Volleyball's Focus Set On Conference's Best

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
OCTOBER 03, 2000

Oct. 3, 2000

Complete Release in PDF Format
Download Free Acrobat Reader

Oklahoma's Focus Set On Conference's Best
The Sooners are scheduled to face two of the top teams in the Big 12 Conference this week. No. 24 Texas Tech currently stands in second place in the conference, while Kansas State is tied for fourth place in the league standings. OU will first battle TTU at the United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas, on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Oklahoma will then set its sights on the Wildcats as the Sooners return home on Saturday, Oct. 7th, at 7 p.m. in the OU Field House.

Last Time Out
The University of Oklahoma volleyball team was swept by Baylor in three games, 15-6, 16-14 and 15-9, Saturday afternoon at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas. Senior middle blocker Cathy Cook led OU in kills for the 10th time this season with 16 in the match.

Despite dropping the first game 15-9, the Sooners rebounded both offensively and defensively in game two. The team recorded its highest attack percentage of the match at .281 and stuffed the Bears at the net with four team blocks in the game, including six block assists. Oklahoma pushed Baylor to extra points before losing 16-14.

After posting kill performances of seven and six in games one and two, respectively, Cook was held to only three kills in the final game. Senior outside hitter Maria Holmgren provided the offensive power for the Sooners in the game with five kills, but Oklahoma once again came up short losing game three by a score of 15-9.

On Wednesday, the team battled back from a 2-1 game deficit to defeat Iowa State, 3-2 (15-8, 18-20, 11-15, 15-3 and 15-8), in a five-game match in front of 1,815 fans at the OU Field House in Norman. The two teams forced 13 ties during the match and game two required extra points. Holmgren and fellow senior Holly McMillan registered double-double performances to lead the Sooners to their first Big 12 Conference and home victory.

Cook recorded a match-high 27 kills to lead three Sooners in double-digit kills. Holmgren posted her second double-double of the season with 19 kills and 12 digs, while McMillan scored her third double-double of the year by landing a season-high 20 kills and 11 digs. McMillan also established herself at the net by racking up six total blocks, including two solo.

A Closer Look At OU
The Sooners opened the 2000 season with five-straight wins, a first in program history, and a tournament title. OU rattled off its first four victories, dropping only three games over that span, to win the Lamar Cardinal Classic and earn senior middle blocker Cathy Cook tournament Most Valuable Player honors.

Since the Sooners' torrid start, OU has dropped seven of its last eight contests. Cook continues to lead the offense with a team-best 4.80 kills per game and .354 hitting percentage. As a team, Oklahoma ranks second in the league in service aces per game with a 1.98 average, with three players ranked among the conference's top 10 individuals in the category. The team picked up its first Big 12 Conference and home victory with a five-game win over Iowa State last week.

Scouting No. 24 Texas Tech
At 15-1 overall and 4-1 in Big 12 play, the Red Raiders have proved themselves unbeatable this season. Tech was rewarded with a No. 24 ranking in the latest USA Today/AVCA Top 25 poll. Texas Tech has strung together two winning streaks of eight matches and seven matches, respectively, separated by a lone 3-1 loss at Baylor. However, TTU has been pushed to five games in three of the last four matches, including its most recent win over Kansas on Saturday.

In senior middle blocker Colleen Smith, OU will have to face one of the league's top kill leaders for the second-straight match. After facing the number one hitter in the conference in the Baylor match, the Sooner defense will be forced to contend with Smith who is ranked second in the conference in kills per game with a 5.04 average. Fellow senior middle blocker Janelle Jones, last week's Big 12 Player of the Week, provides another potential scoring threat for the Red Raiders as the senior is averaging a .348 hitting percentage and and a team-best 1.04 blocks per game. Setter Skydra Orzen ranks as one of the nation's best as the junior currently stands in eighth place nationally in assists.

Scouting Kansas State
After opening Big 12 Conference play with two-straight victories, including a defeat of then-No. 24 Baylor, Kansas State has lost two of its last three league matches. In their most recent match, the Wildcats were swept by Missouri, 9-15, 13-15 and 15-17.

Outside hitters Cari Jensen and Liz Wegner lead a balanced scoring attack for the Wildcats as five players average better than two kills per game. Wegner, a preseason All-Big 12 favorite, tops all hitters with 4.41 kills per game, while Jensen follows close behind at 4.04 kills per game. As a team, KSU is averaging 17.50 kills per game and a .261 attack percentage.

The Series
Texas Tech owns a 25-11 lead in the all-time series against Oklahoma. The Red Raiders have swept the last four contests, dating back to 1998. In 1997, OU took the season series, including a 3-2 win on TTU's home court.

