Volleyball Hosts Reigning C-USA Champ UAB in League Opener on Thursday
Sept. 12, 2007
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -
The University of Memphis volleyball squad will jumpstart its Conference USA schedule on Thurs., Sept. 13, when it hosts UAB in a rematch of the 2006 C-USA Championship match. The Tiger's league home-opener is slated for 7 p.m. at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse.
Memphis (7-4) rides the momentum of a solid 3-2 comeback win over SEC Mississippi State in its last match, on Saturday. After falling behind 2-1, the Tigers took games four and five to complete and 3-1 weekend and claim second-place in the Memphis Invitational.
The UofM has won five of its last six matches, including a five-match win streak that included consecutive sweeps over Loyola (Chicago), Indiana State, Iona, Nicholls State and Austin Peay. The Tiger's 7-4 mark is identical to its 11-match that of the 2004 squad that raced to a 27-10 finish. Seniors Shelby Burton and Ashley Liford lead the way for the Memphis offense that hits .244 as a team. Burton has a team-high 171 kills (4.28 k/g) 19 service aces and a .436 attack percentage (ranks second in C-USA). Liford checks in with 139 kills on the year. The Tiger outside hitter needs just two kills to move into 11th all-time at Memphis. Freshman Kelsey Labrum has been a positive addition to the Memphis attack. The rookie has 84 kills and is averaging 2.33 spikes per game. Junior setter Laura Côté went over the 500-assists mark in the win over State. She averages a league-leading 12.52 assists per set.
Defensively, Memphis has held opponents to a .162 hitting average, while out digging and outblocking the opposition. Burton also paces the defense with 53 total blocks--good for sixth all-time at Memphis. Her 53 blocks is tops among all C-USA performers. The UofM backrow has been supported by the play of Liford and freshmen Christine Bach and Becky Shaffer. Bach leads the team with 122 digs, while Liford and Shaffer have 110 and 109, respectively.
Picked to finish third in the C-USA preseason poll, UAB sports a deceiving 5-4 mark after dropping two of three last week in Pittsburgh. The Blazers return 13 letterwinners from last year's C-USA Championship squad. Included in that list of 13 are seven starters, including the libero. The Blazers are guided by 2006 C-USA Championship MVP and 2007 Preseason First Team pick Ivana Bozic. Bozic leads the team with 112 kills, a 4.87 kills per game average and 15 aces. Another preseason all-league performer, Fernanda Domingos also returns and ranks second on the squad with 96 kills.
Briana Galvin anchors the UAB defense with a team-best 132 digs (4.12 d/g). She is joined by Aleksandra Vujovic, who has also eclipsed the 100-dig mark. The Blazers have been out blocked by opponents 65-54, but have a solid middle presence in junior Casey Dent. Dent has a team-high 22 blocks. Newcomer Lilly Domingos, the sister of Fernanda, is second on the team with 16 blocks. She is currently filling the setter role for an injured Nevena Stefanov.
The series between Memphis and UAB has grown to be a heated one over the last two seasons. Despite an all-time record of 35-11 against the Blazers, the Tigers have been able to win just two of the last five meetings. Each of the last four meetings have gone to five games, including all three contests last year. Memphis held a 2-1 advantage in the C-USA opener in Birmingham last year, only to see UAB comeback and take a 3-2 win. They then erased a 2-1 deficit at home to win in five. The travel partners met for a third time--this time for the C-USA Championship--in Houston. Memphis took a 2-0 lead, and it looked as if it would be the Tiger who would go dancing into its first NCAA Tournament since 1994, but it was not to be as the Blazers roared back to win game three through five to claim the 2006 C-USA crown.