Trojans Prepare for University Plaza Invite
Courtesy: UALR Sports Information
          Release: 08/29/2012
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First Serve

UALR will make the trip to Springfield, Mo. to take part in the 2012 University Plaza Invitational hosted by Missouri State. Live statistic links can be found on the volleyball schedule page while a video link (subscription) for Saturday's match against Missouri State can be found on

The invitational will feature UALR, Missouri State, Oral Roberts, Austin Peay and 11th-ranked Dayton. However, the Fliers and the Trojans will not meet. UALR plays Oral Roberts at noon and Austin Peay on at 5 p.m. on Friday (Aug. 31) before concluding the weekend against the host Bears at noon on Saturday (Sept. 1).

Scouting Oral Roberts

The Golden Eagles enter action on the weekend with a 2-1 overall record after taking part in the UB Invitational in Buffalo, N.Y. last weekend. Oral Roberts knocked off San Jose State in four and took Canisius in straight-sets before a heartbreaking loss to Buffalo in five sets. After being down 2-1 to the Bulls, ORU took the fourth and looked like it would cruise to victory, up 13-7 in the fifth set.  However, UB shocked the Golden Eagles with eight-straight points to claim the hard-fought victory.

For their efforts, junior libero Bruna Silva and senior middle Sheina Fernandes earned all-tournament honors. Silva anchored the back row for the Golden Eagles with 66 total digs in 12 sets on the weekend (5.5 digs/set). Fernandes leads the team with a .324 hitting percentage and is second with 33 total kills for the season.

Junior Laura Taylor is the primary setter for ORU with 124 of the teams 147 assists. She is also a legit double-double threat as she is second on the team with 36 digs (3 per set). Junior Jessica Pancratz plugs the middle for the Golden Eagles with 22 total blocks so far in 2012 (1.83/set).

If a team relies heavily on getting aces, knocking off Oral Roberts could be a tall task. In 12 sets, ORU allowed only six opponent aces on the weekend. Also, no one has overwhelming front line numbers in terms of kills but six different ORU players average more than 1.5 kills per set. That is not even including Taylor, who has 10 successful kills in 31 attempts from the setting position.

Scouting Austin Peay

It will be the second time in as many weeks the Lady Govs and Trojans square off. And if the match is anything like the Aug. 24 meeting, the crowd is in for quite a treat. APSU easily won the first set by 12 before UALR won three of the next four sets by two.

Two different APSU players had double-doubles as sophomore setter Cami Fields contributed 53 assists and 10 digs. Outside hitters Jada Stotts (sophomore) added 19 kills and 13 digs while senior Nikki Doyle just missed the double-dip with 11 digs and nine kills.

After beginning the season with a thrilling five-set victory over Memphis, Austin Peay has dropped four straight, including the last three in straight sets. Sophomore middle Hillary Plybon leads the team in both kills (50) and hitting percentage (.404). Field has 181 of the teams 205 assists while four Lady Govs have more than 30 digs for the year, with top honors belonging to Doyle (52).

Scouting Missouri State

The Bears come in their own tournament having lost all three games played in Oklahoma last weekend. However, looks can be deceiving as Missouri State lost to Oklahoma (receiving votes in the latest AVCA poll), Tulsa (picked to win Conference USA) and Western Michigan (picked to win the Mid-American Conference).

Junior outside hitter Christine McCartney leads the Missouri State attack with 42 kills and 3.82 kills per set, but is only hitting .115. Sophomore middle/outside hitter Kaitlin Jaeger has 27 kills with only eight errors and 58 attempts for a .328 hitting percentage.  However, the Bears have many options on who is going for the kill as four MSU players have two or more kills a set. Junior libero Ashley Mason leads the team with an amazing 4.45 digs per set followed by senior defensive specialist Shelby Strang with three digs per set. Junior setter Carly Thomas and McCartney round out the field with 2.73 and 2.18 digs per set, respectively. Thomas also has 113 of the teams 136 assists.

While it is hard to tell because of the great competition the Bears played last weekend, it looks as if UALR has the potential to hit well. While UALR leads the conference at a .243 hitting clip, Missouri State is allowing .233 and hitting only .165.

Welcome Back My Friends

While only three current Trojans have faced Oral Roberts, UALR is no stranger to the Golden Eagles. Since going to NCAA Division I in 1991, UALR has faced ORU the most out of any non-conference opponent. The Trojans are trailing in the all-time series 18-8 thanks to an Oral Roberts record of 16-2 from 1994-06. UALR won the first four and the last two matches.

The three year break since UALR has played the Golden Eagles is the longest break in the series. And what a memorable game back on Sept. 4, 2009. Oral Robert jumped up 2-0 in sets and 3-0 in the third frame. The score was tied at 20 before four-straight UALR points essentially put the third set away. The momentum had shifted as the Trojans won the fourth 25-19 and the fifth 15-7.

Then freshmen Daniele Souza Moura started with Emily Pepperman playing libero and Eva Xie coming off the bench. Souza Moura contributed eight digs, four assists, and one kill and block while Pepperman was the only player in the match to reach double-digits in kills (18). Xie came off the bench and had one kill on one attempt.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling (On In)

There has been only one weekend to the 2011-2012 volleyball season, but it has already been one where sophomore Edina Begic has received plenty of honors.

Before the season even started, she found out she was named to the preseason All-Sun Belt Conference volleyball team after being named conference Freshman of the Year in 2011. After a rough first set against Eastern Michigan, she turned in a stellar tournament at the Memphis Invitational with three double-doubles, including 25 kills and 17 digs in a thrilling win for UALR over Austin Peay.

For the weekend, she tallied 55 kills and only 14 errors on 135 attempts for a .304 hitting percentage and an amazing mark of more than 4.5 kills per set. Begic also contributed 41 digs (3.42 per set). For her success, she was announced as the first Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week in 2012 on Aug. 27.

Her mark of 4.58 kills per set is best in the SBC by more than half a kill.

New Role?  No Problem

With the losses from the 2011-2012, sophomore Adisa Hodzic has moved to the middle for the current season. While the season is only three matches old, Hodzic is already making her mark for the Trojans. Hodzic currently ranks fourth in the conference in both hitting percentage (.379) and blocks (15, 1.25 per set).

At the Memphis Invitational this past weekend, Hodzic went offensive before finishing off the weekend with a strong defensive performance. She finished against Eastern Michigan and Austin Peay with her first double-digit kill matches of her career, including a career-high of 13 kills in only 21 attempts and two errors for a .524 hitting percentage against EMU.

While only registering six kills in UALR's victory over Memphis, she also notched a career high six blocks.

Don't Forget the Pep

With the great season thus far for Edina Begic and Adisa Hodzic, there is another record-setting player who should not be forgotten, senior Emily Pepperman.

Pepperman holds the school record for digs in a career (1281) and looks to climb higher with 69 career double-digit kill matches under her belt. In 2012, she already is averaging more than 0.25 digs per set in 2012 than last season. With 3.75 digs per set, she is currently ninth in the conference.

Pepperman has not only played in every match since 2009 (90), she has also appeared in every possible set during that time (333).

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