, 23-25, 27-29, 15-9) in front of a standing-room only crowd of 2,176 at the John Wooden Center. Junior outside hitter Rachael Kidder had a career-high 30 kills in the win, the first time since the 2001 season that a Bruin player has reached that mark. Sophomore outside hitter Kelly Reeves also added in a double-double with personal best marks of 17 kills and 19 digs. The following night, Reeves led the way against the Golden Bears with 14 kills and 14 digs as UCLA knocked off Cal in four sets (25-17, 25-20, 19-25, 25-15). For the weekend, Bruin senior libero Lainey Gera posted 39 digs. “The atmosphere was really awesome,” said Reeves after the Cal match. “Big credit to the crowd who came out here and helped us win these matches. Both Stanford and Cal are really great teams, this weekend just went our way.”

Illinois Survives Minnesota
In its Big Ten opener, the third-ranked Fighting Illini outlasted the ninth-ranked Golden Gophers in front of 3,503 fans at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis. Senior outside hitter Michelle Bartsch led the way with 23 kills and 14 digs as senior outside hitter Colleen Ward picked up 16 kills and 12 digs. Junior middle hitter Erin Johnson was a wall at the net, assisting on 10 of Illinois’ 16.0 team blocks, four of which game in the fifth set. Johnson also contributed 11 kills on .435 hitting. "Our defense and block did a great job tonight," Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly said. "Our middles made the difference and Erin Johnson came up huge in the fifth set. We didn't play all that well but found a way to win. We looked pretty comfortable in a fifth set, and anytime you can get a Big Ten win on the road it is a big deal."

Tennessee Takes Down Florida
In front of 2,031 fans at the O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla., the Lady Vols captured a five-set, extra-points thriller (25-21, 20-25, 25-21, 19-25, 18-16) over the sixth-ranked Gators live on ESPNU. With the win, Tennessee is off to a 4-0 start in SEC play for the first time since 2004. Four Lady Vol players reached double-digit kills, led by sophomore outside hitter Carly Sahagian with 19 on .429 hitting (19-4-35), sophomore outside hitter Kelsey Robinson and junior middle and outside hitter Leslie Cikra with 17 apiece, and junior middle hitter DeeDee Harrison with 12 on .409 hitting (12-3-22), as Robinson also led the squad with 15 digs. As a team, Tennessee recorded 71 kills to Florida’s 61 and also in aces (7-4), but the Gators led in hitting percentage (.295-.239), digs (66-62) and blocks (14.0-7.5). "This was as high of a level match as you are going to see in college volleyball," Lady Vol head coach Rob Patrick said. "This was two great, athletic, well coached teams battling it out. Unfortunately, there had to be a loser. Fortunately, I'm glad it wasn't us. Coming down to Florida, it is one of the hardest places to win a match. I couldn't be prouder of every single player on this team."

Purdue Sweeps Michigan, Remains Undefeated
The 13th-ranked Boilermakers swept both Michigan and Michigan State to remain one of only two undefeated teams in the top 25 – with the other being league foe and third-ranked Illinois. Against the 18th-ranked Wolverines, Purdue claimed two close games before running away with the third (26-24, 26-24, 25-15). No players from either team reached double-digit kills, but the Boilermakers used a balanced attack in the win, as junior outside hitter Ariel Turner and senior middle hitter Tiffany Fisher both had nine kills and redshirt sophomore outside hitter Catherine Rebarchak and freshman outside hitter Valerie Nichol each posted eight kills. Purdue outblocked Michigan, 8.0 to 4.0, led by freshman middle hitter Kierra Jones with four. “It was a great team effort and we had a lot of people who played very very well,” said Boilermaker head coach Dave Shondell. “To sweep a team like Michigan, who I have a ton of respect for, we had to play well to do that. I thought squeezing out those two games 26-24 showed a lot of heart and a lot of courage, which is what you want to see from your team early in the year.”

