Volleyball Up For Saturday Tilt With No. 7 Huskers

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
OCTOBER 03, 2003

The Weekly Slate

At Baylor
Wednesday, Oct. 1
Ferrell Center, Waco, Texas OU 3,  BU 2

No. 7 Nebraska
Saturday, Oct. 4 
Howard McCasland Field House 2 p.m.

O Zone Live Video
Live Stats
OU Season Stats

Nebraska Season Stats

The Lowdown
The road tested Oklahoma volleyball team looks to build on its success away from home when it matches up with No. 7 Nebraska, Saturday at 2 p.m.  OU has more wins this season (4) on its opponents home court, than it combined to win during the last two seasons.   The success in hostile territory will come in handy when the Huskers and their 75 match conference winning streak invade the Howard McCasland Field House.  The match is just the second home contest for OU this season, which has been on the road for 15 of 16 matches.

OU's five game victory against Baylor is easily explained.  When the Sooners outhit the Bears, they won.  OU hit .218 on the match against Baylor, the ninth time this season it has topped .200 and a mark they only reached eight times in 2002.  The Sooners hit .262 in game one, .286 in game four and a Alex Rodriguez-esque .364 to slam the door in the fifth game against Baylor Wednesday night.

OU's high hitting efficiency is a bi-product of its ball control, which was stellar in games one, four and five Wednesday.  OU had 36 digs in the three games they won (58 for the match) and freshman setter Rachel Jackson benefited with 38 (12.7 per game) of her 56 assists in those games.

The Huskers notched consecutive win No. 75 at the hands of Colorado, who they swept in Lincoln on Wednesday.

Nebraska is led by Melissa Elmer, who is tops in the conference in blocks per game at 1.58 and turns in 2.73 kills per session.  Elmer leads the Huskers frontline, which leads the Big 12 in blocks per game with an average just short of three per (2.96).  The Sooners are second in the Big 12 with 2.63 blocks per game and stuffed 12 balls at Baylor, which was a conference season high.

Nebraska runs a 6-2 offense with underclassmen  setters Dani Busboom and Michelle Lynch running the show.   Left sider Anna Schrad powers the offense with 3.6 kills per game, while freshman Kelly Fautsch (.305) is the Huskers most efficient attacker.

As For The Sooners
After OU lost three consecutive matches to start the season in the Cougar Challenge, it responded by winning eight of the next nine.  After starting the conference season with three straight losses the Sooners rebound from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Baylor on its home court.  OU head coach Kalani Mahi hopes the trend holds true as the rugged Big 12 schedule lightens a bit.

In OU's first five matches, the Sooners faced the top four picks in the Big 12 preseason poll.  After  preseason No. 1 Nebraska Saturday, the Sooners have four squads picked in the bottom half of the conference.  OU's homestand continues with Iowa State (preseason No. 11) and Kansas (No. 6) on Oct. 8 and Oct. 11, respectively.  A home match with Texas A&M (No. 4) is sandwhiched by road visits to Colorado (No. 7) and Texas Tech (No. 9).

Three OU rally scoring records tumbled at Baylor, while one was tied.  Freshman Rachel Jackson broke her own five game assists record for the third time this season with 56 assists.  Sophomore Joanna Schmitt broke her five game and match kills records by posting 26.  Schmitt's previous best was 23, which she set against Morehead State.  Laura Tomes tied Jennifer Adams mark for block assists in a five game match with eight. Adams set the mark against East Carolina on Sept. 12.

The most accurate predictor of OU's success is the number of attacks right side hitter Keri Coats gets.  When OU's ball control is sound, Coats gets the ball and OU's hitting efficiency jumps. Coats is second on the team with a .235 hitting percentage and turned in the best performance of her Sooner career on Wednesday at Baylor.  She tallied career highs in kills (15), aces (4), block assists (7) and most importantly total attacks (41).

OU head coach Kalani Mahi has moved senior Christina Maynes back to outside hitter, after playing 11 matches at defensive specialist.  Maynes teamed with Schmitt to shut down Baylor in the final two games Wednesday.  The coaching staff praised the  efforts of Maynes, who used smarts and veteran savvy to get six late kills in games four and five.   

Senior Kelly McCarter, who was one of the few bright spots against Kansas State, was held out of the Baylor match due to a nagging back injury.  McCarter blocking ability in the front line would've hurt the Sooners more had Jackson not stepped  up and recorded two block assists.

Rookie Of The Year
The Big 12 schedule is just a few matches old but the season is at the half way point and freshman outside hitter Joanna Schmitt is an early favorite for Big 12 Freshman of the Year.  Schmitt leads all freshman in  kills per game (4.25) and digs per game (2.76).  The freshman from Wisconsin's main competition is  Janaina Correa of Kansas.  Correa is hitting .259 (compared to Schmitt's .166) but has lower averages in kills (3.91) and digs per game (2.62).

