Oct. 18, 2004
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The 2004 Horizon League volleyball season is shaping up to be a fight to the finish as no less than three teams are tied for first place at the midway point of the conference season with 6-1 records.
Loyola (15-5) gained a share of the lead with its fourth consecutive win, a sweep of preseason favorite Butler (11-8) that was the first blemish on the Bulldogs' conference record. UW-Milwaukee (10-7), meanwhile, won both of its weekend matches to augment the logjam at the top of the standings.
More notable, each of the team's lone League losses are to one of the other first-place teams --- Loyola beat Butler, which defeated UW-Milwaukee, which knocked off Loyola.
Looking ahead, both Butler and UWM play five of their final seven Horizon League matches at home, while Loyola has only two of seven on its home court during the second half of the conference season.
Midway down the standings, Cleveland State (11-5, 4-3 Horizon League) swept UW-Green Bay this past weekend to take a one-match lead over the Phoenix (6-13, 3-4) for fourth place.
Rounding out the midseason standings are UIC (6-16, 2-5), Wright State (3-16, 1-6) and Youngstown State (8-12, 0-7).
Highlighting this week's action are the second meeting of the season between defending Horizon League Tournament champion UW-Green Bay and reigning regular-season titlist UW-Milwaukee Friday, Oct. 22, at Milwaukee and Loyola's match at Cleveland State Saturday, Oct. 23, where the Vikings are 6-2 this fall.
After opening the season 0-3, Loyola has stormed back to win 15 of its last 17 matches. Highlighting the stretch was a thrilling five-game upset of then-#9 Illinois (30-25, 30-24, 26-30, 28-30, 15-13) Sept. 14. Behind the ball control of senior setter Lauren Holbrook, the Ramblers boast perhaps the best balance in the Horizon League as five players average two or more kills per game. Leading the charge is senior outside hitter Nichol Amberg with 4.14 kills per game. She is joined by Hilary Stromath (3.03 kpg), Kathryn Langheld (2.82), Courtney Ashley (2.51) and Kelly Zins (2.10).
Panthers Pick Up Where They Left Off
UW-Milwaukee's 6-1 record to open the Horizon League schedule have continued a run of success for the Panthers that goes back to the mid-1990s. Including that victory, UWM is 86-11 in regular-season conference matches during the past eight seasons. They have finished no worse than 11-3 in League action in that stretch and have suffered only one conference loss four times. The Panthers have an overall record of 174-54 in the last eight years.
Bulldogs Step It Up in League Play
Butler, the preseason Horizon League favorite, concluded its pre-conference schedule with a modest 5-6 record. But the Bulldogs have turned it around in conference play, sprinting to a share of first place with a 6-1 record and an 11-8 overall mark. Leading the way all season has been the senior tandem of Kali Carter and Areal Bienemy, who rank second and fourth in the League with 4.67 and 4.05 kills per game, respectively. The two have combined for 62 percent of the Bulldogs' kills, with Carter having 364 and Bienemy 316, compared to only 417 for the rest of the team. Against Western Illinois Sept. 10, Carter recorded the first 30-30 game in Butler history with 32 kills and 30 digs.
Holbrook Doing It All for Loyola
Based on research by the Georgia State sports information office, Loyola senior setter Lauren Holbrook is one of four current Division I players on track to become the first players in the 30-point scoring era to surpass 5,000 assists and 1,000 digs in a career. Holbrook currently has 4,847 assists and 1,166 digs. She leads the conference with 12.89 assists per game while also averaging 3.43 digs and 1.56 kills per game. She came within one kill of a triple-double earlier this season versus South Dakota State with nine kills, 58 assists and 14 digs, and has been within three kills seven other times.
Panthers' Fruit Juiced Again in 2004
After leading the Horizon League in kills per game last season, UW-Milwaukee senior Karen Fruit has picked up where she left off as she again tops the conference with 5.28 kills per game, including 5.93 in conference matches. Her League-only kills average is nearly two full kills better than the next-best mark. Against Wright State Oct. 8, she recorded her second 30-kill performance of the season with 31 kills and 18 digs. The 31 kills were the second-most in the Panthers' Division I history. Fruit has now posted double digits in kills in 32 of UWM's last 34 matches dating to last season.
Bouyer Dangerous on Both Sides of Net
Cleveland State senior Jamie Bouyer has been the Horizon League's most dominant two-day player so far this season as she leads the conference in both hitting percentage (.409) and blocks (1.60 bpg). Her hitting percentage is nearly 100 points better than the next best mark and her blocking average is almost one-half block per game higher than second place. Last week Bouyer established a new school record for kills with her 1,417th, surpassing the mark set by Tenille Whiteside (1993-96).
