Women's Volleyball |
Aug. 30, 2007
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SETTING THE SCENE: Cincinnati will be seeking its best start to a season in 12 years when the Bearcats travel to Orono, Maine for the Maine Invitational this weekend. The Bearcats will be trying to improve to 6-0 on the young season and will battle the host Black Bears, along with former Conference USA rival TCU. UC opens play against Maine on Friday (Aug. 31) at 6 p.m. and will take on TCU at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Cincinnati is coming off the team title in the State Farm Bearcats Invitational and a win at Morehead State on Tuesday night.
NOTING THE BEARCATS:
UC will try to stretch its streak of 20-win seasons to 13 during the 2007 season. The Bearcats have won at least 20 matches in each of head coach Reed Sunahara's seven seasons.
In the opening week of play, a trio of freshmen rounded out a starting line-up that returned four starters and the libero from last year. Newcomers Annie Fesl, Stephanie Niemer and Lindsay Upton all made immediate impacts for the Bearcats.
Cincinnati had its best team hitting performance since Nov. 4, 2005 when it hit .374 at Morehead State on Tuesday. During the 2005 season, UC hit .421 in a contest at USF.
Jessie Nevitt was named BIG EAST Player of the Week after earning the MVP award at the State Farm Bearcats Invitational. The junior averaged 4.50 kills and 1.90 blocks per game for the tournament.
ABOUT THE TOURNAMENT: The 2007 Maine Invitational is comprised of three teams, with Cincinnati and TCU joining the host Black Bears. UC enters the weekend with a perfect 4-0 mark and will face each tournament opponent once. Maine (0-4) and TCU (2-1) will play each other twice this weekend. Maine dropped all three of its matches at Ball State's Tournament last weekend and a mid-week match to Northeastern. TCU won two of three at the Florida State tournament, with its only lost against the host Seminoles. The schedule for the weekend is as follows:
Friday, Aug. 31
TCU at Maine, 1 p.m.; Cincinnati at Maine, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 1
Cincinnati vs. TCU, 10 a.m.; TCU at Maine, 4 p.m.
NEVITT NABS BIG EAST WEEKLY AWARD: Jessie Nevitt has gotten her junior season off to a fine start as she has been named the first BIG EAST Volleyball Player of the Week for the 2007 season. The award comes on the heels of Nevitt being tabbed the State Farm Bearcats Invitational Most Valuable Player over the weekend. Nevitt was in fine form during the tournament, averaging 4.50 kills and 1.90 blocks per game, while hitting .327. This is the third time in her career Nevitt has been named BIG EAST Player of the Week after winning the award twice as a sophomore. In addition, Nevitt was a five-time recipient of the BIG EAST Rookie of the Week award in 2005.
MAKING A FIRST IMPRESSION: The Bearcats' freshmen trio of Annie Fesl, Stephanie Niemer and Lindsay Upton have made quite the first impression during their first week of collegiate competition. A look at each's first taste of college:
Fesl averaged 15.50 assists per game over the weekend and ranks first in the BIG EAST. In her first collegiate match, Fesl came up just three shy of matching the school record for assists in a three-game match with 55. Two matches later, Fesl set a career-high with 59 helpers.
Niemer has gotten better in each match of the season and is averaging 3.38 kills per game. Against Maryland in the tournament final, Niemer tallied 13 kills, added six digs and buried four service aces. One match later, she hit a career-high .381 at Morehead State.
Upton cracked the starting six in the finale against Maryland and responded with 10 kills on .350 hitting. She was even better in the Morhead State match, tallying 11 kills and hitting .556 with four blocks.
ALL IN THE FAMILY: Volleyball and University of Cincinnati athletics run in the bloodlines of three of the Bearcats' freshmen. Both Kimi Nakamura and Lindsay Upton have brothers that play other sports at Cincinnati, while Annie Fesl's older sister Megan plays volleyball at BIG EAST rival Notre Dame. Nakamura is the younger sister of Haruki, a three-year starter on the UC football team. Upton's older brother A.J., is a senior relief pitcher on the Bearcat baseball squad.
CUSTER'S LAST STAND: Senior Jenny Custer has been a regular contributor during her Bearcat career and will try to save her best season for last in 2007. Now in her third year as a starter, Custer averaged over three kills and two digs per game in each of the last two years. She showed improved blocking ability with a career-high 1.00 blocks per game. At the start of this year's campaign, Custer had season-highs of 16 kills and 11 digs against Maryland on Aug. 25.
HOME COURT HEROES: Cincinnati has enjoyed a strong home court advantage since the opening of Fifth Third Arena in 1989. In the 17-plus years the building has been in existence, the Bearcats have posted a 151-58 (.722) record at home and are 86-11 (.887) over the past eight-plus seasons. During the program's time in Fifth Third, it has enjoyed two lengthy win streaks, including a school-record 23-match string that ended in 2004. At the time the streak was snapped, it represented the third-longest active streak in the nation. UC's loss to Notre Dame in the BIG EAST Championship on Nov. 17, 2006 snapped the Bearcats' 10-match home court win streak. The Bearcats ended last year with a 13-2 home mark.
EXPERIENCE MATTERS: For the Bearcats to succeed this season, UC will have to find a way to support all-American Jessie Nevitt offensively. One player with the experience to do that is junior outside hitter Jessica Elley. Elley enjoyed a breakout 2006 season and recently joined the top-10 on the UC career digs per game list with 2.87 per game.
ON THE HORIZON: If all goes according to plan, head coach Reed Sunahara will add another milestone to his coaching resume this season. Now in his eighth-year as the Bearcat boss, Sunahara needs just 16 more victories to reach 200 for his career. Already the winningest coach in program history, Sunahara has guided UC to four NCAA Tournament appearances and three conference regular season titles.