Friday Night Spikes

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
OCTOBER 16, 2003

The Weekly Slate

At Colorado
Wednesday, Oct. 15
Coors Event Center L, 3-0

Texas A&M
Saturday, Oct. 17
Howard McCasland Field House 6 p.m.

LIVE VIDEO                     

The Lowdown
The Oklahoma volleyball team hosts a rare Friday evening conference match with No. 22 Texas A&M visiting the Howard McCasland Field House.  First serve is set for 7 p.m., with the OU Homecoming Pep Rally beginning 30 minutes after the match. The last time the Sooners held a match prior to homecoming ceremonies (2000), they had a record turn out of 1,815 fans. 

Texas A&M is tied with Colorado for fourth place in the Big 12.  The Aggies won a marathon match with Kansas on Wednesday (Oct. 15) and are currently 5-3 in conference play. The Aggies turned some heads around the conference when they pushed then No. 7 Nebraska to five games in Lincoln on Sept. 17.  Since the marathon loss to the Huskers, A&M is 6-2.

Texas A&M is one of the best defensive teams in the Big 12, tallying 16.96 digs per game (No. 1 in Big 12) and 2.56 blocks per game (No. 3).  A&M isn't too shabby on offense either.  The Aggies are ranked second in assists (15.04) and kills (16.54), while landing at No. 6 in hitting percentage (.245).

The Aggies are led by sophomore Laura Jones who was named Big 12 Freshman and Central Region Freshman of the Year in 2002.  Jones, a left side attacker, leads the Aggies with a 4.01 kills per game, which ranks seventh in the Big 12.  Seniors Carol Price and Beth Skypala each recorded 2.5 plus kills per game, while Skypala leads the defense with 3.81 digs per game.

As for the Sooners
After a mid week upset to Iowa State the Sooners shuffled the lineup but were unable to upset  Kansas and Colorado.  The three conference losses may not be the most disheartening news to come from the program in the last week.  Freshman middle blocker Laura Tomes went down with an ACL tear against Iowa State and is out for the season.  The injury bug bit again when Jennifer Adams rolled her right ankle early in the second game against Kansas.

OU head coach Kalani Mahi acknowledged at the beginning of the season that this team was the deepest he ever had at OU.  Mahi did point to middle blocker as one area the Sooners could not afford any major injuries.

With a shallow front line Mahi is forced to reshuffle his deck of players.  Jennifer Mosso and Keri Coats will move to middle blocker, with Coats taking the over at M1.  The 6-4 Coats has the block and arm to play middle blocker, a position she hasn't seen regular time at since high school.  Mosso led OU with a 0.96 blocks per game average in 2002 and recorded six block assists in her most significant action of the season against Kansas.  Sophomore Sheena  Werling will likely find herself at right outside hitter, filling the void for Coats who shifted to the middle.

Coats and Werling were impressive in their new roles against Colorado.  Both tallied nine kills apiece with just one error between the duo.  Coats also tallied one solo block and two blocks assists. 

Freshman Joanna Schmitt turned in nine kills, six digs, two block assists and one solo block assists.  Schmitt failed to reach double-digits in kills for just the third time in her career. 

Schmitt, who led the Big 12 with 5.29 kills per game last week, had been undaunted by all the lineup changes.  She missed tying her own OU rally scoring four game record by one kill, when she recorded 22 kills against Iowa State. Schmitt tallied 15 kills in the losing effort against Kansas on Oct. 11.

Despite changing positions, a large portion of the Sooners success lies on the performance of Keri Coats.  Coats transition makes her the primary option at middle blocker and means the ball should come her way more often.  The more effective Coats is at middle, the more unpredictable and productive the OU offense will become.

OU head coach Kalani Mahi has moved senior Christina Maynes back to outside hitter, after playing 11 matches at defensive specialist.  Maynes has averaged 2.72 kills per game in four matches since her return to the outside.

The biggest hit from the injuries may come in OU's effectiveness at the net. The Sooners, who have been No. 2 in blocking in the Big 12 for a large portion of the season, have improved tremendously in since last season. The loss of the No. 3 (Adams) and No. 5 (Tomes) blockers in the Big 12 hurts but Coats (No. 3 on the squad) and Mosso (led OU in 2002) are more than capable.

Against Kansas, Tomes was out and Adams, went down with an injury in the second game.  OU still tallied seven blocks against the Jayhawks.  In the Sooners first match without the injured duo, they recorded 10 total blocks against Colorado.

Senior Kelly McCarter returned to the OU lineup after sitting out four matches with a nagging back injury.  McCarter turned in 13 assists and a team-high four block assists.  Freshman Rachel Jackson teamed with the savvy senior to record 16 helpers and the first solo block of her career.

Rookie Of The Year
The Big 12 schedule is just eight matches old but the season is past the half way point and freshman outside hitter Joanna Schmitt is a  favorite for Big 12 Freshman of the Year.  Schmitt leads all freshman in  kills per game (4.25) and digs per game (2.58).

Quick Hits
-  With 12 matches remaining the Sooners have 184 total blocks, which is seven more than OU recorded in 2002.  At their current pace, OU would record 294 total blocks this season.
 -  OU has won three consecutive matches against Baylor for the first time since 1996-97, when they swept both season series.  The Sooners lead the all-time series 18-11.

 -  OU had won three consecutive matches against Iowa State before losing on Oct. 8. OU still leads the all-time series 38-13, which includes victories in 17 of the last 21 meetings.

 -  OU's three match win streak against Baylor is  its longest current streak against any Big 12 opponent.