San Francisco Topples San Diego
In its West Coast Conference opener, the Dons stunned the 16th-ranked and defending league champion Toreros in three sets (25-18, 25-21, 25-20). It was the first win against a top-25 program for San Francisco since the 2009 season. Freshman opposite Vendula Strakova led the Dons with 13 kills on .323 hitting as sophomore middle hitter Malina Terrell posted 11 kills on .444 hitting. Sophomore setter Joan Caloiaro connected on seven of her errorless 10 swings to hit .700 for the match, and also dish out 34 assists and collect 10 digs. Freshman libero Rebecca Kopilovitch led the squad with a match-high 17 digs. “We knew that it wasn’t going to be easy,” said USF head coach Gilad Doron. “We had some great runs and good, timely kills from different players. I thought Malina played probably her best game. We knew she was going to have the matchup we wanted and she just took it from there and the rest followed.” San Francisco also picked up another conference win on Saturday as it took down Saint Mary’s in four sets (28-26, 25-21, 22-25, 25-21) for the first win against the Gaels since 2008.

Other Notables:
- UC Santa Barbara knocked off No. 21 Long Beach State in five sets (19-25, 25-18, 23-25, 25-23, 15-11) for the first win in Long Beach, Calif., for the program since the 2004 season. Sophomore outside hitter Kara Sherrard led five Gaucho players in double-digit kills with 17 and also led the squad with 18 digs.

- In front of a season-high 3,105 fans at the Hearnes Center in Columbia, Mo., Missouri came away with a close four set win over Texas A&M, 23-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-23. Sophomore outside hitter Lisa Henning led the Tigers with a match- and career-high 21 kills as senior libero Priscilla Armendariz racked up a personal-best 25 digs, also becoming the 11th player in school history to surpass 1,000 career digs.

- Eastern Michigan claimed a four set victory over Northern Illinois (28-26, 26-28, 25-15, 25-20) to improve to 13-3. Junior outside hitter Rachel Iaquaniello led the Eagles with 18 kills and 13 digs as senior libero Haley Stein posted a season-high 34 digs in the match.

- Playing in its first-ever national television match, Villanova topped Notre Dame in four games (25-18, 15-25, 25-19, 25-19) at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind. Senior middle hitter Maggie Mergen led the Wildcats with 13 kills as senior libero Kim Maroon paced the defense with 29 digs. Three Villanova players recorded six blocks in the match, including Mergen, sophomore middle hitter Allison Williams and junior outside hitter Krista Andersen.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Conference Realignments

by Jonathan Ketterer

In the past few months, the topic of conference realignments for plenty of schools have made headlines, most notably for the sport of football. In today's blog, I wanted to touch on how the other sports, volleyball in particular, are being affected.

When I initially heard that Pittsburgh and Syracuse were leaving the Big East Conference, I thought merely of football and did not even consider until a few days later that this movement would drastically change the traditional basketball power held by the conference. At the same time, I also wondered: what changes in conference memberships have had an effect on volleyball?

The most important change would probably have to be the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten that was made effective this past summer. With Nebraska having started conference play this past week, they are looking at a stretch of very tough matches against teams like #3 Illinois, #5 Penn State, #9 Minnesota, #13 Purdue, #18 Michigan, and #24 Ohio State. Despite the intimidating schedule, Nebraska has already shown some strength in having defeated the #5 Nittany Lions in a five set match this past Wednesday night. The Huskers thrived off of their full capacity crowd at Nebraska Coliseum, winning the first two sets before Penn State fought back, only to leave the home team victorious in the first Big Ten match-up between the two schools.

This match was evidence that the conference movements have provided other sports with thrilling new match-ups. In a rivalry that normally pits the two teams in the pressure-heavy environment of the tournament, the new Big Ten now allows for big, thrilling games like this to be a biannual contest, which is great for the sport. The Huskers will face Ohio State tomorrow night in their second Big Ten home game of the season, which will be sure to not disappoint, given that both teams are ranked in the AVCA Top-25.

