Release  Horizon League ·

Sept. 7, 2004

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After Horizon League volleyball teams combined to play just three of 26 matches at home in the 2004 season's opening week, most return home to friendlier confines during week two as five of the conference's eight teams play host to tournaments this coming weekend.

Butler University will host the Butler Invitational, Loyola University Chicago the Chicago Challenge (which will include the University of Illinois at Chicago), the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay the Amerihost Classic, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee the Panther Invitational and Youngstown State University the YSU Tournament. All are four-team tournaments on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 10-11.

Other than UIC's cross-Chicago trip to Loyola, the only other teams that will hit the road for tournaments this weekend will be Cleveland State University at the Big Orange Tournament (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Wright State University at the Hoyas Tournament (Washington, D.C.).

Butler Picked to Win League Crown

The Butler 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 UW-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. All are seniors.

First-year Coaches at Chi-Town Schools Earn First Wins

First-year coaches Nancy Mueller at UIC and Tim O'Brien at Loyola both garnered their first wins at their new jobs during the opening week of the season. Mueller led the Flames to a 30-24, 30-24, 30-26 whitewashing of Tennessee State University at the Memphis Invitational Sept. 3, while O'Brien directed the Ramblers to a 30-19, 30-25, 30-23 victory over the University of North Texas at the ORU Classic Sept. 4.

Panthers' Fruit Juiced Again in 2004

After leading the Horizon League with 4.22 kills per game last season, UW-Milwaukee senior Karen Fruit has picked up where she left off to begin the 2004 campaign as she again tops the conference with 5.60 kills per game. Fruit's average is more than one full kill per game higher than the second-leading total and includes a 30-kill performance in the Panthers' four-game win over Northern Illinois University Sept. 3. That total ties for the second-highest single-match mark in UWM's Division I history. Fruit, an All-League pick in 2003, had 11 kills in the third game and 12 in the deciding fourth against the host Huskies.

Bulldogs Duo Double Trouble for Opponents

Butler seniors Areal Bienemy and Kali Carter form arguably the Horizon League's top one-two punch this fall. The returning all-conference picks are tied for second in the conference with 4.42 kills per game through the season's first two weeks. In fact, they have combined for 68 percent of the Bulldogs' kills, with each registering more kills than the rest of the team combined.

Last season as juniors, Carter averaged a team-leading 4.60 kills plus 3.74 digs per game, while Bienemy averaged 3.18 kills and a team-best .278 hitting percentage en route to AVCA All-America honorable mention.

UW-Green Bay Position Moves Pay Off

After losing four starters from last season's Horizon League Tournament championship team, UW-Green Bay has regrouped with a decidedly new lineup this fall. Returning All-League setter Leslie Kuhn has moved to an outside hitter spot and is averaging 3.09 kills per game, while Jackie Rosen joined the starting unit after playing the libero spot a year ago and is averaging a team-high 4.0 kills. Meanwhile, true freshman setter Betty Slinger, last year's Ms. Volleyball in Minnesota as a prep, currently tops the conference with 11.73 assists per game.

Defense the Key for Cleveland State

Cleveland State's five-game win over Kent State University in its season opener --- only the team's second over KSU in the last 25 meetings --- was a prime illustration of championship-caliber defense. The Vikings held the Golden Flashes to a mere .107 hitting percentage, while averaging 3.0 blocks per game. Both marks currently lead the Horizon League after the Vikings' scheduled weekend tournament at Orlando, Fla., was cancelled due to Hurricane Frances. CSU junior Nickole Kennedy tops the conference with 2.20 blocks per game, followed by sophomore teammate Danielle Siefker with 2.0 per game.

Youngstown State Starts Strong

The Youngstown State Penguins entered the season hoping to put last year's last-place Horizon League finish (10-19, 1-13) behind them and opened 2004 with a 2-1 finish at the Crusader Classic. YSU hit .227 in the season's opening week, which was more than 30 points higher than the next-best League team. Leading the way is freshman Jessica Fraley with 3.33 kills per game.

Bouyer's Back to Blocking

Senior middle hitter Jamie Bouyer broke Cleveland State's career blocks record with her second against Kent State in the Vikings' season opener Sept. 1. Her five blocks in the match pushed her career total to 436. Last season Bouyer led the Horizon League with 1.55 blocks per game en route to all-conference honors.

