Volleyball Hosts No. 22 Louisville Friday
Oct. 29, 2003
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The University of Memphis volleyball team (25-2, 6-1 C-USA) will put its 7-0 home mark on the line with a Conference USA clash against No. 22 Louisville (13-4, 6-1 C-USA), Friday at 7 p.m. The winner of the Friday night match will remain in second place in the league standings alone if league-leader Cincinnati does not fall at Saint Louis, Friday night, while the losing team will fall into a tie for third, possibly with both Southern Miss and Tulane.
The Tigers bring in an eight-match winning streak that started on the road in Houston to the match. That streak includes a 4-0 record at home, where Memphis downed cross-town rival Christian Brothers, C-USA foes UAB and USF and SEC foe Ole Miss, all by a 3-0 score. Memphis has not lost a game in the Elma Roane Fieldhouse yet this season, sweeping Tennessee Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette and Holy Cross in their own tournament back in September.
The Tigers are looking to get outside hitter Tiara Gilkey back on track after Gilkey struggled last weekend. The junior outside hitter continues to lead the team with 4.02 kills per game, but fell to second on the team in kills per game in conference matches behind sophomore Nancy Nellans. Gilkey also dropped from 7th to 9th in the league in points and kills per game and after posting eight double-doubles (kills-digs) in the first nine matches of the year, Gilkey has posted just two double-doubles in the last 10 matches, and only twice against C-USA foes. The Tigers will need all players up and at full strength when the ranked Cardinals come to town.
Nellans exploded at Marquette, downing 23 kills in a 3-2 win, but both Gilkey and Nellans drew more blocking attention at DePaul and Chicago State and saw their overall hitting percentages fall. And with all but two players on the Louisville roster standing at over 6-0 tall, all the Tiger hitters will face much bigger blocks Friday night.
Senior Brittany Barnett was Memphis' most consistent outside last weekend, downing 22 kills at Marquette, 17 at DePaul and 12 at Chicago State. The senior from Dallas, Texas hit .293 for the weekend, and is now hitting .275 for the season, and remains second on the team in kills (369), kills per game (3.77) and fifth in digs (2.44).
The Tigers will also run senior middle Shella Neba. The senior from Aurora, Colo., is fourth on the team with 2.27 kills per game and is third in the league in attack percentage at .350. Her 102 total blocks leads the team, as Neba is the only Tiger to average over a full block per game (1.04).
And the blocking game and defense will be tested Friday. Louisville is second in the league in hitting percentage (.284) and has three hitters among the top 10 in the same category. Freshman Anastasia Yartseva leads the league with a .432 hitting percentage, while senior Sonja Percan is seventh in the league with a .307 hitting clip. Sophomore Lena Ustymenko rounds out the Louisville contingent in the top 10 at ninth overall with a .302 attack percentage.
Louisville will probably have a pair of setters handle the quarterbacking duties this weekend. Sophomores Jennifer Craven and Zoya Filippova has split playing time this season, allowing Louisville to run their setters out of the back row if the Cardinals want three hitters up front.
The Cardinals, ranked No. 22 in the country, already own one win over a nationally-ranked team after upending No. 6 Minnesota, 3-1, at the University of Hawaii tournament in their second match of the year. But the Cardinals' have also picked up one C-USA loss earlier this season, falling at league-leading Cincinnati, 3-0 (30-22, 30-26, 31-29).
Friday night will be Costume Night at the Tigers' match, with all fans dressed up for Halloween receiving free admission. Saturday Night will be 2-for-1 Night where all fans who bring their ticket stubs from the Saturday afternoon Tiger football game against East Carolina receiving 2-for-1 price admission. Tiger football players will also be available at the Saturday night match from 6:30-7:00 p.m. for autographs.
The Tigers will face league-leader Cincinnati, Saturday, also at 7 p.m.