Oct. 11, 2007
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FIRST SERVE: With its share of second place in the BIG EAST on the line, Cincinnati returns to league action this weekend, opening a stretch of five straight on the road. Action gets underway for the Bearcats on Saturday (Oct. 13) at fifth place Villanova and continues on Sunday at Seton Hall. UC saw its seven-match win streak end on Sunday against St. John's, but the team still stands at 14-5 overall and 5-1 in the BIG EAST.
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 third in blocks (1.52 per game), fourth in hitting (.338) and ninth in kills per game (3.83).
Three freshmen-setter Annie Fesl, outside hitter Stephanie Niemer and middle blocker Lindsay Upton-have become staples in the Bearcats' starting line-up. The trio is combining for 5.45 kills, 3.80 digs, 0.91 aces and 1.55 blocks per game this season, while Fesl is averaging 13.47 assists per game.
Nevitt is making a charge towards becoming the second player in UC history with 1,000 career kills and 500 career blocks, a feat accomplished only by current assistant coach Myanna Hellsten. Nevitt enters the weekend with 957 kills and 436 blocks.
The Bearcats will be out to avenge a loss the last time they traveled to Villanova in 2005. UC has won both of its meetings with Seton Hall since joining the BIG EAST two seasons ago.
Cincinnati is one of the top serving teams in the BIG EAST, ranking second with 1.85 per game. Freshman Stephanie Niemer and senior Jenny Custer are the leaders, ranking fifth and sixth in the BIG EAST, respectively in aces. Custer is one of the top servers in school history, ranking fourth in career aces with 149.
NOTING THE WILDCATS:
Villanova, under the leadership of first-year head coach and former UC assistant Josh Steinbach have started the BIG EAST season 4-2 and are 12-7 overall. The Wildcats have won three of their last four contests, including a win at Notre Dame.
Leading the way offensively for the Wildcats is senior Alona Cherkez, the BIG EAST leader in kills at 5.09. Fellow senior Kacy Sellers is listed ninth in the league at 3.83.
Defensively, libero Emily Brown is the leader with 3.22 digs per game.
NOTING THE PIRATES:
Seton Hall has dropped five of its last six contests, with the only exception coming via a win at DePaul. The stretch dropped Seton Hall's record to 10-9 overall and 1-5 in the BIG EAST.
The Pirates are led on the offensive end by freshman Sarah Osmun who ranks just outside the Top 10 in the BIG EAST with 3.77 kills per game.
Sophomore Allie Matters ranks 10th in the BIG EAST defensively with 3.88 digs per game.
TRYING FOR THREE STRAIGHT: Junior Jessie Nevitt is making a push for her third straight all-American honor with her play in 2007. A look at some of Nevitt's accomplishments this season:
Ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in hitting percentage (4th-.338), blocks per game (3rd-1.52) and kills per game (9th-3.83).
Named MVP of the State Farm Bearcats Invitational and to the all-tournament team at the Panther Invitational.
Tabbed BIG EAST Player of the Week on Aug. 27 and to the weekly honor roll on Sept. 3 and Sept. 10.
Recorded a career-high 21 kills in just three games in UC's win over Bradley (Sept. 7). Has double figure kills in 15 of the Bearcats' 19 matches this season.
Has 13 performances of at least five blocks in a match, including a season-best nine at Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Sept. 7) and again vs. St. John's (Oct. 7). Nevitt had six blocks in game one of the St. John's match alone.
Became the 19th player in program history with 900 career kills during UC's win over USF (Sept. 23).
Cracked the top-10 on the UC career block assists (6th-381) and total blocks (9th-436) charts.
Is on the fast track to becoming the second UC player ever with 1,000 kills and 500 blocks in her career. Nevitt holds current totals of 957 kills and 436 blocks.
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 155-60 (.721) record at home and are 90-13 (.874) since Reed Sunahara took over as head coach in 2000. The Bearcats ended last year with a 13-2 home mark and are 7-2 at home this season, with their only losses coming to No. 2 Stanford (Sept. 12) and No. 18 St. John's (Oct. 7).
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 won a BIG EAST Freshman of the Week award (Sept. 3) and is ranked second in the league with 13.47 assists per game. Against TCU on Sept. 1, Fesl finished with career highs of 69 assists and five blocks. Her first career match against Southern Miss on Aug. 24 was a good one, as she finished just three assists shy of a UC three-game record with 55 assists. Through matches of Oct. 7, Fesl was listed ninth nationally in assists per game.
Niemer also has a BIG EAST Freshman of the Week award (Sept. 24) and ranks second on the team with 3.42 kills per game. In the last month (a span of 11 matches) the Erlanger, Ky. native has double figure kills in all but one contest and is averaging 3.85 kills per game in UC's last nine matches. Niemer posted a new career-high in kills with 21 in the Bearcats' win over Connecticut on Oct. 5. She has also been outstanding from the service line, holding the team lead with 30 aces and ranking fifth in the BIG EAST with 0.45 per game.
Upton cracked the starting six against Maryland on Aug. 25 and has been a solid player in the middle opposite of Jessie Nevitt. She has reached double figures in kills five times and is averaging 1.77 kills, 0.66 digs and 0.57 blocks per game. Twice this year, Upton has tallied a career-high with 12 kills. She posted her best defensive performance of the year against Connecticut on Oct. 5, finishing with a career-high six blocks.
CUSTER'S LAST STAND: Senior Jenny Custer has been a regular contributor during her Bearcat career and is having another solid campaign in 2007. This year, Custer is listed fourth on the Bearcats with 2.86 kills per game, while adding 1.97 digs and 0.61 blocks per game. She is also listed sixth in the BIG EAST with 0.44 service aces per game. In UC career annals, Custer has moved into fourth place on the service aces list with 149. Against Syracuse on Sept. 30, Custer finished with 19 kills on .417 hitting, missing her career-high of 22 set last year against the same Orange team.
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 six 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.
BACK ON TRACK: After a recent cold stretch that included less than half a dozen kills in three of seven matches, junior Jessica Elley got back on track last week, helping the Bearcats to a 2-1 record. In wins against regional foe Western Kentucky and BIG EAST rival Connecticut, along with a loss to St. John's, Elley averaged 3.73 kills, 2.73 digs and 1.00 blocks per game, while hitting .295. Elley had one of her best performances of the year in UC's win over Connecticut, contributing a season-high 17 kills on .484 hitting, while adding 13 digs and four blocks.