Volleyballs Takes Aim At Texas In Home Opener

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
SEPTEMBER 22, 2003

The Weekly Slate

Texas (Home Opener)
Wednesday, Sept. 24  
McCasland Field House 7 p.m.

at Kansas State
Saturday, Sept. 27

Ahearn Field House 7 p.m.

The Lowdown
The road weary Oklahoma volleyball team, who played its first 13 matches on the road, begins the home schedule with Red River Rival Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m., inside the Howard McCasland Field House.  The first 300 fans through the doors will recieve free OU volleyball schedule magnets. OU returns to the road Saturday when they face No. 10 Kansas State inside the Ahearn Center at 7 p.m.

The Longhorns enter the match having lost two of their last three matches.  The two losses came to top-10 teams UCLA and Nebraska, who both swept UT.  The Longhorns are 1-1 in the Big 12 with a the lone victory coming against Iowa State in three games.

Texas, who was picked second in the Big 12 preseason poll, is 5-5 on the season with four of the five losses coming to ranked teams. 

Texas is expected to surge in the Big 12 thanks to the return of Dariam Acevedo Santiago who was playing with the Puerto Rican National Team in the World Championships.  Santiago transferred to UT from Oregon, where she was honorable mention All-Pac 10 as a freshman and averaged 3.73 kills and 2.73 digs per game.

Texas is led offensively by two-time All-Big 12 selection Mira Topic, who is averaging 4.62 kills and 2.85 digs per game. Jenny Andrew runs the Longhorn offense (11.85 APG), while Erin Larson solidifies the defense (3.06 DPG).

No. 10 Kansas State may be the hottest team in the conference.  The Wildcats have won 12 straight matches and 19 consecutive games.  The last time they dropped a single game was Sept. 4 against Utah State (30-20).  The Wildcats began the season in Hawaii where they dropped back-to-back matches to No. 2 Hawaii and No. 3 Florida.  Since the opening tournament the Cats have rolled past all 12 of their opponents and have only dropped three single games during that span.

Powering the Wildcat attack is Lauren Goehring who is hitting .454 and averaging 3.54 kills per game.  KSU is hitting .274, which leads the Big 12 and has three players hitting above .300.  Setter Gabby Guerre is averaging 12.06 assists per game and hitting .356.  Junior Lisa Martin is hitting .302, while averaging 2.46 kills per game.

The Wildcats run a defensive system that forces opponents into mistakes.  KSU plays sound defense and doesn't take risks, which is the reason they are tops in hitting percentage and fifth in kills per game.

As For The Sooners
The Sooners got off to a dissapointing start in the Big 12 with a loss at Missouri.  OU had one of its best offensive matches but couldn't overcome  inconsistency in its ball control.

Standout performances were turned in by Joanna Schmitt, Laura Tomes, Sheena Werling and Rachel Jackson.  Schmitt had 17 kills, giving her a weekly average of 5.71 kills per game.  On the down side Schmitt's streak of three consecutive double-doubles was snapped at Missouri.

On the other hand, Jackson extended her double-double streak to three matches with a 22 assist and 10 dig performance in Columbia.  Werling hit at a career high .346 clip and hammered home 12 kills, while Tomes tallied 13 kills while hitting .611. 

Tomes now owns four of the top seven hitting percentage outings for OU since the inception of the current scoring system.  Her performance at Missouri jumped her season hitting percentage up from .296 prior to .317 after. 

The freshman trio of Schmitt, Tomes and Jackson are quickly becoming the team leaders.  Schmitt leads OU with 4.21 kills and 2.79 digs per game.  Tomes tops the Sooner squad with a .317 hitting percentage and is second with 1.20 blocks per game.  Despite sharing time with senior Kelly McCarter, Jackson is leading the Sooners with 8.57 assist per game, while third in digs per game (2.35) and hitting at .385 when she attacks.

OU's success this season has come when they are able to get the ball to Tomes and junior-transfer Keri Coats .  Of the regulars, Tomes (.317) and Coats (.240) have the two highest hitting percentages on the squad.  In OU's five losses this season the duo has only taken 29 percent of the team's total attacks.  While Schmitt and sophomore Sheena Werling, the left side attackers, have taken 56 percent of the swings in the losses.  In OU's victories Tomes and Coats have taken 31 percent of the swings and the left side attackers have taken 53 percent.  The numbers aren't drastic, except when consider that OU has lost 15 games and 11 of those losses have come by five or less points.