The Sooners hold a dominating 40-11-1 edge over the Wildcats. During the series, OU has compiled winning streaks of 15 and 10 games over the last 24 years. The series is tied at three since Big 12 play began. KSU won both matches last year by scores of 3-1.

Among the League Leaders
As of October 1, several Sooners continue to remain among the Big 12 Conference's individual leaders in several categories.

Cathy Cook
Hitting Percentage - Eighth (.354)
Kills - Third (4.80)

Carolyn Kittell
Assists - Seventh (12.16)
Service Aces - 10th (0.34)

Holly McMillan
Service Aces - Sixth (0.39)

Jessica Barney
Service Aces - Second (0.59)

Doubling Up On Double-Doubles
Senior middle blocker Holly McMillan registered her third double-double performance of the season in the Sooners' 3-2 victory over Iowa State last week. The Livermore, Calif., native landed a season-high 20 kills and 11 digs. McMillan scored her other two double-double efforts against Lamar and New Mexico State at the beginning of the year.

This season, McMillan has the opportunity to surpass her career double-double total of four, including three during the 1999 season and one in 1998.

Serving Up A Storm
The 2000 squad has kept up the excellence in the serving game that has come to be expected out of the Oklahoma volleyball team. After ending the 1999 season ranked third overall in the Big 12 Conference and second in the league standings in service aces per game, this year's team is currently in second place overall with a 1.98 aces per game average. The Sooners trail first place Texas Tech by only .19 aces per game.

Individually, Oklahoma has three players ranked among the conference's top 10 individuals in the category, led by sophomore Jessica Barney (second - 0.59), senior Carolyn Kittell (10th - 0.34) and senior Holly McMillan (sixth - 0.39). Barney leads all Sooners with eight multiple-ace performances, including tying a career-high five aces against Iowa State last week. OU is the only team with three players ranked in the top 10 in the category.

Quickie Notes
*The Sooners enjoyed their largest home crowd in two years on Wednesday when 1,815 screaming fans watched the Sooners defeat Iowa State. It was the largest crowd at the OU Field House for a volleyball match since the 1998 season when 1,362 fans gathered to watch Oklahoma battle then-No. 12 Colorado.
*The squad jumped out to the first 5-0 start in school history to begin the season.
*Senior middle blocker Cathy Cook has led the Sooners in kills in 10 of the 13 matches.
*Middle blocker Holly McMillan recorded her team-leading third double-double performance of the year last week against Iowa State. The senior landed a season-high 20 kills and 11 digs in the contest.
*Freshman Christina Barlow is the first Oklahoma native to play at the outside hitter position since 1994.

Cook Selected As Preseason All-Big 12
University of Oklahoma senior Cathy Cook was named to the 2000 preseason All-Big 12 Conference volleyball team after being named the 1999 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. The Irvine, Calif., native is the team's top returning hitter and middle blocker. She ended last season ranked 29th in the nation and third in the league in hitting efficiency with a .358.

Cook also was selected to the 1999 All-Big 12 honorable mention team. The last time a Sooner volleyball member was selected to the All-Big 12 team in consecutive years was in 1997 when Patrice Arrington was selected to the league's first team for the second-straight year and the third year that the All-American was honored as an All-Big 12 selection.

Head Coach Kalani Mahi
Kalani Mahi embarks on his first year at the helm of the Oklahoma volleyball program this season. Already this season, Mahi has led the Sooners to a tournament title at the Lamar Cardinal Classic and OU's first 5-0 start in the program's 27-year history.

Prior to arriving in Norman, Mahi, a native of Kaneohe, Hawaii, served as the top assistant coach at Illinois State, where he assisted the Redbirds to two-consecutive second place finishes in the Missouri Valley Conference and an NCAA at-large bid in 1998.

Before assisting at Illinois State, Mahi served as the head coach at Bradley University from 1995-1997, guiding the Braves to three consecutive Missouri Valley Conference Championship Tournament appearances, a first in school history. He joined the Braves' coaching staff as an assistant in 1992, and was elevated to the head position in 1995.



Sooner Sports Properties, LLC, is the multimedia rights holder for athletics at the University of Oklahoma.
Sooner Sports Properties is a joint venture of Learfield Communications and Tyler Media, LLC.


Sooner Sports Powered by FOX Sports is a multi-platform network that provides distribution of 1,000+ hours of Sooner sports programming annually on a variety of FOX Sports outlets, including FOX Sports Oklahoma, FOX Sports Southwest, and FOX College Sports.