Outside of Nebraska, there have been no real changes in the top-25 that have impacted the sport so far this season, but there have been plenty of rumors that could change this for next season. One of these rumors considered the possible move of Texas and Oklahoma to the Pac-12. While the Pac-12 has stated that it has no interest in expanding, we can still consider what it would be like for volleyball if either of these moves happened. Could you imagine a top-10 team like Texas being added to an already stacked conference with Cal, Stanford, Washington, UCLA, USC and Oregon? A move like this would certainly increase the entertainment of an already great conference schedule for each of the schools' fan bases.

All in all, you can see that with the talks surrounding powerhouse conferences like the Big Ten and the Pac-12, volleyball fans and football fans alike should show some attention to the moves that are being made by each school. While some conferences may be falling apart, conferences like the Big Ten and the Pac-12 have rising stock and stability that is forcing some schools to reconsider their options. These shake-ups are providing for fresh, new rivalries to begin, and for teams like Nebraska, they are renewing and building on older ones. In my opinion, it is great for all college sports to switch up the landscape and see some change, because I find that it is starting to show us some interesting match-ups that probably would not have been possible without the realignments.

If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or ideas, feel free to e-mail me at Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Look At The Weekend – Sept. 16-18

By Jen Armson-Dyer

Big Ten Defeats Big EastBoth No. 3 Illinois and No. 14 Purdue came away with two wins against Louisville and Cincinnati in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge in Champaign, Ill. On Friday night, the Boilermakers needed five sets to take down the Cardinals (21-25, 25-19, 25-18, 16-25, 15-10) as junior Ariel Turner led the way with 20 kills and 15 digs. The same night, the Fighting Illini swept the Bearcats (25-16, 25-14, 25-12), led by senior outside hitter Michelle Bartsch with 10 kills on an errorless 24 swings to hit .417. On Saturday night, the Big East teams were reversed but the outcome was similar, with Purdue sweeping Cincinnati (25-15, 25-16, 25-18), again led by Turner with 16 kills and 12 digs. Illinois outlasted Louisville 25-20, 23-25, 25-20, 21-25, 15-9 as freshman outside hitter Liz McMahon led the Illini with 20 kills on .576 hitting (20-1-33) and senior outside hitter Colleen Ward chipped in 19 kills. “We've been in some tough battles,” said Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly of his team’s preseason 11-0 record. “We've shown signs of what we want to be in December. We just have to stay with this process. Over time, I love the potential of this team. We have so many weapons. When we start to steady out and solidify our system, which will happen in the Big Ten, we're going to take some big strides forward."

LA Schools Split In WashingtonNo. 13 Southern California played spoiler at No. 4 Washington’s Pac-12 home opener as the Women of Troy swept the Huskies 25-20, 28-26, 25-20 Friday night. The loss marks the first dropped conference-opening match in head coach Jim McLaughlin’s 11-year tenure at Washington and the match was USC’s first win in Seattle since 2004. Junior outside hitter Katie Fuller and sophomore outside hitter Sara Shaw led the Trojans with a career-high 15 kills apiece, with Shaw’s coming on .481 hitting (15-2-27). USC led the attacking battle with 48 kills to Washington’s 33, also outhitting the Huskies .240. USC sophomore libero Natalie Hagglund dominated the USC defense with 30 digs, which tied a USC record for digs in a three-set match. "I hope this influences how we train," said McLaughlin after the match. "I thought SC played well but we didn't play well. We've got to fix some things and come out and not play on our heels and take a step forward. We have to talk more and let our instincts take over and not play tentative."

