Memphis Volleyball Opens Conference USA Play at UAB on Thursday
Sept. 17, 2008
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Memphis volleyball will take on perhaps its toughest challenge of the young season on Thursday when it travels to Birmingham, Ala. to take on UAB in the Conference USA opener. Following the showdown with the Blazers, the Tigers will participate in the UAB/Samford Invitational on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 19-20.
The U of M will take on co-host Samford on Friday at 1 p.m., before a Saturday doubleheader versus Florida International and Chattanooga at Noon and 4 p.m., respectively.
At 7-3 the Tigers are riding the momentum of a three-match win streak that garnered the MSU Bulldogs Club championship last weekend in Starkville, Miss. Memphis, who has won four of its last five, swept the weekend competition, defeating UCA, Centenary and host Mississippi State. They will look for more of the same as they open the tough Conference USA schedule and play in their final pre-conference tournament.
The Tigers' roster showcases the nation's top blocker in middle blocker Emily Underwood. With 1.87 blocks per set, Underwood has posted at least seven blocks in seven of Memphis' 10 contests. She made 10 rejections in a win over Indiana State. The sophomore isn't the only Tiger ranked among the nation's top players statistically. Sophomore defensive specialist Becky Shaffer sits atop C-USA and ranks 42nd in the country in service aces with 20.
Underwood and Shaffer anchor a defense that leads Conference USA, limiting opposing hitters to a .105 attack percentage. The Tigers also leads the league and rank nationally in blocking and service aces. They get help from libero Christine Bach, who leads the team with 166 digs. Bach ranks third in Conference USA with 4.37 digs per set.
Senior setter Laura Côté runs the offense and is one of three C-USA setters averaging over 10 assists per set, at 10.03. Junior Rebekah Strickland leads the team and ranks in among C-USA hitters with a .331 attack percentage.
2007 Final National Poll Ranking: N/A
2007 Postseason Finish: N/A
2007 Conference Finish: 3rd
2007 RKPI: 68
Returning Starters/Letterwinners: 5/10 Top Returners: Nevena Stefanov (S, 6-0, Sr., 2007 First Team All-Conference USA, 2007 Conference USA All-Tournament Team), Lilly Domingos (MB, 6-4, Sr. 2007 Conference USA Newcomer of the Year), Casey Dent (MB, 6-2, Sr., 2007 Second Team All-Conference USA, 2007 ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District IV Third Team, 2007 Conference USA All-Academic Team), Ivana Bozic (OH, 6-1, Sr.)
Top Newcomers: Patty Paniagua (MB, 6-0), Savannah Pegg (OH, 5-10)
Top Players Lost: Fernanda Domingos (OH, 5-10, Sr., Second-Team Conference USA)
Picked to finish second in the C-USA preseason poll, UAB rides a six-match win streak into Thursday's C-USA opener. The Blazers defeated Cleveland State; former Tiger coach Carrie Yerty and her Wyoming Cowgirls and Kansas to win the Cowgirl Classic last weekend in Wyoming. UAB's only two losses came in its first two matches of the season. They have not lost in the month of September.
Preseason All-C-USA performers Nevena Stefanov and Ivana Bozic lead UAB offensively. The reigning C-USA Setter of the Week, Stefanov averages 9.83 assists per period, while Bozic leads the team with 102 kills and 3.40 kills per set. Middle blocker Casey Dent leads the team and ranks sixth in C-USA with a .340 hitting percentage. Preseason All-C-USA Lilly Domingos leads the squad with 25 blocks.
The All-time Series vs. UAB
Current Southern Conference Player of the Week Ashley Adams leads the team with 120 kills. She has 30 more kills than any other Samford player. Adams ranks 19th in the nation with 4.29 kills per set. She set a program-record with 31 kills in five-game win over Murray State last week. Junior defensive specialist Sarah Gardner is tied for 38th in aces per set. Setter Hillary Fountain is 14th in the country with 11.49 assists per game and runs the offense to the tune of a strong .297 hitting percentage--sixth in the nation. The Bulldogs rank 39th in assists and 44th in kills.
On the defensive side of the net, Samford is paced by Katie Weber's 117 digs (3.34 dps). Sheriden Stangohr and Rachel Gadberry have 39 and 36 blocks, respectively.
The All-time Series vs. Samford
Scouting Florida International
FIU is off to a fast start at 9-1. The Panthers opened the season by winning each of the first six matches, including a 3-1 decision over No. 19 Clemson. Their lone loss came at the hands of Iowa State on Sept. 6, but since then, FIU has won three straight. The Panthers have received votes in the AVCA Top 25 polls.
The Panthers are led by the Puerto Rican duo of setter Natalia Valentin and Yarimar Rosa. Yarimar, who leads the club with 188 kills, leads the nation with 5.37 terminations per set. Rosa has earned tournament MVP honors in each of FIU's last two weekends. Valentin has 354 assists on the year to go with 2.80 digs per set. Isadora Rangel is second on the team with 97 kills.
Yarimar also paces the Panthers with 114 digs, while Mariana Drumeva is second with 102.
The All-time Series vs. FIU
Chattanooga is a young squad, with five freshmen on the 2008 roster. The Mocs have battled to a 3-6 record up to the weekend tournament.
Chattanooga hits just .134 as a team and is led by Ashley Yeager's 79 kills (2.55 kps). Setter Michaela Huff hands out 6.27 assists per game. Lara Newberry is the team leader with over five digs per period. She ranks 21st nationally in digs. A highly decorated player, Newberry led the NCAA in digs last year. She was named both Collegiate Volleyball Update National Libero of the Year and the SoCon Libero of the Year last season.
The All-time Series vs. Chattanooga