Release  Horizon League ·

Aug. 31, 2004

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The 2004 Horizon League volleyball season begins this week with all eight teams in action, including a variety of in-season tournament matches.

Five teams will open their seasons on Wednesday, Sept. 1, with three of the five debuting at home against Mid-American Conference teams as Cleveland State hosts Kent State, UIC welcomes Western Michigan and Wright State hosts Ball State. In other opening-day action, Butler travels to Purdue and Loyola plays at Notre Dame.

Defending regular-season champion UW-Milwaukee will tip off defense of its crown at home against North Dakota State on Thursday, Sept. 2.

All eight Horizon League teams will participate in tournaments throughout the nation on Friday-Saturday, Sept. 3-4 in DeKalb, Ill.; Orlando, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; Mount Pleasant, Mich.; Normal, Ill.; and Worcester, Mass.

Butler Picked to Win League Crown

The Butler University volleyball team has been picked to win its first Horizon League championship since 1997 in preseason voting by the conference's eight head coaches, the League office announced Thursday (Aug. 19).

The Bulldogs received 45 points and four first-place votes to edge defending regular-season champion University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee by one point for the top spot. The Panthers garnered three of the remaining four first-place votes and 44 total points. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams.

Six All-League Honorees Back for '04

Six of the 12 members of the 2003 All-Horizon League Volleyball Team return this season to provide a formidable nucleus for success around the conference.

Back for more in 2004 are Areal Bienemy and Kali Carter of Butler, Jamie Bouyer of Cleveland State, Karen Fruit of UW-Milwaukee, Lauren Holbrook of Loyola and Leslie Kuhn of UW-Green Bay.

Bouyer's Back

Cleveland State senior Jamie Bouyer brings her outstanding two-way play back for one final season in 2004. As a junior last fall, she led the Horizon League on the offensive end with a league-best .361 hitting percentage and also topped the league on defense with 1.55 blocks per game.

Panthers' Fruit Juiced

UW-Milwaukee senior Karen Fruit should be one of the Horizon League's top performers again this season. A year ago she paced the conference with 4.22 kills per game en route to helping lead the Panthers to the regular-season championship.

Setters Aplenty at UW-Green Bay

Despite setting the Horizon League single-season assists mark with 1,702 last season, a position change could be in store for All-League pick Leslie Kuhn of UW-Green Bay this season. With the addition of 2003 Minnesota Miss Volleyball Betty Slinger at setter and the loss of the team's top three hitters from a year ago, Kuhn may switch to a right-side hitter spot in 2004 as the Phoenix bids for a second consecutive conference tournament title and NCAA berth.

Bulldogs Duo Double Trouble

Seniors Areal Bienemy and Kali Carter will be the centers of attention for Butler opponents this season after both were named to the All-Horizon League Team last fall. Carter averaged a team-leading 4.60 kills plus 3.74 digs per game as a junior, while Bienemy averaged 3.18 kills and a team-best .278 hitting percentage en route to AVCA All-America honorable mention.

Wright State Plays Rare Opener at Home

Wright State will open the season at home in C.J. Mclin Gymnasium for the first time since 1987 after starting the last 17 campaigns on the road. That should help ease the nerves of the Raiders' youthful roster that includes six sophomores and three freshmen among its 13 players.

Penguins' Conroy Nearing Victory Milestone

Youngstown State head coach Joe Conroy enters the 2004 season needing just 22 wins to reach the 200 career win plateau.

Chicago Schools Boast New Head Coaches

Both of the Horizon League's Chicago-based schools enter the 2004 season with new head coaches. Nancy Mueller takes over at UIC following five highly successful years as head coach at South Florida, where she twice was named Conference USA's Coach of the Year. At Loyola, Tim O'Brien slides over to the head coaching chair after two years as an assistant for the Ramblers.

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