McLaughlin’s words hit their mark as the following night Washington swept No. 6 UCLA 26-24, 25-12, 25-20 in front of 3,174 fans. Three Husky players reached double-digit kills, led by junior outside hitter Kylin Munoz with 13 on .429 hitting (13-1-28) as senior middle hitter Bianca Rowland hit .647 with 12 kills and freshman outside hitter Krista Vansant added in 10 kills. Freshman outside hitter Summer Ross and sophomore Jenna Orlandini each posted 10 digs as senior setter Evan Sanders and senior middle hitter Lauren Barfield both notched four blocks as Washington outblocked UCLA 7.5-5.0 and hit .340 for the match, including .481 in the second set (13-0-27). "It's gratifying just because of what happened last night, and to bounce back like that and play like we did says a lot about the people; their behavior and what's going through their minds," said McLaughlin after the match with the Bruins. "When I looked at their eyes in the lockerroom last night, there was some pain, and I told them that's a good thing because it means they invest at a high level, but we didn't get a return on the court. Tonight we did. We just did our jobs better, were in better spots, and were much more aggressive."

Nebraska Sweeps Iowa StateThe 10th-ranked Huskers swept the 12th-ranked Cyclones in their final preseason match in front of 10,380 fans at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln. It was the first time the two schools faced off as non-conference opponents, as Nebraska will open its first season of Big Ten play on Wednesday night by hosting Penn State. Junior outside hitter Gina Mancuso led Nebraska with 14 kills and sophomore Morgan Broekhuis chipped in 11 as the Huskers outhit the Cyclones .281 to .087, including .406 in the first set. Nebraska also dominated the blocking game, 13.0-1.0, led by senior middle hitter Brooke Delano with seven stuffs. "There was some really good volleyball played tonight," Nebraska head coach John Cook told the Lincoln Journal Star. "Much better than anything we've done this year."

Denver Defeats Colorado State
Picking up its first win over a ranked opponent since becoming Division I in 1999, Denver defeated in-state rival No. 19 Colorado State in four sets (27-25, 17-25, 25-18, 25-22) at Hamilton Gymnasium in Denver. Junior middle hitter Faimie Kingsley led the Pioneers with 15 kills on .560 hitting (15-1-25) and a team-high seven blocks. Junior Lyndi Johnson and redshirt freshman Kate Oakes posted 15 and 14 digs, respectively, as redshirt senior setter Julie Cawthra posted three of the team’s eight service aces. "I couldn't be more proud of how our team performed tonight," said Denver head coach Beth Kuwata. "All of the hard work and attention to those minor details is really starting to pay off and I am so happy for them that they were able to come out tonight and show that tonight."

Wake Forest Stuns Duke, 3-1Three Deacon players reached double-digit kills as Wake Forest upset No. 23 Duke in four games (25-21, 24-26, 25-21, 25-23) to open ACC play. Both senior middle hitter Carlin Salmon and senior outside hitter Kadija Fornah notched 21 kills, with Salmon’s career-high coming on .576 hitting (21-2-33), as sophomore middle hitter Kristin Grossom added in 10 kills. As a team, Wake Forest hit .318 while holding Duke to .230. The Deacons also outblocked the Blue Devils 11.0 to 8.0 as Fornah and Grissom each posted five stuffs. "As a team, we're very disappointed with the outcome of the match tonight, but we have to give Wake Forest credit," Duke head coach Jolene Nagel said. "They played a great match and they played very hard. At key times, they played more aggressively than we did. We gave a great effort tonight though, and I'm proud of the way our team played. I think that we just needed to work better together as a team during adverse times out there. We're still developing as a team so that we can handle adversity. I see some very positive things from us, but right now we've got to stick together, continue to come together and find our personality as a team. We have to find how we're going to work best together on the court."

Xavier Outlasts Texas A&MMusketeer sophomore outside hitter Sarah Brown pounded 26 kills on .380 hitting as Xavier outlasted Texas A&M in five sets (25-22, 18-25, 25-19, 21-25, 15-11) in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Musketeers claimed the defensive battle, 71-70, led by junior libero Stephanie Vorherr with 22 digs and junior Kaela Jo Freppon with 17. Each squad posted eight blocks in the match. "This was a great team win," said Xavier head coach Mike Johnson. "It showed the power of what it means to play fundamental, disciplined volleyball. I was impressed on how we stayed together and fought, especially when things got tough. Texas A&M is a great team and we are happy to come away with this win."

