Nov. 21, 2000

Sooners Head Into Final Week Of The Season
The 2000 Oklahoma volleyball season comes to an end this week. The Sooners will close out the year with a road contest at No. 25 Missouri and then conclude the season with its final home match against Kansas.

The Sooners and Tigers square off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 22, at the Hearnes Center in Columbia, Mo. OU will then say good-bye to five seniors on Saturday, Nov. 25, when Oklahoma hosts Kansas in the OU Field House. Saturday night's match has been designated as Senior/Parent's Night as all five departing Oklahoma seniors and their parents will be honored prior to the 7 p.m. first serve.

Last Time Out
Oklahoma hung tight with Texas through the first two games Saturday night before falling, 15-11, 15-8 and 15-3, to the Longhorns at the OU Field House in Norman, Okla. OU battled with UT in games one and two before hitting errors plagued the team in game three. Senior middle blocker Cathy Cook led Oklahoma with 15 kills, while senior setter Carolyn Kittell registered a perfect hitting performance landing six kills in as many attempts, without an error.

The Sooners came out strong in game one and registered a .346 hitting percentage to begin the match. Cook and senior outside hitter Maria Holmgren led the Sooner attack with eight kills a piece. After falling behind UT 7-2, OU climbed back into the game with a with a 5-0 spurt to knot the contest at eight. The two teams fought through one more tie and 11 sideouts before the Longhorns began to pull away with three-straight points to jump out to an 11-8 lead. A block assist by Holmgren and senior middle blocker Holly McMillan brought the Sooners back to within two, but the Longhorns pulled away again with three unanswered points and went on to win game one, 15-11.

Despite hitting well again in game two, Oklahoma put themselves in a position where they had to come from behind. Texas sprinted out to an early six point lead before Oklahoma worked its way back into the game. The Sooners scored three-straight points, aided by kills from Holmgren and Kittell, to pull within three at 11-8. However, UT silenced the OU comeback with a 4-0 run to end game two, 15-8. Cook again led the Sooners in kills during the game with six.

Texas' junior outside hitter Gipy Duarte served the Longhorns' first seven points as the Longhorns' ball control helped them to a 15-3 victory in game three. OU's poor hitting in the game cost them as they landed only five kills and recorded a match-low -.091 hitting percentage for the game.

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.

Currently, Oklahoma is struggling through a four-match losing streak. Cook, who led the team in kills in both contests last week, continues to lead the Sooner offensive attack with 4.44 kills per game and a .345 hitting percentage. The Irvine, Calif., native is also tied for the team lead in blocks per game with a .82 average. Senior setter Carolyn Kittell is the team leader in digs with a 2.45 average. As a team, Oklahoma ranks fourth in the Big 12 in service aces per game with a 1.57 average.

Scouting No. 24 Missouri
Sitting in third place in the Big 12 Conference standings, Missouri continues to be the surprise of the league this year. With 23 wins, the Tigers have already doubled their win total from a year ago. Mizzou is currently riding a three-match win streak, including a recent 3-0 win over Kansas, and has swept its opponent in its last eight victories.

Missouri's outstanding performances this year are a result of improved hitting and blocking. The Tigers currently rank second in the conference in hitting percentage (.292) and blocks per game (3.18) right behind No. 1-ranked Nebraska. Individually, junior middle blocker Krista Johnson and sophomore middle blocker Chrisi Myers rank as two of the league's top-six hitters with hitting percentages of .357 and .355, respectively. Myers also ranks as the sixth-best blocker in the Big 12 with a 1.36 blocks per game average.

Scouting Kansas
Since defeating Oklahoma 3-0 in mid-October, Kansas has picked up only two more wins and currently sits a spot ahead of OU in the Big 12 Conference standings. Like the Sooners, the Jayhawks are struggling through a four-match losing streak. They have been swept in all four matches, including a 3-0 loss to Missouri in its latest contest.

Despite the obstacles the team has faced this season, several individual Jayhawks have turned in fine performances throughout the season. Senior outside hitter Amy Myatt's 4.57 kills per game average is good for fourth best in the Big 12, while fellow senior outside hitter Danielle Geronymo is averaging 1.20 blocks per game which places her in seventh place in the conference in the category.

The Series
The Sooners own a 32-15 all-time edge over the Tigers, but the series has been closer in recent years. The two teams have split the season series the last two years. Missouri swept Oklahoma earlier this season in Norman to take the first game of the season set. However, OU has traditionally found success on MU's home court winning 11 of 16 contests played in Columbia all-time.

Oklahoma owns a 36-16 all-time edge over Kansas, however, the Jayhawks are winners of five-straight over the last three years. Prior to the streak, the Sooners had won 11 of the last 15 contests. KU also swept OU earlier this year in Lawrence. Despite claiming victory in the last two meetings on Oklahoma's home floor, Kansas trails the Sooners 17-5 in matches played in the OU Field House.

Seniors Say Goodbye
Saturday night's match versus Kansas will mark the final time that five Oklahoma seniors will take the court in the OU Field House. Seniors Cathy Cook, Maria Holmgren, Carolyn Kittell, Holly McMillan and Maxine Zubiaga will conclude their Sooner volleyball careers after two seasons together.

McMillan is the lone four-year senior of the group, while Holmgren, Kittell and Zubiaga have been a part of the program for the last three seasons. Cook joined the team last year after transferring from the University of Portland.

In their two years together, this group of seniors helped the Sooners jump out to their first 5-0 start in school history, an All-Big 12 selection, a tournament title, two second-place tournament finishes, a tournament Most Valuable Player, nine all-tournament selections and six Academic All-Big 12 honorees.

Among the League Leaders
As of November 20, several Sooners continue to remain among the Big 12 Conference's individual leaders in several categories.

Cathy Cook
Hitting Percentage - Ninth (.345)
Kills - Tied for fifth (4.44)

Carolyn Kittell
Assists - 10th (11.26)
Service Aces - Tied -Seventh (0.31)

Jessica Barney
Service Aces - Second (0.46)

Second Half Improvement

As Oklahoma makes its way through the Big 12 Conference opponents for the second time this season, the team has shown some marked improvements in several areas. The team has increased its hitting percentage by 38 points by decreasing its amount of errors, is averaging .21 more kills per game, has hustled for .93 more digs per game and blocked .40 more per game.

Individually, senior middle blocker Cathy Cook has shown the most dramatic improvement on the team by increasing her attack percentage 152 points and averaging .54 blocks more per game.

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 in service aces per game, this year's team is in fourth place averaging 1.57 aces per game.

Individually, Oklahoma has two players ranked among the conference's top individuals in aces per game, led by sophomore Jessica Barney (second - 0.46), and senior Carolyn Kittell (tied-seventh - 0.31).

Quickie Notes

*With four double-double performances this season, senior middle blocker Holly McMillan has equalled her career double-double total of four. McMillan leads the Sooners in the category this season.

*Senior middle blocker Cathy Cook has led the Sooners in kills in 21 of 26 matches.

*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.

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.