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Volleyball Rides Winning Streak To Virginia
September 10, 2003

The Weekly Slate

Liberty University Invitational (Lynchburg, Va.)
Fri., Sept. 12
vs. Elon 2 p.m.
vs. East Carolina 8 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 13
vs Morehead State 2 p.m.
at Liberty 6 p.m.

The Lowdown
Riding its longest win streak (four) since 2000, the Sooners hope to continue their recent tournament success when they enter the Liberty University Invitational Sept. 12-13. 

The tournament opener for OU is against Elon University, who has a 2-4 record on the season.  Elon went 2-1 in 2003 Phoenix Classic, which was hosted on its North Carolina campus.  Elon defeated UNC Wilmington (3-2) and Mercer (3-2) during tournament play last weekend.  The Phoenix are led offensively by junior Emily Hayes (3.05 kills per game) and freshman Juliena Gigon (2.76 KPG). 

East Carolina enters with the best overall record in the field at 6-1.  The Pirates lone lost came to Furman in the final match of the Holiday Inn Express Downtown Invitational, Saturday, Sept. 6.    ECU is led by underclassmen Jaime Bevan (3.0 KPG, .439 hitting %) and Katie Janusch (3.17 KPG and .420 hitting %).  As a team the Pirates are hitting .296, as opposed to the Sooners percentage of .193.  OU and ECUhave one common opponent this season, Lipscomb, who OU beat 3-1 and ECU swept.

2002 NCAA Tournament participant Morehead State (3-3) kicks off Saturday action for OU.  The Eagles enter the tournament in the midst of a three match losing streak.  MSU could only take one game in three tournament matches against Western Kentucky, Kentucky and Kent State.  The Eagles return four starters and seven letterwinners from their 2002 NCAA Tournament Team.  The eagle offense is led Cherelle Lampkins, who was  preseason second team All-Ohio Valley pick.  Lampkins averaged 5.08 kills per game in Morehead State's season opening tournament (Aug. 29-30) and earned MVP honors.

The host Liberty Flames are 1-5 on the season with their only win coming last weekend when they swept Campbell University.  The Flames have a mid-week contest with Virginia Commonwealth on Sept. 9, before opening Invitational action.  Junior Becky Rudnik is the top offensive player for the Flames.  As of Aug. 30, Rudnik was averaging 3.09 kills per game, the team statistics have not been updated from the past weekend's action.

The only team in the field that OU has faced before is Morehead State, which OU holds a 1-0 all-time series advantage over thanks to a 3-0 sweep in 1993.  OU is 3-0 when facing a opponent for the first time in school history this season.

As for the Sooners
OU is in the midst of its longest win streak since the beginning of the 2000 when the Sooners ran off five consecutive wins to start the season.  It is also the first time OU's winning percentage has been above .500 since that time.

The Sooners cruised through the Chattanooga Invitational without ever being in danger of losing a match and only dropping two games all weekend.  Freshman Joanna Schmitt continues to power the Sooner offensive charge.  She is averaging 4.04 kills per game, the highest total, at any point in a season, of any Sooner under OU head coach Kalani Mani.  She is also tops on the OU squad in digs per game (3.04) and points (113.5), while being second in aces (nine).

Other stadout performances came from the freshman duo of Rachel Jackson and Laura Tomes.
Tomes was named to the all-tourney team thanks to a 3.29 kills per game average and a .370 hitting percentage. She snapped Schmitt's streak of six consecutive matches in which she led OU in kills when she hit at an OU record .619 clip and tallied 15 kills against Louisiana-Monroe.  Tomes is hitting .262 on the season, easily tops for OU, and can expect to see more sets come her way in the coming matches.

Jackson is clearly the biggest surprise of the young season.  A walk-on who was penciled in as the third setter on the team is now challenging senior Kelly McCarter for her starting spot.  Jackson replaced McCarter in the second game against Tennessee Chattanooga on Saturday (Sept. 6) and put up 40 assists, easily the highest output of the season.  In the final two matches of the tournament OU ran a modified 5-1 with Jackson rotating in the back row and McCarter rotating through the front row.  With the success of the two setter system, OU may shift to a 6-2 (two setter) offense, which will also free up time for Jennifer Mosso on the outside.

The combined records of the Liberty University Field is 12-13, if you take East Carolina's 6-1 out of the equation, the field is 6-11 on the season. The schedule looks promising for the Sooners with ECU being the only team from a major conference (Conference USA).

