Women's Volleyball |
Sept. 4, 2007
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SETTING THE SCENE: Cincinnati will face a tall order when it continues a six-match road swing on Tuesday night at No. 23 Dayton. First serve between the local rivals is set for 7 p.m. at UD's Frericks Center. The Bearcats are 5-1 this year, but are coming off their lone defeat, a five-game setback against TCU. The Flyers are off to a 6-0 start that has vaulted them into the AVCA/CSTV top 25 at No. 23. Dayton won the Mortar Board Premier over the weekend, defeating No. 17 Purdue, Utah and North Carolina on its way to the title.
NOTING THE BEARCATS:
The Bearcats are led by two-time honorable mention all-American Jessie Nevitt, who ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in hitting, kills and blocks. The junior is on top in blocks per game (1.57), while ranking seventh in kills per game (4.14) and eighth in hitting percentage (.344).
Cincinnati has earned BIG EAST weekly awards in each of the first two weeks of the season. Jessie Nevitt was named player of the week on Aug. 27, while Annie Fesl picked up rookie of the week on Sept. 3.
UC has enjoyed its best hitting performances of the season in two of the last three matches. Against Morehead State on Aug. 28 and three days later at Maine, the Bearcats hit .374, representing the best mark by a UC team since Nov. 4, 2005 at USF.
Three freshmen-setter Fesl, outside hitter Stephanie Niemer and middle blocker Lindsay Upton-have joined the Bearcats starting line-up. The trio is combining for 5.29 kills, 3.57 digs, 1.05 aces and 1.57 blocks per game this season.
NOTING THE FLYERS:
The Flyers have already defeated a pair of 2006 NCAA Tournament participants, including No. 17 Purdue on its home floor. The 6-0 start has vaulted Dayton into the No. 23 position in the latest AVCA/CSTV poll.
Dayton is led by two returning all-Atlantic 10 first-team performers in outside hitter Jamie-Lee Richards and setter Erin Schroeder. Richards is pacing the team this year with 3.28 kills per game, while Schroeder is handing out 10.68 assists per game.
Cincinnati has won seven of the last nine meetings between the schools with the only hiccups coming on Dayton's home floor in 1998 and 2005.
FESL EARNS BIG EAST WEEKLY AWARD: For the second straight week, the BIG EAST has honored a Bearcat as freshman setter Annie Fesl has been tabbed the league's rookie of the week. Fesl received the accolade after helping the Bearcats to a pair of wins and posting a career-best performance in another contest. In three matches last week, Fesl averaged 13.09 assists, 1.55 digs and 0.91 blocks per game, while pacing a Bearcat offense that hit .309. In a five-game defeat against TCU, Fesl posted her second double-double of the year, handing out a career-high 69 assists and adding 10 digs, along with a personal-best five blocks. Fesl tacked on 38 and 37 assists in three-game wins over Morehead State and Maine, respectively. She joins Jessie Nevitt who earned player of the week on Aug. 27.
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 season of collegiate competition. A look at each's first taste of college:
Fesl has already won a BIG EAST Rookie of the Week award (Sept. 3) and ranks second in the league with 14.24 assists per game. Against TCU on Sept. 1, Fesl finished with career highs of 69 assists and five blocks.
Niemer has shown signs of greatness and is averaging 2.76 kills per game. Against Maryland in the State Farm Bearcats Invitational final on Aug. 25, Niemer tallied 13 kills, added six digs and buried four service aces. One match later, she hit a career-high .381 at Morehead State (Aug. 28).
Upton cracked the starting six against Maryland on Aug. 25 and has taken over the top spot in the BIG EAST in hitting at .456. She has reached double figures in kills three times and is adding 0.81 digs and 0.57 blocks per game.
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. This season, Elley ranks second on the squad in both kills (3.40) and digs (3.30) 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 15 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.
BEARCATS PICKED SIXTH IN BIG EAST POLL: The 2007 preseason BIG EAST Conference coaches poll was a disappointment for Cincinnati as the Bearcats were selected to finish sixth in the league. The mark represented the lowest in-conference ranking the Bearcats have received since Reed Sunahara took over as head coach in 2000. UC finished last year tied for third in the BIG EAST and returns eight letterwinners, including four starters. Notre Dame was a one-point favorite to win the league title over Louisville, with St. John's, Pittsburgh and Marquette rounding out the top five.
NEVITT NAMED TO PRESEASON ALL-BIG EAST SQUAD: Junior middle blocker Jessie Nevitt was Cincinnati's lone representative on the preseason all-BIG EAST squad, selected by the league coaches. A two-time first team all-league choice, Nevitt led the BIG EAST in blocks per game (1.68) last year and was second with a .367 hitting percentage.
PLAYER TO COACH: A familiar face has joined head coach Reed Sunahara on the bench this year as four-year starter Myanna Hellsten has joined the staff as an assistant coach. During her career, Hellsten was a two-time all-conference performer and was the only UC player ever with 1,000 kills and 500 career blocks. Hellsten will continue the trend of former Bearcats on the sideline, following in the shoes of the late Stephanie (Meinig) Rosfeld and Chrissy Smith.