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Cougars Present Volleyball With Early Challenge
August 28, 2003

The Weekly Slate

Cougar Challenge (Pullman, Wash.)
Fri., Aug. 29

  at No. 19 Washington State 9 p.m.

Sat., Aug. 30
  vs. Wichita State Noon 

  vs. San Francisco 7 p.m.

THE LOWDOWN
The Oklahoma volleyball team opens the 2003 season with arguably its toughest test of the non-conference schedule.  Washington State is ranked No. 19 in the AVCA preseason poll after an Elite 8 trip in 2002.  OU opens the Cougar Challenge with WSU Friday at 9 p.m. (CDT).  On Saturday the Sooners have a doubleheader with Wichita State at noon and San Francisco at 7 p.m.

Washington State was picked to finish seventh in the Pac 10 preseason poll after finishing third in 2002.  The Cougars lost six senior starters and will be led by sophomore Jennifer Todd (1.04 kpg, 2.17 dpg) in 2003.

Wichita State, which went 18-13 in 2002 and finished fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference, was picked by MVC coaches to finish third this year.  The Shockers return seven starters and are led by 5-10 outside hitter Jackie Brown (3.14 kpg, 3.14 dpg).  Despite losing its last matchup with the Shockers (2001), the Sooners own a 20-4 all-time series record against Wichita State, including wins in 11 of the last 13 meetings.

San Francisco went 6-25 and finished seventh in the West Coast Conference in 2002.  OU will see a familar face on the Dons sideline where former Texas Tech head coach Jeff Nelson now resides.  Nelson takes over a program that is led by senior Brittanie Budinger who averaged 4.6 kills per game and 3.0 digs per game last season.  The Dons were picked to finish sixth in the eight member WCC.

AS FOR THE SOONERS

The Oklahoma volleyball team begins the 2003 season with nine newcomers on the roster, as opposed to five returning starters.

The newcomers likely to have an immediate impact on the team are Kelly McCarter, Keri Coats, Laura Tomes and Joanna Schmitt.  All four should start in the season-opener.

McCarter is a senior-transfer from Arkansas who will run the Sooners offense this fall.  Coats is an intimidating 6-4 outside hitter who may fill in at middle hitter if needed be.  Tomes is the most highly touted recruit of the Kalani Mahi era and is one of the most talented athletes as a freshman.  Fellow freshman Joanna Schmitt has the most powerful arm on the team and has been one of the most consistent attackers throughout training camp.

Returning starters Sheena Werling  and Christina Maynes will be in the rotation at outside hitter.  Werling, according to head coach Kalani Mahi, is the most improved player on the team. She is an extremely athletic player who polished her offensive attack and jump serve during the offseason.  Maynes has been steady all fall and looks to continue the improvement she has made every season at OU.

Senior Yvette Villanueva will anchor the defensive efforts at libero but may move to defensive specialist since she is one of the more potent servers on the team.  Sophomore Jennfier Adams is another sophomore who improved dramatically over the offseason and will likely start at middle blocker. 

Freshman setter Anna Monsen could see early time as a defensive specailist, while sophomore Jennifer Mosso will be in the mix at middle hitter.  Sophomore Daphne Leach has been all over the court this fall and could see time on the outside during the Cougar Classic.

SOONER NOTES

- Oklahoma was one of four Big 12 teams to better their predicted finish in the 2002 preseason Big 12 coaches poll.  OU was predicted to finish tenth, they finished ninth.  Kansas State, Kansas and Texas also beat the predictions. OU was picked to finish tenth in 2003.
   
- OU owns a a 21-5 all-time record against the Cougar Challenge Field.  The Sooners have not faced a Pac 10 team since 1997 when they lost to  Arizona and Stanford.  The only time OU has faced Washington State was in 1997 and the Courgars won in four games.  OU lost to Wichita State in its last meeting (2001) but owns a 20-4 alltime record against the Shockers.  OU defeated San Francisco in its only previous meeting, which was the 1991 season-opener.  The Sooners folowed that win up with a defeat of Wichita State in the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Tournament.
   
-  Junior-transfer Stepanie Tengram averaged 3.57 digs per game at Pittsburg State last season.  The total would have been good enough for No. 3 in the Big 12.
   
-  Senior Christina Maynes has improved her kills per game, hitting percentage, digs per game and blocks per game every season at OU.
   
-  OU's all-time record in season openers is 11-18.

-  OU is 0-1 all-time in the Cougar Classic, which also marks the only time that OU and WSU have met.

-  OU's recruiting class of Joanna Schmitt, Anna Monsen and Laura Tomes was ranked No. 22 in the country and No. 4 in the Big 12 by Volleyball Magazine.  OU added senior-transfer Kelly McCarter, junior-transfers Keri Coats and Stephanie Tengram, sophomore-transfer Daphne Leach and freshman Kelli Albers and Rachel Jackson since the rankings were announced.

DAVIS LEAVES TEAM
Freshman walk-on Connie Davis (Tulsa, Okla.) decided to leave the program.  OU's roster is now made up of 14 players.

OKLAHOMA HEAD COACH KALANI MAHI
Oklahoma Head Coach Kalani Mahi is in his fourth year at the helm of an accomplished Sooner volleyball program and hopes are high for success in the very near future. Mahi returns five starters and adds nine newcomers in 2003. The coaching staff is coming off its best recruiting class and what they think may be the best in OU history

Coach Mahi is assisted by his wife, Christy Mahi and Josh Ivans.  All three have ties to their alma mater, Graceland College, where each got their start in volleyball at the collegiate level. 

No stranger to success on the court, Mahi headed up successful programs at both Bradley (1995-97 as head coach & 92-94 as assistant) and Illinois State (1998-99).  He has also played competitively indoor and outdoor and has been a part of teams that have finished fifth and seventh in the USA Volleyball Open National Indoor Championships. 

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