The emergence of Jackson as the quarterback of OU's offense continues to produce positive results. The Sooners are 6-2 when the rookie plays the majority of the game.  That is not to say that senior Kelly McCarter's influence hasn't been felt.  When the Sooners run a modified 5-1 system, with Jackson setting from the back and McCarter setting in the front row, the Sooners are 6-1 and were undefeated until the loss at Missouri.

The Sooners continue to be one of the best in the Big 12 in blocking.  OU averages 2.76 blocks per game and has four individuals averaging 0.8 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.

Quick Hits
- OU was just the fourth team to defeat Oral Roberts at home in the last 95 contests.

- OU had not defeated Oral Roberts, which has won six consecutive Mid Contiental Conference titles and reached the NCAA tournament each of those years, since 1994, a span of four matches.

 - OU has lost seven consecutive matches to Missouri but still owns an all-time series advantage of 32-20.

- OU hit above. 200 eight times last season.  The Sooners have hit above .200 eight times this season and in eight of last nine matches, including against Missouri when they hit. 273, their highest percentage in a loss all season.  OU is 6-2 in those contests.
- OU's six match winning streak, which was snapped by Morehead State, was the longest of the Mahi era and the best since 1996 when the Sooners ran off nine consecutive wins.

- OU has never defeated Texas, who holds a 22-0 all-time series advantage. 

 - With 20 matches remaining the Sooners have 135 total blocks, which is 42 away from the 177 total blocks they posted last season.  At their current pace, OU would record 332 total blocks 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 8.57 assists per game and  broke 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.

Get Her The Ball
Freshman aren't supposed to be consistent, Laura Tomes is. When she records at least 21 attacks this season she is hitting .337 (88-27-181), 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 .317 hitting percentage.  Despite her efficient numbers, Tomes is tied for third on the OU squad with 278 total attacks.  The ball has been coming her way more lately though. In the season opening Cougar Challenge she averaged 17.6 attacks per match, since she has averaged 25.8.  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

Giving It A Werl
Sophomore Sheena Werling has been one of the most talented players on OU's squad during her three years (redshirted as freshman) in Norman. This year the talent is producing results after a summer spent on the sand volleyball court.  Werling has hit above .200 in five of the last six matches, including a career-high .346 performance against Missouri.  In 2002 she hit above .200 in four matches, only twice when she saw significant playing time.  Werling is second on the squad with a 3.09 kills per game average and has averaged 3.52 kills a game and 14.8 kills a match over the last five contests.

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 13 matches this season and has at least five block assists in nine matches.  In 44 games last season Adams had four solo blocks and 26 block assists.  She surpassed her 2002 block assists total in six matches this season (28) and leads the Sooners with 63 assists this season.  Her blocks per game average, now at 1.37, 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).

Smooth Transition
Senior Christina Maynes has made a smooth transition to defensive specialist for OU.  Maynes, who has spent the majority of the her time at outside hitter during her sooner career is fifth on OU's squad with 1.91 digs per game.

Most Valuable Player

Joanna Schmitt's impact on the OU volleyball team this season cannot be underestimated.  Schmitt leads OU offensively with 4.21 KPG and is the team's best passer at 2.79 DPG.  In 13 career matches she has led OU in total attacks 12 times, kills 10 times and digs five times.  She garnered MVP honors in the Chattanooga Invitational and was all-tournament in the Cougar Challenge.  Joanna Schmitt (497) is on pace to obliterate the OU rally scoring single season kills record of Logan Pierce (342). 

Maynes Tops Kill List
OU senior Christina Maynes took over sole possession on the OU career rally scoring list after recording 15 kills in the Cougar Challenge.  She stands in first place on the kills list with 441. Maynes is also in second place on the career digs list with 447 and trails leader Denise Griffin who had 461 in her career.

Upon Further Review
The Oklahoma volleyball team was awarded the Liberty University Invitational Championship on Thursday, Sept. 18, after it was announced upon the tournaments conclusion that Morehead State had won the title.  The tourney title was the second of the season for OU and the third during Mahi's tenure.

Tough Out Of The Gates
The Sooners have perhaps their most difficult stretch of the season at the begining of the Big 12 schedule.  OU lost to Missouri which was picked fourth in the Big 12 preseason poll in their conference opener and faces the top three picks in the next four matches.  OU opens the home season with preseason No. 2 Texas, then travels to preseason No. 3 Kansas State before facing No. 8 Baylor in Waco and finally hosting three-time defending Big 12 Champion Nebraska.

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.




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