1998 Season In Review
The sign of a winning program is having a repetition of winning seasons. For the University of Cincinnati, the 1998 team continued the programs streak with another successful campaign. Cincinnati registered its fourth straight 20-win season when it went 21-12 overall, 12-4 in league and advanced to its second consecutive Conference USA semifinals.
UC surprised many with its success considering it had 11 new players accounting for more than half of the roster.
The Bearcats had the most prolific attacker in school history returning in senior Becky Tenkman, up and coming hitters Stephanie Meinig and Shauntel Miller, an experienced setter in senior Carrie Smith, and defensive specialist Katie Graham.
Not one for writing the season off as a rebuilding year, Alford brought in transfers Annie Gant, Jill Waltemeyer and Nienke Leenstra and freshmen Tobi Kirchenwitz, Lise Hissink, Lindsay Battey, Sherry Niekamp, Shant Haymore, Rachel Beran, Samantha Shanklin and Katrina Kelly and UC dove into the season full force.
Cincinnatis first challenge of the season was winning on the road. The Bearcats would spend their first 15 matches on the road beginning with the Dayton Flyer First Serve Invitational.
UC picked up its first win of the season, a three-game win over Tennessee State in Dayton, but dropped matches to Northern Illinois and a five-gamer to Dayton.
The Bearcats won their second consecutive five-game match when they beat Morehead State. Meinig registered the third most block assists in a match with nine vs. the Eagles.
Making its second straight trip to the West Coast, Cincinnati strung together two wins in the San Diego Tournament. The Bearcats beat Loyola (Md.) and New Orleans, but lost to powerful San Diego. Playing infront of a hometown crowd Smith earned all-tournament honors along with Tenkman.
The tests kept coming as UC opened its fourth season of Conference USA play at Louisville. Looking for their first win at Louisville since 1989, the Bearcats fell to the Cardinals, dropping UC to 4-4 overall and 0-1 in league.
Cincinnati regrouped in its third tournament of the season as the Bearcats finished second in the NIKE Carolina Classic. UC beat George Mason and UNLV, but lost a tough five-game match to Idaho and then a three-game match to North Carolina.
In the battle of city bragging rights, Cincinnati could not overcome a consistent middle attack from Xavier and continued its bumpy start with another loss.
The Bearcats rebounded though for two victories in their last trip of the season. UC ran its six-match winning streak vs. DePaul to seven and its nine-match streak against Marquette to 10 as Cincinnati moved to 2-1 in C-USA play.
Returning to the friendly confines of the Shoemaker Center, Cincinnati opened the home portion of its schedule and gave its fans their first glimpses of the 1999 Bearcats.
Facing two past NCAA tournament attendees, the Bearcats split the opening weekend of play at home by suffering a grueling five-game match loss to South Florida and registering their first win in school history over Houston.
The Houston victory would start a seven-match winning streak for Cincinnati that included snapping the longest Division I winning streak, three league victories and two non-conference wins.
The Bearcats avenged a loss from a year ago with a win over Western Kentucky and then gained alittle national exposure as they snapped the countries longest Division I winning streak with a five-game match win over Saint Louis. UC finished the weekend with a victory over UNC Charlotte and sat comfortably in a tie for second with Saint Louis.
Cincinnati won its fifth straight and its seventh non-league match of the year in a quick three-game match win over Eastern Kentucky. Tenkman, who needed 24 kills to become the all-time kill leader, finished seven kills shy on the night and set the stage for a dramatic scene vs. league opponent Memphis.
In front of a season-high 458 fans which had gathered for the record-breaking moment and Midnight Madness festivies, Tenkman registered her 1,637th kill in the first game of the match on a set from Gant. Tenkman went on for a match-high 17 kills and helped UC to a five-game match win over the Tigers.
On a roll, Cincinnati traveled to UAB and Southern Miss where a sweep would give the Bearcats sole possession of second place overall. UC took care of UAB in three games, but were unable to rally from two games down vs. Southern Miss. The loss ended the seven-match winning streak and left Cincinnati tied for second with Saint Louis.
The Bearcats righted their course and strung together wins over C-USA opponents Tulane, Marquette and DePaul and set the stage for their second meeting with Louisville.
With a chance to tie the Cardinals for first place, Cincinnati hung on for four-games pushing Louisville to 16-14 in game one and winning the second 15-10. But UC dropped to 10-4 in league play with two conference matches to play.
Still feeling the affects of the Louisville loss, the Bearcats lost to Butler for their second straight loss.
The final trip of the season would prove to be vital to the Bearcats for two reasons. UC needed to snap its mini-losing trend and earn a first round bye in the conference tournament. Standing in the way were UNC Charlotte and Saint Louis.
The Bearcats put the final touches on a first round bye and a No. 3 seed in the C-USA Tournament by beating both the 49ers and the Billikens in four-game matches.
As hosts for the league tournament, UC was ready to make its fourth run at the league championship. Cincinnati started in the quarterfinal round by taking revenge on Southern Miss. The Bearcats come out on top of their 11th five-game match to advance to their second consecutive semifinal match in the leagues four years of existence.
Cincinnati would have a chance to avenge another of its league losses when No. 2 South Florida beat UNC Charlotte in the quarterfinals. The Bearcats won games two and four and found themselves in their 12th five-game match of the season. For UC the 12th five-game match wasnt any better than lucky 13 as the Bearcats had their season ended by South Florida.