-  OU hit above. 200 eight times last season.  The Sooners have hit above .200, 10 times this season and in 10 of the last 17 contests, including against Kansas when they hit .205.  OU has hit above .200 against Baylor and Kansas during conference play this season.  OU is 7-3 when it hits above .200 and 1-1 when they reach the mark in conference this season.
Walk-On Starter
The biggest surprise of the season for OU is the emergence of walk-on freshman Rachel Jackson.  She leads OU with 8.64 assists per game and  has broken the five game assists record three times.   Jackson broke the record for the third time with 56 at Baylor, Oct. 1.  The freshman from Texas set the previous marks against East Carolina (52) and Morehead State (54).  She broke on to the scene against Tennessee-Chattanooga when coach Mahi pulled senior Kelly McCarter and put in Jackson who tallied 40 (13.3) assists in three games of action.

Assaulting the Record Book
Joanna Schmitt leads OU offensively with 4.25 KPG and is the team's best passer at 2.56 DPG.    In 20 career matches she has led OU in total attacks 19 times, kills 17 times and digs six times.  She is on pace to break a number of records.  She is just 36 kills away from the OU rally scoring kills record of 342 held by Logan Pierce (2001).   Schmitt is on pace to record 489 kills this season, a mark that would be the sixth best single-season total in OU volleyball history, regardless of scoring system.  The favorite target of OU's setters is on pace to take 1,350 swings this year, a mark that would rank fifth in OU history.  At her current pace Schmitt will easily top 400 kills and will narrowly top 300 digs.  Only six players in OU history have turned in 400 kills and 300 digs in a single season, while only five Sooners have ever recorded a 500-300 season.  Her projected digs total of 300 is another OU rally scoring record and would place her just outside the top 10 on OU's all-time list.   Schmitt only needed 19 matches to pass 2002 kills leader Megan O'Connell (289) and is already fourth on the OU rally scoring career kills list.

Tomes Out WIth Knee Injury
In what is a crushing blow to OU's frontline, freshman middle hitter Laura Tomes is out for the season with a torn ACL in her right knee.  Tomes, who was a Fab 50 prepster, led OU with a .291 hitting percentage and is third on the squad with a kills per game average of 2.39.  She also ranked No. 6 in the Big 12 with 1.15 blocks per game before sustaining the injury.  Tomes tore the ACL in her right knee in high school.

Block Party
Despite a frontline that currently is devoid of Tomes and Adams, who started every game at the position until Oct. 8, the Sooners continue to be one of the best in the Big 12 in blocking.  OU averages 2.52 blocks per game (6th in the Big 12) and has four individuals averaging 0.75 blocks per game or better. OU has recorded 15 or more total blocks on four occasions this season, that mark was never reached in 2002.  Sophomore Jennifer Adams (1.21) is third in the Big 12 in blocks per game, while freshman Laura Tomes is fifth (1.15).  Keri Coats and Kelly McCarter average 0.78 and 0.80 blocks per game, respectively. 

Adams Breaks Assists Mark
Jennifer Adams broke the single season rally scoring block assists record of 78 held by Candice Woods.  Adams recorded three block assists before going down with an ankle injury against Kansas on Oct. 11.  She has 81 block assists on the season.  Adams has 134 career block assists (81 this season) and is 12 away from the career record of Candice Woods (146).

Many Signs Of Improvement
OU is projected to easily top all of its numbers from last season.  OU's averages are up in every category and the improvement has been significant in every area except digs.  The biggest improvement has come in kills, where OU averaged 12.68 in 2002 and is up nearly one kill per game at 13.38.  At their current pace, the Sooners would record 422 more kills this year than last year (1589 to 1167).

In The O Zone
Sooner fans can catch eight of the ten home matches this season on's O Zone.  Fans can also see live video when the Sooners travel to Colorado and Nebraska this season.

Maynes Tops Career Lists
OU senior Christina Maynes moved into first place on the OU career rally scoring digs list with 15 digs in a double-double effort at Baylor. She passed 2002 graduate Denise Griffin who had 461 and stands alone at the top with 502.  Maynes  took over sole possession on the OU career rally scoring kills list after recording 15 kills during Cougar Challenge play.  She stands in first place on the kills list with 497.

Get Her The Ball
Freshman aren't supposed to be consistent, Laura Tomes was. Her injury leaves a void in the middle for OU, who will have to replace her consistency and blocking ability.  Prior to the match at Baylor when she hit .190 on 21 swings, Tomes was hitting .337 (88-27-181) when she got set 21 times.   When she was set 25 plus times she is hitting .321 (65-21-137).  Her consistency landed her atop the OU squad with a .291 hitting percentage.  Despite her efficient numbers, Tomes is fourth on the OU squad with 364 total attacks.  Tomes was  averaging just 16.3 attempts per  match prior to the match at Baylor, when she had 21 swings.  Tomes owns four of the top seven hitting percentage single match performances in OU rally scoring history and is tied for the best ever outing thanks to a .619 (15-2-21) performance against Louisiana Monroe. Below is a list of the top seven single match hitting percentage efforts since the rally scoring system was implemented:

.619 Laura Tomes vs. UL- Monroe (9/6/03)*
.619  Megan O'Connell vs. UL-Monroe (9/14/02)*
.611  Laura Tomes at Missouri (9/20/03)*
.588  Candice Woods vs. Texas Tech (10/13/01)*
.562  Laura Tomes vs. Elon (9/12/02)*
.550  Christina Maynes vs. North Texas (8/31/01)#
.538  Laura Tomes at Liberty (9/13/03)#
#- set in four game match
*- set in three game match

Tough Out Of The Gates
The Sooners completed the toughest portion of their conference schedule with a 1-4 record.  The mark is less than stellar but the competition won't get any tougher.  OU faced Big 12 preseason No. 1 Nebraska, No. 2 Texas, No. 3 Kansas State and No. 4 Missouri during its first five conference matches. 





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