Friday, September 16, 2011

A New Blogger! ...and a highlight of WKU's start to the season

by Jonathan Ketterer

Hi all! My name is Jonathan Ketterer, and I am the new sports information and communications intern here at the AVCA. One of my many duties as an intern is to start creating a weekly blog that will be published on Fridays. I am planning on putting some personality into these pieces, and in this first post, I would like to take the time to let the readers know a little bit about who I am and what my background in volleyball is.

I was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and at the age of 19, I am a college sophomore at the University of Kentucky. I have two older brothers and an older sister who made many impressions upon me in my younger years. My sister was always an avid fan of volleyball, so naturally given our closeness in age, I was consistently attending her grade school games until I was given the opportunity to play myself. My grade school team was fairly dominant to say the least, winning our Louisville Catholic grade school league in three of the four seasons that we were eligible for it. As for high school, I attended Saint Xavier, and although I did not play there, I still managed to befriend many girls who were the product of other Louisville high schools' volleyball programs. In upcoming blogs, I hope to share some information on some of these girls that I know to give an insight as to what it takes to be a college volleyball player. With all of this being said, I would like to move on and speak about something that has happened in the women's volleyball season to date.

For those unaware, the Lady Toppers of Western Kentucky University are off to a hot start this season compiling a 10-1 record. In the latest AVCA poll, they hold 20 votes, sitting 6 spots outside the top 25, which is the highest that they have been recognized in the program's history. Another notable accomplishment for the team's season has been the recent honor given to junior outside hitter Jordyn Skinner. Last week, she was named Sports Imports/AVCA Division I National Player of the Week after her literal "killing" performance (notching double-digit kills in all of the week's four matches) in the WKU Tournament which featured LSU, Xavier, Wake Forest, and the hosting Lady Toppers.

With the wondrous season they have had thus far, it is amazing to see where the team was a little under a year ago. On October 7, 2010, the squad was travelling down Interstate 65 on their way to a match against South Alabama when their bus driver had a heart attack behind the wheel. The bus drifted across the median and back before coach Travis Hudson managed to grab the wheel and avoid what could have been a great disaster. Personally, I had reason to give thanks for the safety of those on board the bus, considering my friendships with current sophomore players Ashley Potts and Melanie Stutsman. The team would move on to play and sweep South Alabama the next night, which shows the resiliency that Hudson's team had last year. But this year, Hudson and the Lady Toppers may be looking at better record than last season's after starting 10-1 with only four non-conference games remaining on the schedule. WKU will start off a weekend of volleyball in Washington D.C. at the American Classic against the University of Missouri today at 3:30, and I wish them luck with this upcoming tournament and the rest of their season.

For those interested on reading more about the bus incident from last Fall, here is a link to the WKU Herald's article:

I look forward to continuing this blog, and I hope you tune in every Friday for new posts. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or ideas, feel free to e-mail me at Thanks!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Look At The Weekend – Sept. 9-11

By Jen Armson-Dyer

Nike Big Four Classic Doesn’t Disappoint
Fans attending the Nike Big Four Classic at Stanford certainly got more than they paid for as three of the four matches went five sets. Stanford emerged as the champion, defeating both Penn State (23-25, 25-19, 27-25, 25-18) and Florida (25-17, 25-20, 20-25, 21-25, 15-13). In the two other matches of the weekend, Florida defeated Texas in five (25-22, 20-25, 25-13, 21-25, 15-12) on Friday night and the Longhorns outlasted the Nittany Lions on Saturday night (25-23, 25-20, 19-25, 14-25, 15-10). Stanford sophomore outside hitter Rachel Williams was named the Most Valuable Player of the event as she recorded 22 kills on .302 hitting with 12 digs against Penn State and 23 kills, 14 digs and four blocks in the win over Florida. Also being recognized on the all-tournament team were Stanford junior setter Karissa Cook (92 assists, 18 digs), Stanford sophomore middle hitter Carly Wopat (24 kills, 13 blocks), Florida senior setter/opposite Kelly Murphy (26 kills, 59 assists, 19 digs), Texas freshman outside hitter Haley Eckerman (31 kills) and Penn State sophomore outside hitter Deja McClendon (42 kills, 14 digs). “We could just schedule our way to wins,” Florida head coach Mary Wise told the UF student newspaper. “But I don’t know if we would get better without playing these types of teams.”

