Volleyball Hosts Cal's Steakhouse Memphis Tournament Beginning Friday
Sept. 5, 2002
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - - The University of Memphis volleyball team (3-2, 0-0 C-USA) will play its only home matches remaining in the month of September when the Tigers host four teams in the Cal's Steakhouse Memphis Tournament, slated to begin at 10 a.m., Friday.
Memphis will host Arkansas State, Appalachian State, Middle Tennessee and Birmingham-Southern in the two-day tournament. The Tigers did not host a home tournament last season, but finished second in the tournament in 1999.
Memphis Head Coach Carrie Yerty is hoping that this weekend marks the return of junior middle hitter Shella Neba (Aurora, Colo./St. Mary's). Neba, who led the team with a .293 hitting percentage last year, has missed the first five matches of the season with a back injury, but hopes to be back in time for this weekend.
"With four matches under our belt, I think we will start playing with some more consistency and without as many nerves from our freshmen, but it's important that we get our whole team back and healthy for this weekend," Yerty said.
The Tigers have leaned heavily on the 2002 freshman class, as is evidenced by a couple of Tiger rotations that feature four freshmen on the floor with either a junior and a sophomore or a junior and a senior.
"I think we saw great team progress over the last weekend (at Georgia Southern). At one point, we had four freshmen on the court at the same time due to injuries to our middles, but they all did a great job of adjusting."
Freshman Nancy Nellans (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph's) has emerged as a top Tiger threat, leading the Tigers with 14 service aces and standing third on the team with 51 kills (2.83/game). Her 0.78 service aces per game ranks her fifth in Conference USA statistics. Nellans has played in all but one game for the Tigers' through their first five matches. "Nancy (Nellans) also was outstanding this weekend. She almost set a new Conference USA freshman record with eight service aces against Charleston Southern and was one of our top offensive weapons this weekend," Yerty said.
The addition of the libero position to college volleyball has also given another Tiger freshman an opportunity to emerge early. Freshman Lauren Berg (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) currently leads the team with 66 digs (3.47/game), ranking seventh in Conference USA. Berg's 23 digs against two-time defending Sun Belt Champ Western Kentucky is the fifth-highest single match mark in the league so far this season.
The home tournament will be the second tourney of the season for the Tigers after going 2-2 at the Georgia Southern Invitational last weekend. Junior outside Brittany Barnett (Dallas, Texas/Lake Highlands) and sophomore setter Heather Watts (Salt Lake City, Utah/Skyline) were both named to the all-tournament team at GSU. Barnett tallied two new career highs in kills, and her 22 kills against Georgia Southern is the second-best individual performance in the conference so far this season.
Tournament Opponents Notebook:
Appalachian State (5-0, 0-0 Southern Conference)
Birmingham-Southern (1-3, 0-0 Big South)
Arkansas State (3-1, 0-0 Sun Belt)
Middle Tennessee (3-2, 0-0 Sun Belt)