Oct. 31, 2000

No. 1 Team Invades Norman, Sooners Travel To Iowa

Oklahoma (6-14, 1-11 Big 12) faces the No. 1 volleyball team in the nation when Nebraska (21-0, 13-0 Big 12) takes the court in the OU Fieldhouse on Wednesday night, Nov. 1. The two teams will square off for the second time this season when the first serve occurs at 7 p.m. The Sooners lost, 3-0, to the Cornhuskers earlier in the season in Lincoln.

The Sooners will then try to capture their first Big 12 Conference road win of the season when they travel to Ames, Iowa, on Saturday, Nov. 4, to take on Iowa State (2-20, 0-13 Big 12). OU emerged victorious from a thrilling five-game match against ISU to pick up their first conference win. The contest takes place at 1 p.m. at the Hilton Coliseum.

Last Time Out

The Oklahoma volleyball team failed to produce a consistent scoring threat Friday night against No. 21 Texas A&M as the Aggies dominated the match winning, 15-4, 15-5 and 15-9, in front of 1,351 fans at the G. Rollie White Coliseum in College Station, Texas. The Aggies spread the court as 11 players registered a kill in the match and two setters dished out 20 assists or more each. OU's kills leader, senior middle blocker Cathy Cook, paced the Sooner attack with a team-high 14 kills and four block assists. Cook registered over half her kills for the match in the third game as she cranked out eight, without an error, to keep OU in the game early.

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.

The Sooners closed out the month of October without a win. During that stretch, OU was forced to face three top-25 teams and the top half of the Big 12 Conference. Cook leads the squad offensively with a 4.57 kills per game average and a .333 hitting percentage. On the defensive end, fellow senior middle blocker Holly McMillan leads the team in blocks, averaging close to a block per game at 0.95, and senior setter Carolyn Kittell is the team leader in digs with a 2.35 average. As a team, Oklahoma ranks second in the Big 12 in service aces per game with a 1.80 average (as of Oct. 23).

Scouting No. 1 Nebraska

After claiming the top spot in the AVCA/USA Today Coaches Poll on Sept. 11, the Cornhuskers have not given up their stake for number one over the last seven weeks. The 'Huskers have only dropped five games the entire year and were winners of two tournaments at the beginning of the season. Five of Nebraska's 21 wins have come against five top-25 teams.

As a team, NU is averaging 15.93 kills per game and a .337 hitting percentage. The Cornhuskers attack percentage registered as the best in the nation, as indicated by NCAA statistics, as of Oct. 16. Nebraska owns a dominating edge over its opponents in several areas, including averaging nearly four kills a game and three blocks a game. Sophomore outside hitter Laura Pilakowski is averaging a team-best 4.12 kills per game, while sophomore middle blocker Amber Holmquist leads the team, and the Big 12 Conference, in hitting percentage with a .408 average.

Scouting Iowa State

The Cyclones are in the midst of a 15-match losing streak and are winless in Big 12 Conference competition. Iowa State's five-game thriller last month in Norman and a 3-2 loss at Drake two weeks ago are the closest ISU has come to capturing a victory over the 15-match span.

As a team, Iowa State is averaging 10.26 kills per game and a .133 hitting percentage. Senior middle blocker Stacy Nicks leads the team in kills with 2.68 per game and hitting percentage with .244. Junior ouside hitter Nanette Allen and sophomore outside hitter Sarah Rollman are the other two Cyclones averaging more than two kills per game at 2.10 and 2.22, respectively.

The Series

Nebraska owns a commanding 52-6 lead on the Sooners in the all-time series. OU's last win against NU was a three-game sweep of the Huskers in Norman in 1997. The Sooners have won only once on the Huskers' home court back in 1987 when OU emerged with a 3-1 win.

Oklahoma holds a 34-11 series lead over Iowa State, including a solid 8-1 margin since both teams joined the Big 12 Conference. The Sooners are 12-6 against the Cyclones on ISU's home court. Oklahoma swept Iowa State, 3-0, last year at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames. Winners of the last four-straight in Ames dating back to 1996, OU has failed to drop a Big 12 Conference game at ISU.

Holmgren's Hot Hitting Streak

Senior outside hitter Maria Holmgren is currently enjoying her most successful offensive stretch of the season. Over the last four matches, Holmgren is averaging 3.75 kills per game and a .254 attack percentage. During that span, the Trelleborg, Sweden, native posted three-straight double-digit kill efforts. Holmgren ranks second on the team in kills per game with a 3.02 average and second in digs at 1.97 per game.

A Dominating Presence

Senior middle blocker Cathy Cook has been the Sooners' go-to attacker throughout the season. Cook has led the team in kills 17 times, nearly doubling her 1999 total of nine. The Irvine, Calif., native has also produced 17 double-digit kill performances, including the last 11 of 14 contests. A pre-season All-Big 12 selection, Cook is currently ranked fifth in the Big 12 Conference in kills per game (4.57) and 14th in hitting percentage (.333).

Among the League Leaders

As of October 30, several Sooners continue to remain among the Big 12 Conference's individual leaders in several categories.

Cathy Cook
Hitting Percentage - 14th (.333)
Kills - Fifth (4.57)

Carolyn Kittell
Assists - Ninth (11.63)
Service Aces - Sixth (0.34)

Holly McMillan
Service Aces - Fifth (0.35)

Jessica Barney
Service Aces - Second (0.48)

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 in third place, as of Oct. 30, averaging 1.77 aces per game. The Sooners trail first place Texas Tech by only .15 aces per game.

Individually, Oklahoma has three players ranked among the conference's top five individuals in aces per game, led by sophomore Jessica Barney (second - 0.48), senior Carolyn Kittell (tied-fifth - 0.37) and senior Holly McMillan (tied-fifth - 0.37). Barney leads all Sooners with eight multiple-ace performances, including tying a career-high five aces against Iowa State.

Doubling Up On Double-Doubles

Senior middle blocker Holly McMillan registered her fourth double-double performance of the season against Kansas. The Livermore, Calif., native landed a season-high 11 kills and a career-high 13 digs in the match. McMillan scored her other three double-double efforts against Iowa State, Lamar and New Mexico State at the beginning of the year. McMillan leads the team in the category.

By accomplishing her fourth double-double of the season, McMillan has equalled her career double-double total of four.

Quickie Notes

*The Sooners enjoyed their largest home crowd in two years 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 17 of the 20 matches.
*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.