Quick Hits
-  With 17 matches remaining the Sooners have 158 total blocks, which is 19 away from the 177 total blocks they posted last season.  At their current pace, OU would record 316 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.

-   Nebraska owns a 56-7 all-time series lead over OU.  OU has only defeated Nebraska twice since 1989.  The Huskers have won 75 consecutive Big 12 matches and have not lost a conference match since Oct. 24, 1999.

-   OU's three match win streak against Baylor ties its longest current steak against any conference opponent. OU has also won three straight against Iowa State, who they face Wednesday, Oct. 8

-  OU hit above. 200 eight times last season.  The Sooners have hit above .200 nine times this season and in nine of the last 13 contests, including against Baylor when they hit .218.  The performance Wednesday was OU's highest percentage  in a conference match since facing Kansas on Oct. 22 last season.  OU is 7-2 in those contests 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 8.23 assists per game and  has broken the five game assists record twice.   Jackson tallied 52 assists in a five game defeat of East Carolina, then turned around and set up 54 assists in a loss to Morehead State.  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.

Block Party
The Sooners continue to be one of the best in the Big 12 in blocking.  OU averages 2.63 blocks per game and has three 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 (1.28) is third in the Big 12 in blocks per game, while freshman Laura Tomes is sixth (1.20).  Keri Coats and Kelly McCarter average 0.88 and 0.78 blocks per game, respectively.  Adams, Tomes and Coats are all in line to break the single season OU rally scoring block assist mark of 78 held by Candice Woods.

Many Signs Of Improvement
OU is projected to easily top all of its numbers from last season.  OU 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 13.60.  At their current pace, the Sooners would record nearly 400 more kills this year than last (1632 to 1167).

Chart Climber
While the block assists aren't coming as quickly as they did during the nonconference season, Jennifer Adams is still piling up blocks and quickly closing in on the OU career rally scoring block assists record.  Adams has 127 career block assists (73 this season) and is 13 away from the career record of Candice Woods (140).

Movin' On Up
The Oklahoma volleyball team announced that its match with No. 7 Nebraska on Oct. 4 has been moved up to 2 p.m., from the originally announced time of 7 p.m.

Most Valuable Player
Joanna Schmitt's impact on the OU volleyball team this season cannot be underestimated.  Schmitt leads OU offensively with 4.25 KPG and is the team's best passer at 2.75 DPG.  In 16 career matches she has led OU in total attacks 15 times, kills 13 times and digs five times.  She garnered MVP honors in the Chattanooga Invitational and was all-tournament in the Cougar Challenge.  Joanna Schmitt (502) is on pace to obliterate the OU rally scoring single season kills record of Logan Pierce (342). Schmitt (251) is only 38 kills away from surpassing 2002 leader Megan O'Connell (289) and already ranks seventh on the OU career rally scoring kills list.  Her projected season total is more than the current career kills leader Christina Maynes (466).

Maynes Top 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 465.  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 466.

Get Her The Ball
Freshman aren't supposed to be consistent, Laura Tomes is. Prior to the match at Baylor when she hit .190 on 21 swing, Tomes was hitting .337 (88-27-181) when she got set 21 times.   When she gets set 25 plus times she is hitting .321 (65-21-137).  Her consistency has landed her atop the OU squad with a .291 hitting percentage.  Despite her efficient numbers, Tomes is fourth on the OU squad with 330 total attacks.  Tomes was  averaging just 16.3 attempts per  match prior to Wednesday's match at Baylor when she had 12 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

Resurgent Sophomore
Sophomore Jennifer Adams figured to be the odd woman out at middle blocker when training camp began.  Jennifer Mosso had started at middle blocker during the entire Big 12 season in 2002 and appeared to be a lock at the position.  Adams earned the starting nod and won't be relinquishing it anytime soon.  The California native has at least five (BS+BA)  total blocks in 11 of 16 matches this season and has at least five block assists in nine matches.  In 44 games last season Adams had four solo blocks and 53 block assists.  She surpassed her 2002 block assists total during the non-conference season and leads the Sooners  with 74 helpers.  Her blocks per game average, now at 1.28, improved in each of the preconference tournaments and has her ranked at No. 3 in the Big 12.  When Tomes and Adams collect at least five blocks assists apiece, the Sooners are undefeated this season (5-0).

Tough Out Of The Gates
The Sooners have perhaps their most difficult stretch of the season at the beginning of the Big 12 schedule.  OU fell to preseason No. 4 Missouri, No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Kansas State to open the conference season.  The Sooner rebounded against Baylor, picked to finish eighth, and close the tough stretch with Nebraska, Saturday.

The captains for the 2003 Sooner volleyball team are seniors Kelly McCarter and Yvette Villanueva, along with sophomore Sheena Werling.  The coaching staff took input from the team and based their decision upon that information.






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