New Roles, New Faces for Green Bay
After losing four starters from last year's Horizon League Tournament championship team, UW-Green Bay needed some new faces to step up and that's happened. Returning all-conference setter Leslie Kuhn has split time at outside hitter, and Jackie Rosen has joined the lineup from the libero spot. Meanwhile freshmen Betty Slinger, last year's Ms. Volleyball in Minnesota, and Desi Dolgner have been key newcomers.
Penguins' Pasquinelli Nears Assist Mark
Youngstown State junior setter Angie Pasquinelli enters the week with 2,362 career assists and needs just 56 to move into first place in school history with more than one full season left to play. She also is only 181 assists shy of 1,000 this season and could become only the second player ever at YSU with a pair of 1,000-assist seasons.
Tiffin Reaches Wright State Milestone
Wright State's McKenzie Tiffin reached the 1,000-dig mark for her career with 16 digs at UIC last week. She is just four digs away from cracking the Raiders' career top 10 in the category.
UIC Nets Win to End Streak
UIC ended a six-match losing streak with a 3-2 win at home over Wright State last week. The victory gave the Flames sole possession of sixth place in the Horizon League standings.
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 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.
Horizon League Co-Players of the Week - Oct. 18
Nichol Amberg of Loyola and Karen Fruit of UW-Milwaukee have been selected the Horizon League Volleyball Co-Players of the Week for Oct. 18.
Amberg averaged 4.33 kills and 4.83 digs per game and hit .346 (26-8-52) as the Ramblers moved into a tie for first place with three-game sweeps at home of Wright State and Butler, which was previously undefeated in League play. She recorded 17 kills and 14 digs in the win over the Bulldogs.
Fruit led the Panthers to a share of first place with road victories over Cleveland State (3-1) and Youngstown State (3-0) by averaging a League-best 6.00 kills per game on .322 hitting (42-13-90). She had 22 kills and 12 digs against the Vikings, followed by 20 kills and 11 digs versus the Penguins. It is Fruit's third honor this season.
Other Top Horizon League Performers - Oct. 18
Butler, Senior, Middle Blocker, Violet, La.
Bienemy averaged 4.43 kills per game as Butler went 1-1 on the week but maintained a share of the Horizon League lead. She had a match-high 23 kills in a 3-1 win at UIC while hitting .388 with five blocks. In a 3-0 loss at Loyola, she had eight kills, five digs and five blocks.
Cleveland State, Senior, Middle Hitter, Bedford Heights, Ohio
Bouyer led Cleveland State to a 2-1 record (1-1 Horizon League) and etched her name yet again in the school record book. Against UW-Green Bay, she became the Vikings' all-time kills leader with 1,417 and finished the match with 1,422. She had 10 kills of her 15 kills in the decisive game, including five after CSU trailed 21-16 before winning 30-28. For the week, she averaged 4.20 kills and 1.50 blocks per game while hitting .392.
UIC, Senior, Right Side, Batavia, Ill.
Hoffman helped UIC end a six-match losing streak with a career-high 15 kills and a .371 hitting percentage in a 3-2 victory over Wright State. She then had 14 kills in a loss to League-leading Butler. For the week, she averaged 4.25 kills per game with a .259 hitting mark.
Youngstown State, Senior, Middle Hitter, Lorain, Ohio
Pounders averaged 3.86 kills and 2.57 digs per game in a pair of Horizon League losses for Youngstown State. She recorded double figures in kills in both matches, finishing with 17 against UW-Green Bay and 10 versus UW-Milwaukee.
Wright State, Sophomore, Middle Hitter, Mora, Minn.
Schlutz hit .405 (20-3-42) for the week in a pair of losses for Wright State. She had a career-high 15 kills and hit .375 in a five-game loss at UIC and also added five digs and six blocks. One day later, she hit .500 with five kills as the Raiders lost 3-0 at Loyola.
UW-Green Bay, Junior, Middle Blocker, Waupun, Wis.
Smits turned in her best so far this season, averaging 5.00 kills at a .436 clip and adding 1.14 blocks per game as UW-Green Bay went 1-1 on the road in Horizon League action. She pounded out a career-high 20 kills in a win at Youngstown State and then tied for match-high honors with 15 in a loss at Cleveland State.
2004 Horizon League Players of the Week
Sept. 6 - Karen Fruit, UW-Milwaukee
Sept. 13 - Lauren Holbrook, Loyola
Sept. 20 - Jamie Bouyer, Cleveland State
Sept. 27 - Hilary Stromath, Loyola
Oct. 4 - Karen Fruit, UW-Milwaukee
Oct. 11 - Areal Bienemy, Butler
Oct. 18 - Nichol Amberg, Loyola / Karen Fruit, UW-Milwaukee