Volleyball Set to Open 2008 Season in Memphis Invitational
Aug. 28, 2008
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The University of Memphis volleyball team will get its 2008 season underway on Friday, August 29 when it hosts Alabama A&M at 7.p.m. to wrap up day one of the Memphis Invitational.
In the first of two home preseason tournaments for the Tigers, they will take on McNeese State and UALR on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., respectively. Memphis has not opened the season at home since the hosting the Memphis Invitational to kickoff the 2004 season. Carrie Yerty's crew swept Tennessee State, Alabama A&M, Delaware State and Illinois-Chicago in four consecutive matches to win the tournament.
Friday's season opener versus Alabama A&M will mark the beginning of a new era for Memphis volleyball as former University of Memphis assistant coach and All-American player April Jauregui will walk the sidelines of the Elma Roane Fieldhouse after taking over for the U of M's longest tenured and all-time winningest coach Carrie Yerty, who took the top spot at the University of Wyoming in late January.
With the departure of two of the program's most successful players in Shelby Burton and Ashley Liford, the country's 24th winningest program will take on a new look in 2008. Led by 2008 Preseason All-CUSA setter Laura Côté, the Tiger roster showcases just five players with significant Division I experience. After a record setting freshmen season, Sophomore libero Christine Bach returns to anchor the back line of the Tiger defense. A native of Dresden, Germany, Bach picked up a U of M freshmen record, 489 digs in 2007. That total was the second highest on Memphis' single season digs list. Bach also set the program single match record with 35 digs against SMU on Nov. 11, 2007. Bach will be joined by defensive specialist Becky Shaffer in the back row. Local talents Rebekah Strickland and Lauren Thompson will be counted on to provided much of the offensive firepower. Thompson is the top returning hitter after downing 125 kills in 2007. The U of M roster also touts a group of five talented newcomers--four of which are true freshmen.
Alabama A&M enters the 2008 season looking for its eighth consecutive SWAC tournament title and appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Second-year head coach Nedra Brown, a graduate of LeMoyne-Owen College, earned SWAC Coach of the Year honors in 2007 after leading the squad to a 15-10 mark. AAMU was swept by No. 8 UCLA in first round action of the 2007 tournament.
Picked to win the SWAC East Division in the league's preseason polls, Brown's Bulldogs return seven letterwinners, including four starters from last years team that ousted Grambling in straight sets to earn the SWAC tournament title. A&M has a good shot to prove the early-season predictions right as they retain the likes of Brittani Lewis, Natalie Rodriguez, Madinah Abdulah and Rose Corneille. The '08 SWAC Preseason Player of the Year, Lewis is a highly decorated perfomer. The three-time All-SWAC player was tabbed the 2007 SWAC Tournament MVP, along with first team honors last season. Lewis led the team with 341 kills in 2007. She paced the squad with 36 service aces and 66 blocks. The league's preseason Defensive Player of the Year, Corneille earned Preseason second team accolades after leading the 2007 team with 342 digs. Abdulah joined Corneille on the second team and Rodriguez was named to the preseason first team. Rodriguez was recognized as the SWAC Newcomer of the Year last season.
Memphis is 3-0 against AAMU with all three wins coming via the sweep (2004, 2005, and 2006). The Tigers blanked the Bulldogs
The Cowgirls went 19-14 in 2007 but return as a much more experienced side in 2008. Picked to finish fourth overall and second in the Southland Conference East Division, head coach Dale Starr welcomes the return of nine lettermen and four of its six starters. Starr's squad will be led by junior setter Sarah Cartie. Cartie had a solid sophomore campaign in '07, dishing out 1,283 assists to go with 361 digs and 143 kills. Cartie will be flanked by senior Alyson Jones. Jones garnered preseason All-Southland second team honors after leading the way offensively with 359 kills. The McNeese team does showcase a bit of youth as they bring four freshman into the program.
The 2008 meeting with the lady cowgirls will mark the first time that Memphis and McNeese State have met on the volleyball court.
The Tigers biggest rivalry of the weekend, UALR makes the trip to Memphis to participate in one the Tigers' two preseason tournaments for the fourth straight season. The Trojans won the Memphis Invitational in 2007 and went on to finish the year with a strong 22-9 record. Longtime head coach Van Compton guides a veteran club that returns five starters from last year with hopes of a Sun Belt title. The Trojans were picked to finish third in the Sun Belt Conference West Division in the league's 2008 preseason poll. Senior Amila Barakovic was tabbed a preseason All-Sun Belt Team honoree. The two-time All-Sun Belt player, Barakovic will lead the way for the Trojans after downing a team-high 402 kills (3.65 k/s) and picking up 2.44 digs per set last season. She will get solid support from 2007 Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year, Amy Hafner.
Saturday's matchup with the Trojans will be the twelthf in the all-time series. Memphis holds and 8-3 advantage versus UALR) and has won four of the last six matches. However, the Trojans defeated Memphis 3-1 the last time the two teams met on Sept. 8, 2007. The Trojans victory clinched the Memphis Invitational tournament championship.
Fans can track the play-by-play action of the Memphis Invitational via gametracker.