Youthful Wright State Has Eye on the Future

Wright State has opened the season with a 0-4 record but that may not be entirely unexpected considering the Raiders' youthful roster. Of the 13 players on the team, six are sophomores and three are freshmen, which should provide hope for the rest of the year. Sophomore Taylor Gerlach leads the Horizon League with 5.53 digs per game, while classmate Sarah Poling is sixth in the conference with 3.47 kills per game.

Penguins Home Early This Fall

Youngstown State plays host to Duquesne University Tuesday, Sept. 7, at the Beeghly Center in a match that marks the earliest home opener for the Penguins in school history. In a scheduling quirk, YSU's four home matches this week are their only ones of the month, which will be followed by a seven-match road trip, an eight-match homestand, another seven-match road swing and finally the Horizon League Tournament on the Penguins' home court.

Panthers By the Numbers

Dating to last season, UW-Milwaukee has won 11 of its last 12 true (not including neutral-site contests) road matches. The Panthers also have won five of their last six season openers and 10 of their last 11 home openers.

Horizon League Player of the Week - Sept. 6
Karen Fruit
Outside Hitter
Viola, Wis.

Karen Fruit of UW-Milwaukee has been selected the Horizon League Volleyball Player of the Week for Sept. 6.
The senior outside hitter led the Panthers to a 2-1 record during the week with victories over North Dakota State (3-0) and Northern Illinois (3-1) and a lone loss to seventh-ranked Washington (3-0).
A native of Viola, Wis., Fruit tallied a career-high 30 kills against NIU, including 11 in the third game and 12 in the deciding fourth. That total was the second-highest in UWM's Division I history.
She also had a team-high 12 kills against Washington and 14 versus NDSU. For the week, she averaged a league-leading 5.6 kills per game while adding 24 digs and four blocks.

Other Top Horizon League Performers - Sept. 6

Nichol Amberg
Loyola, Senior, Outside Hitter, Tulsa, Okla.
Amberg blasted 61 kills (4.36 kpg) and had 47 digs (3.36 dpg) in the Ramblers' four matches of the opening week. Against 25th-ranked Notre Dame, she posted her second career 20-20 match with 23 kills and 20 digs in just four games. In a return to her hometown of Tulsa in the ORU Classic, she slammed 17 kills versus Kansas, 12 against Oral Roberts and nine in Loyola's win over North Texas.

Areal Bienemy
Butler, Senior, Middle Blocker, Violet, La.
Bienemy averaged 4.42 kills, 2.33 digs and 1.25 blocks per game as the Bulldogs went 1-2 during the week. She began the week by posting a double-double with 23 kills and 14 digs at Purdue. Against seventh-ranked Washington, she posted a team-high 10 kills and followed that with a 20-kill, 10-dig, seven-block performance versus Northern Illinois. She was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Comfort Inn and Suites Invitational.

Jessica Fraley
Youngstown State, Freshman, Opposite, LaGrange, Ohio
In her collegiate debut, Fraley led the Penguins to a 2-1 record at the Crusader Classic at Holy Cross, averaging 3.33 kills and 2.0 digs per game with a .263 hitting percentage. She posted a double-double with 10 kills and 12 digs against Holy Cross, then had back-to-back 15-kill outings versus both Radford and Siena.

Taylor Gerlach
Wright State, Sophomore, Libero, Wheaton, Ill.
Gerlach registered 20 or more digs in each of the Raiders four matches during the season's opening week. After making 21 digs against Ball State in the team's opener, she had 20 against Iowa, 20 at Illinois State and 22 versus Denver in being named to the All-Tournament Team of the Barker GMC Classic.

Jackie Rosen
UW-Green Bay, Junior Outside Hitter, West Allis, Wis.
Rosen averaged 4.0 kills and 2.55 digs in three matches from her outside hitter position after playing solely in the libero position last season for the 2003 Horizon League Tournament champion Phoenix. She had team week-high totals of 44 kills and seven service aces.

Danielle Siefker
Cleveland State, Sophomore Middle Hitter, Kalida, Ohio
Siefker posted her first career double-double to help the Vikings defeat Kent State for only the second time in the last 25 meetings in the team's season opener. She hit .348 (11-3-23) with 11 kills and tied her career high with 10 blocks. Cleveland State's weekend tournament at the UCF Fall Classic in Orlando was cancelled due to Hurricane Frances.

Ambria Springer
UIC, Sophomore, Middle Hitter, Murfreesboro, Tenn.
After solid performances off the bench in the Flames' first two matches, Springer was inserted into the starting lineup and earned All-Tournament honors at the Memphis Invitational. She had nine kills and five digs in a sweep of Delaware State and followed with a career-high 20 kills against Alabama A&M.

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