Volleyball Ready for C-USA Championships
Nov. 19, 2003
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The University of Memphis volleyball team (28-5, 9-4 C-USA) will leave at 7 a.m. Thursday morning for a bus ride to New Orleans, La., where they will await word of their first-round opponent in the Conference USA Championships. The Tigers do know they will play at 6 p.m., Saturday. Their first-round opponent will be determined Friday night in a 6 p.m. match.
The Tigers received a first-round bye, their first-ever, thanks to a fourth-place finish in the C-USA regular season standings. Memphis will face either No. 5 seed and host Tulane in the quarterfinals, or No. 12 seed Saint Louis. Both the Tigers and the Billikens faced the Green Wave last weekend, with Tulane prevailing 3-2 in St. Louis, and falling 3-1 at Memphis. The tournament No. 1 seed could potentially be awaiting the winner of the Memphis quarterfinal, but the Cincinnati Bearcats first have to get by either No. 8 seed Houston or No. 9 USF, who prevented the Bearcats from claiming the Conference USA title outright with a victory over the Bearcats in Tampa last Saturday.
Memphis will be making its first second round appearance since 2001, when the Tigers downed Tulane, 3-0, in the first round of the C-USA tournament in Houston. Memphis was then defeated by No. 1 seed Cincinnati, 3-0, in the quarterfinals. The Tigers have never gone deeper than the second round in a Conference USA Tournament.
USF won the C-USA Tournament title in 2002, after sharing the regular season crown with Louisville. Both Louisville and Cincinnati come into this year's tournament nationally-ranked and both shared the regular season title this year after Cincinnati's loss on the final day of the regular season in Tampa.
The Conference USA All-Conference honorees will be announced Thursday. The all-conference teams will be posted at www.c-usasports.com and will be posted on www.gotigersgo.com later in the day after the Tigers' bus arrives in New Orleans.
--Head Coach Carrie Yerty moved above the .500 mark in career play with Memphis' outstanding 28-5 season. Yerty is now 138-127.
Emily Steckel - Steckel saw action against both Southern Miss and Tulane last weekend, posting three digs against Southern Miss.
Hristina Slancheva - Slancheva dropped from No. 1 to No. 3 in the league in service aces after finishing the weekend without an ace against Tulane and Southern Miss. That marked just the first time all season Slancheva had gone without an ace in two straight matches.
Tiara Gilkey - Gilkey stretched her double-digit kill streak to 12 straight matches with 18 kills against Southern Miss and 13 against Tulane. But Gilkey's hitting percentage suffered last week, hitting .122 against USM and .083 against Tulane. Gilkey has hit .300 against three C-USA opponents (Saint Louis, Houston, East Carolina) after hitting .300 or higher 10 times against non-conference opponents. The junior outside hitter has posted three-straight double-doubles though, finishing with 20 kills against USM and 16 against Tulane. She also tied a season-high with seven assists against USM.
Jennie Toronto - Toronto did not play last week against USM or Tulane.
Fehi Tuivai - Tuivai is finding her way into the line-up when Memphis needs someone else to step up the blocking or present a different look from the attack and the serving area. Tuivai had one kill, one assist and two digs in the 3-2 loss to USM, but hit .429 with four kills and one block assist in the win over Tulane.
Nancy Nellans - Nellans has drawn her share of attention from the rest of the league after emerging as a force early in the conference schedule against UAB, USF and Marquette. Nellans has posted three double-doubles (kills-digs), but is looking to hit over the .100 mark for the first time in four matches in the Tigers' quarterfinal match.
Melissa Nance - Nance has found her hitting percentage affected a bit with the switch to league play. With opponents having more time to scout the teams, Nance's opportunities on the offensive side have been expected. The freshman is unfazed by the attention though, finishing with six kills against USM and adding three block assists in the loss. Nance also added five service aces last weekend, two against USM and three against Tulane.
Christen Clayton - Clayton has really emerged the last three matches, especially as teams are trying to hit everything deep and to the corners on Memphis. Clayton responded with 19 digs against USM after a career-best outing of 22 digs at Charlotte. The freshman from Houston, Texas, added 11 digs in the 3-1 win over Tulane, Saturday.
Heather Watts - Watts is just 24 assists shy of setting a new single season mark in assists, with 1,654 helpers already in the books. The second-leading assist player in Memphis history, Watts added four service aces to lead the Tigers with 59 aces on the season. That total is the 10th-best single season mark in Tiger history and moved Watts to 8th in career history with one year of eligibility remaining. Watts also added her second straight Co-SIDA Academic All-District Honor last week, earning first team honors and advancing to the national ballot for Academic All-America honors.
Brittany Barnett - Barnett stretched her double-digit kill streak to 32 straight matches with a 23-kill outing vs. Southern Miss and a 12-kill outing in the win over Tulane. Barnett hit .383 against USM, one of the only hitters to be effective in the first two games against the Golden Eagles, and hit .237 against Tulane. Barnett is currently fourth in school history in career kills and sixth in career attacks. Her 478 kills this season is the 9th-best mark in school history and she has also broke into the career top 10 in digs (1125).
Shella Neba - Neba posted double-digit kills on back-to-back nights for just the third time all season in the final conference weekend last weekend. Neba hit .435 on senior night in the Elma Roane Fieldhouse, finishing with 12 kills and four total blocks. Currently third in school history with 323 career block assists, Neba's 115 block assists so far this year is also the third-best single season mark in Tiger history.
Kristen Hardee - Hardee played in both matches last weekend, hitting negative in the loss to Southern Miss and downing one kill with one dig in the win over Tulane. The sophomore has 74 kills on the season and is hitting .128.