Volleyball Season Begins at NIU Invitational

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
NIU Invitational
Aug. 24-25 | Dekalb, Ill. | Victor E. Court at NIU Convocation Center
ouXavierDePaulNIU

NORMAN — The Oklahoma volleyball team begins its first season under head coach Lindsey Gray-Walton this weekend as it heads to Dekalb, Ill., for the NIU Invitational. The Sooners face Xavier at 3 p.m. CT on Friday before facing DePaul at 11 a.m. CT and Northern Illinois at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday.

Saturday’s match against Northern Illinois will be streamed through NIU All-Access. Live stats for all three of OU’s contests at the tournament will be available on NIUHuskies.com, and fans can follow along on Twitter (@OU_Volleyball) for live updates.

WEEKEND STORYLINES

New Era of OUVB 

A new era of Sooner Volleyball begins this season as Lindsey Gray-Walton enters her first season as Oklahoma’s head coach. The 2017 AVCA Assistant Coach of the Year, Gray-Walton comes to OU after spending the past eight seasons at Kentucky.

Gray-Walton is joined on the sidelines by first-year OU assistants Jake Barreau and Megan Pendergast and volunteer assistant Kyle Walton. Barreau was most recently an assistant coach at Missouri State, and Pendergast comes to Norman from Tulsa. Walton spent the past four years as head coach at Transylvania University.

Exhibition Recap

In a final tune-up before the 2018 season begins, the Sooners swept Arkansas 4-0 in an exhibition match on Aug. 18. The two teams opted to play an extra set in the preseason scrimmage at McCasland Field House.

OU clinched the sweep 25-23, 25-21, 25-22, 25-19 in front of a crowd of 658. Senior outside hitter Alyssa Enneking led all players with 16 kills in the contest, finishing the exhibition with a .484 hitting percentage, and sophomore setter Kylee McLaughlin paced the match with 29 assists.

Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Maras impressed with five service aces against the Razorbacks and two solo blocks. Junior middle blocker Brianna Kadiku totaled six block assists for the Crimson and Cream, the most block assists among both teams.

New Faces

Seven of the 16 members of OU’s roster will represent the Crimson and Cream for the first time this weekend. The Sooners welcome four transfers this season in Brianna Kadiku (middle blocker, Memphis), Keyton Kinley (defensive specialist, Tennessee), Kylee McLaughlin (setter, Oregon State) and Haley Sanchez (defensive specialist, Bakersfield College).

Additionally, OU signed three freshmen for the 2018 campaign: defensive specialist Aysia Harty (McKinney, Texas) and outside hitters Sabrina Simms (Argyle, Texas) and Olga Zampati (Athens, Greece).

Of OU’s nine returning student-athletes, eight earned letters during the 2017 season. Middle blocker Hali’a Hogan did not play last year after suffering an ACL tear during preseason practice.

Quick Hits

Outside hitter Alyssa Enneking and setter Kylee McLaughlin were both been named to the 2018 Preseason All-Big 12 Team on June 27. Enneking was named an AVCA All-America Honorable Mention selection and an All-Big 12 First Team honoree in 2017, while McLaughlin was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and AVCA Pacific North Freshman of the Year at Oregon State last season.

Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Sanders was named to the U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Team-Detroit in April, training and competing with the team June 22-July 1. Sanders was one of five Sooners who participated in the U.S. Wmoen’s National Team Open Tryouts March 2-4 in Colorado Springs, joining Enneking, McLaughlin, Audrey Alford and Sarah Maras.

Seven of OU’s 2018 regular-season opponents competed in the 2017 NCAA Tournament: Pitt, VCU, Colorado, Kansas, Baylor, Iowa State and Texas.

Previewing Xavier

Xavier went 13-19 in 2017, including an 8-10 mark in Big East play to finish sixth in league standings. The Musketeers were 2-2 in neutral site contests last year. This season, the Musketeers were picked to finish tied for sixth in the preseason Big East poll.

Nine Xavier letterwinners return for the 2018 campaign, including five seniors. Senior Meredith Klare led the Big East in total digs (520) and digs per set (4.37) in 2017, and classmate Laura Grossman led the Musketeers in total kills (233) last year.

Previewing DePaul

DePaul finished last in the 2017 Big East standings, finishing 8-22 overall and 2-16 in league matches a year ago. The Blue Demons lost their final 10 ontests of the 2017 campaign and posted a 3-2 record at neutral sites. Picked 10th in the Big East preseason poll, DePaul enters the 2018 campaign after dropping an exhibition match at Illinois State, 3-0 (25-12, 25-15, 25-16), on Aug. 18.

The Blue Demons enter their first season under head coach Marie Zidek in 2018. Ten student-athletes return from 2017, including All-Big East Second Team honoree Brittany Maxwell, who was named to the preseason All-Big East Team on Aug. 6.

Previewing Northern Illinois

Northern Illinois returns seven student-athletes from its 2017 campaign, when the Huskies went 8-23. With a 7-9 mark in conference play, NIU finished fifth in MAC West Division Standings. Most recently, the Huskies hosted Bradley in an exhibition on Aug. 18, falling 3-2.

The Huskies added seven newcomers in 2018. They join seven returners from last year, including All-MAC First Team middle blocker Meg Wolowicz. The 6-4senior led NIU with 0.97 blocks per set in 2017 and ranked second with 2.55 kills per set.

Up Next

The Sooners continue their season-opening road swing as they travel to Orange, N.J., Aug. 31-Sept 1 for the Seton Hall Tournament. OU will face Pittsburgh on Friday at 3:30 p.m. CT and VCU and Seton Hall on Saturday at 12 p.m. CT and 6 p.m. CT, respectively.

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