Kansas Downs No. 6 Minnesota, 3-2
The Jayhawks outlasted the Gophers in five sets (27-25, 25-20, 17-25, 20-25, 15-12) on Saturday in Cedar Falls, Iowa, a day after falling to No. 15 Northern Iowa, also in five sets. Kansas’ win over Minnesota marks the first victory in KU volleyball program history over an opponent ranked that highly in the national poll. Senior outside hitter Allison Mayfield led three Jayhawk players in double-digit kills with 19 on .370 hitting, while sophomore middle hitter Caroline Jarmoc and freshman outside hitter Sara McClinton added in 14 and 12 kills, respectively. Sophomore Brianne Riley topped the defense with 17 kills while Jarmoc and junior middle hitter Tayler Tolefree both racked up nine blocks and freshman outside hitter Chelsea Albers added in eight. As a team, Kansas outblocked Minnesota 18.0 to 9.5. Ashley Wittman led the Golden Gophers with 28 kills on .415 hitting. “You’re interested in what your team does after some adversity,” said Kansas head coach Ray Bechard in reference to his team falling to UNI in the previous match. “Now we want to see how we’ll do after a bit of success. The reaction should be the same. We were obviously displeased at how the match ended last night, but I’m happy to see how quickly we were able to rebound from that. We don’t have to wonder if [Minnesota is] a quality team. They’ve already played several quality matches and beat Texas twice. They are a legitimate team from a legitimate conference, but this is a small part of the big picture. We have to continue to be mentally tough and fundamentally sound.”

No. 8 UCLA Sweeps No. 9 USC In League Opener
The Bruins swept the cross-town rival Trojans 25-19, 25-17, 25-17 on Friday night in front of a record-high 5,385 fans at USC’s Galen Center, marking the first time since 1993 that UCLA has swept USC on the road. Bruin junior outside hitter Racheal Kidder led all players with 14 kills on an errorless 29 swings to hit a career-high.483 in the match as freshman middle hitter Zoe Nightingale posted seven kills on .417 hitting. Senior libero Lainey Gera and sophomore outside hitter Kelly Reeves paced the UCLA defense with 18 and 11 digs, respectively. As a team, UCLA hit a season-best .355 in the match while limiting USC to attacking at a .140 clip – including hitting .000 (9-9-29) in the final set. Senior outside hitter Alex Jupiter led Southern California with nine kills as senior middle hitter Lauren Williams and junior outside hitter Katie Fuller each added eight. UCLA head coach Mike Sealy told the Daily Bruin student newspaper that his team executed the game plan “pretty flawlessly.” He continued: “it was a perfect storm. We did nothing wrong and ‘SC had an off night.”

No. 14 Colorado State Falls To Wichita State, 3-1
A week after defeating Nebraska in a highly-emotional win, the Rams dropped a four-game contest to the Shockers 26-28, 25-19, 20-25, 22-25 at home at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo., in front of 1,500 fans. Junior outside hitter Emily Adney and senior outside hitter Camri Zwiesler led Wichita State with 18 and 17 kills each, respectively, while Adney also added four blocks and Zwiesler chipped in 12 digs and a career-high six service aces. Senior libero Sarah Waldorf led the squad with 17 digs. For Colorado State, senior opposite Katelyn Steffan paced the team with a career-high 21 kills as junior Izzy Gaulia notched 26 digs. Colorado State head coach Tom Hilbert did not hide his displeasure with his team following the match, as he told “I was extremely disappointed in what we did in the end-game situation. It’s going to be that kind of match against a team like this, and we played with a great deal of fear and not very much aggression.”