Across the Board
A comparison of the stats from the Cougar Challenge and Chattanooga Invitational shows an improvement across the board for OU.  The Sooners improved in every major category.  The slight improvement in blocking is especially impressive considering the Sooners faced three teams that decided to tip and roll as opposed to go at OU dominating front line.  Below is a comparison of the stats from the tournaments:

 CC UTC
Kills Per Game 10.73 14.79
Hitting Percentage .090 .221
Assists Per Game 13.43 10.09
Aces Per Game 1.18 2.36
Digs Per Game 12.36 15.71
Blocks Per Game 2.59 2.75

Sooner Notes
 - OU is 3-0 against team in first time meetings this season.  The only team in the Liberty University Invitational that OU has faced is Morehead State, who it swept in 1993.

- Oklahoma is the only team in the Liberty Universtiy field that is riding a winning streak entering the tournament.  Morehead State has lost three consecutive matches and East Carolina suffered its first loss of the season to Furman in the finale of its last tournament.  Elon and Liberty have won their last match.

 - OU is 6-7  in preconference tournaments (2-4 last season) the last two seasons.

- East Carolina and OU have both defeated Lipscombe this season.  ECU swept the Lady Bisons (30-17, 30-21, 30-11), while OU played one of its worst game of the season in the 3-1 defeat (30-22, 30-23, 24-30, 30-17).  Liberty was swept by fellow Big 12 member Kansas (30-15, 30-17, 30-25) Aug. 30.  
   
- 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. 

Walk-On Starter
The biggest surprise of the season for OU is the emergence of walk-on freshman Rachel Jackson.  She leads OU with 8.46 assists per game and has turned in the two best setting performances of the season.  After losing game one to Tennessee-Chattanooga coach Mahi pulled senior Kelly McCarter and put in Jackson who tallied 40 (13.3) assists in three games of action.  In her debut Jackson tallied 18 assists off the bench, including 12 in game two against San Francisco (Aug. 30).

Most Valuable Player
Joanna Schmitt impact on OU volleyball team this season cannot be underestimated.  Schmitt leads OU offensively with 4.04 KPG and is the team's best passer with 3.04 DPG.  In seven career matches she has led OU in total attacks seven times, kills six times and digs four times.  She has garnered all tournament honors in both tournaments this season, while taking home MVP accolades at Chattanooga.

Get Her The Ball
OU freshman Laura Tomes is quickly becoming the Sooners most efficient attacker.  When she records at least 21 attacks this season she is hitting .388 (41-10-80), when she gets set 25 plus times she is hitting .305 (26-8-59).  Her consistency has landed her atop the OU squad with a .268 hitting percentage on the season.  Despite her efficient numbers, Tomes is tied for third (with Keri Coats) on OU squad with 145 total attacks.  She also garnered all-touranment honors at Chattanooga.

Record Breaking
A number of OU rally scoring records were broken this weekend.  The team broke the block asssist record by posting 30 against Lipscomb, the number is the top mark for any match in the rally scoring system and breaks the four game mark of  24 (vs. Missouri 11/2/02).  Laura Tomes tied the OU individual block assist four game record of Jennifer Mosso (Missouri 11/2/02) with nine against Lipscomb.  Tomes also tied the OU thre game hitting percentage record with .619 performance against ULM.  Joanna Schmitt broke the three game kill record of Christina Maynes  and Denise Griffin (16) with an 18 kill performance against Drake.  Sheena Werling broke the record with six aces, one day after tying it at five, against ULM.

Maynes Tops Kill List
OU senior Christina Maynes took over sole possession on the OU career rally scoring list after recording 15 digs in the Cougar Challenge.  She stands in first place on the kills list with 441.

Twice The Debut
Joanna Schmitt's double-double (10 kills, 18 digs) was the best debut performance of any Sooner during the Kalani Mahi era.  Schmitt's only competition was from Logan Pierce who put up 12 kills and 11 digs in the 2000 season-opener against New Mexico State.

Sooners In Spikes
The OU volleyball team is packed with athletes who excel at track and field.  Leading the bunch is freshman Anna Monsen who is the first athlete in Wisconsin state history to win the 100 meter dash all four years of high school.  Sophomore Sheena Werling is a member of the Sooner track team and competes in high jump during the indoor season.  Freshman middle hitter Laura Tomes was a two time Iowa state high jump champion and one-time state runner up in the long jump.  Joanna Schmitt qualified for state finals in the long jump, hurdles and sprints.

OU 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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