Other Notable Matches:
- Miami (FL) defeated No. 18 Oklahoma in four sets (17-25, 25-17, 26-24, 25-19) in its first victory over a ranked opponent since upsetting 15th-ranked Wisconsin on Dec. 7, 2002 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Hurricane Invitational MVP senior outside hitter Lane Carico led the squad with her fifth double-double of the year with 19 kills and 16 digs.

- With an outstanding week that began with a five-set win over then No. 8 UCLA on Wednesday, Sept. 7, Pepperdine turned some heads with a strong showing at the Dayton Flyers Classic as the Waves defeated No. 23 Dayton in five sets (25-19, 26-24, 20-25, 25-16, 16-14), fell to No. 20 Michigan in an extended five sets (32-20, 16-25, 27-25, 19-25, 18-20) and defeated No. 24 Florida State in four sets (25-21, 23-25, 25-18, 25-23). Senior Stevi Robinson became the school’s all-time leader in digs in the match against the Wolverines. Pepperdine continues its streak of ranked opponents when it travels to Hawaii for two matches against the Wahine next weekend.

Matches To Watch For:
- The Big Ten/Big East Challenge will feature Purdue and Illinois against Louisville and Cincinnati at Huff Hall in Champaign, Ill.

- Now considered a non-conference match since Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten, the Huskers host Iowa State on Saturday night. The match is also Nebraska’s last contest before hosting Penn State at the NU Coliseum on Wednesday, Sept. 21 in the Big Ten opener on the Big Ten Network.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Look At The Weekend – Sept. 2-4

By Jen Armson-Dyer

Central Florida Stuns No. 3 Southern California
Despite it being only the second week of action, Central Florida pulled off a feat that is already being billed as “historic,” as the Knights not only defeated third-ranked Southern California, they did so in three sets (25-16, 25-20, 25-22) Friday afternoon in the Homewood Suites FGCU Invitational at Alico Arena in Fort Myers, Fla. The win marked the first victory over a ranked opponent since Central Florida joined Conference USA in 2005. As a team, the Knights outhit the Women of Troy .351 to .135 and racked up 53 kills to USC’s 31, also winning the digging battle 50-35. Junior opposite Evija Vilde and sophomore outside hitter Angelica Crump each posted 15 kills for Central Florida as freshman outside hitter Kayla Keller added in 12 kills and 13 digs in her first career collegiate start. "We have so much respect for Southern California and their volleyball program," said UCF head coach Todd Dagenais about his former employer. "Here we are going into the match just trying to build something special so that one day we can put ourselves in the league such as a USC who has done it year in and year out. We still strive to be a program like them. Obviously it was a nice milestone for us. They are who we would like to be someday, so it was an honor to play them and we are thankful for that opportunity. This win is a total program effort. It's not just for the people that are here right now, but for those who were here prior to this year. There are three years of teams who paid the price for us to have an opportunity like this, and those are the people we want to include in this.”

No. 11 Minnesota Downs No. 4 Texas … Twice
The Golden Gophers emphatically opened their home season, sweeping the Longhorns twice, winning 25-20, 25-20, 25-17 on Friday night and 25-19, 25-21, 25-22 on Saturday night in front of a combined crowd of 9,848 at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis, Minn. In the initial match, junior outside hitter Katherine Harms dominated, recording 17 kills with only two errors to hit .441 as both sophomore middle hitter Tori Dixon and sophomore outside hitter Ashley Wittman both chipped in 11 kills and senior libero Jessica Granquist picked up a match-high 20 digs. In the rematch, it was Wittman’s turn to lead the attack as she collected 16 kills on .484 hitting while senior middle hitter Ariana Filho caught fire, going 11-0-15 to hit .733 as Dixon added in 10 kills and five of the Gophers’ six service aces for the match. "It was a nice win by the team," Minnesota head coach Laura Bush said after Saturday’s match. "We didn't know how we would emotionally handle tonight after the nice 3-0 win last night, but everything that we asked the team to do, they did. It was a really good team effort and a lot of good things are going on on our side of the net. I'm really happy about how we played."

Colorado State Topples No. 5 Nebraska, Sets Attendance Record
The Rams did a little history-making of their own Friday night, coming back from being down 0-2 to stun the Huskers in five games (12-25, 11-25, 25-16, 25-20, 15-9) in front of a record-breaking crowd of 6,750 at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo., an attendance that set new program and Mountain West records. Nebraska dominated the first two sets of the match, hitting .421 while holding Colorado State to attacking .055 but after the break, a new Rams team emerged to claim the victory. Each team finished the match hitting .216, but with Colorado State going .360, .343, .263 in the final three sets while holding Nebraska to .062, .194 and -.043 for the remainder of the match. Surprisingly, the Rams collected only 47 kills throughout the five sets, led by senior opposite Katelyn Steffan with 13 as junior middle hitter Megan Plourde chipped in nine and sophomore middle hitter Tori Brummett notched eight on an errorless 14 swings. Colorado State outblocked Nebraska 11.0 to 8.0, led by Plourde with eight. “People have been asking all week if this is the biggest match in program history,” Colorado State head coach Tom Hilbert said. “You know, it’s hard to quantify that. We’ve had some spectacular wins here at CSU. But if you look at the environment in Moby and the hype of this game, and how the game was played and how it ended up, I think it’s a signature moment for these guys. This will be a moment that I think a lot of students, a lot of the CSU community, including the players on this team and some alumni, are going to remember and relish forever.”

Other Notable Matches:
- Cincinnati defeated No. 17 Oklahoma in four sets (25-20, 24-26, 26-24, 25-18) Friday night in Denton, Texas. Junior middle hitter Jordanne Scott led the Bearcats with 19 kills on .385 hitting with three aces while senior outside hitter Missy Harpenau chipped in 15 kills. Cincinnati dominated the blocking game, 12.0-4.0, led by junior middle hitter Becca Refenes with seven.

- Saint Mary’s downed No. 17 Duke in five sets (27-25, 18-25, 25-17, 25-27, 15-4) Friday, marking the highest victory against a ranked opponent for the Gaels since 2008. Jordan Shaw led Saint Mary’s with 17 kills. The Gaels continued their success, sweeping Notre Dame (25-18, 25-16, 25-23) on Saturday as Saint Mary’s outdug the Irish 70-45.

- Tennessee outlasted No. 21 Dayton in five sets (25-17, 25-23, 14-25, 23-25, 15-12) Saturday afternoon in Champaign, Ill., after rebounding from being down 0-5 to start the fifth set. Kelsey Robinson led the Lady Vols with 28 kills.

- Coming off their emotional win over Dayton, Tennessee couldn’t repeat its success later that night as Houston claimed a five-set victory (19-25, 25-22, 25-23, 20-25, 15-8) over the Lady Vols. Stephanie Nwachukwu led the Cougars with 15 kills in the victory.

- No. 23 Long Beach State defeated No. 22 Ohio State in four sets (25-21, 23-25, 25-16, 25-21) Sunday in Honolulu, Hawaii. Caitlin Ledoux led four 49er players in double-digit kills with 17.

Matches To Watch:
Stanford hosts the second annual Nike Volleyball Big Four Classic, welcoming Penn State, Texas and Florida to Palo Alto. The Cardinal and Nittany Lions square off on Friday at 5:30 p.m. PT before the Gators and Longhorns meet at 8:00 p.m. PT. The winners will then meet on Saturday, with the losers facing off for the consolation match. These four teams all have their own rich volleyball histories as well as long traditions of outstanding matches amongst each other. To prep for the Penn State-Stanford match, will look back on some of the more memorable moments in the rivalry, which can be found here: