The second season begins for the UALR volleyball team this weekend when it travels to South Florida to begin Sun Belt Conference play with intra-division match-ups with FIU (3-9) and Florida Atlantic (3-6). The Trojans take on the Golden Panthers Friday (Sept. 21) at 5:30 p.m. while taking on the Owls Sunday (Sept. 23). Live video of the match against Florida Atlantic will be available by clicking here.
The Golden Panthers enter the weekend with a record of 3-9. FIU hey has played a number of quality teams including at Florida (currently 13th), against Pepperdine (currently 14th), at Florida State (currently 15th) and at Colorado State (receiving votes). FIU has beaten Florida A&M twice and BCU.
Senior outside hitter Marija Prsa leads the Golden Panthers and is fifth in the Sun Belt in kills with 3.39 per set. She also leads the team in digs (3.05 per set). Freshman opposite Lucia Castro and junior middle Kimberly Smith both average more than two kills a set (2.93 and 2.44, respectively). Freshman Ashlee Hodskin leads the team and is seventh in the SBC with 287 assists (8.70 per set). Redshirt sophomore Jessica Egan, who saw most of her playing time early in the year, is second on the team with just more than six assists this season.
UALR holds a sizeable advantage when it comes to the net. The Trojans are second in the conference with a .225 hitting percentage while FIU allows its opposition a .220 mark. A key to the match will be the FIU offense against the UALR defense. FIU is only hitting .146 on the year but UALR has allowed a .231 hitting percentage. UALR holds a slight advantage on the block, 2.20-2.02 per set.Scouting Florida Atlantic
The Owls and first year head coach Fernanda Nelson had a different approach to scheduling in the pre-conference slate and enter conference play 3-6. While most teams competed in four weekend of tournaments before conference, FAU opted to play in only two, four match tournaments with a mid-week meeting with Stetson.
FAU only won three matches last year and have already tied that total with two five-set wins at Stetson and a win over Villanova this past weekend. Three of Florida Atlantics' losses have been in five sets (Hampton, Gonzaga and UC Riverside).
Florida Atlantic leads the Sun Belt and is 33rd in the nation with an average of 1.59 aces per set. Individually, freshman setter Jelena Jovanovic is tops in the SBC and 31st in the nation with 0.46 per set while ninth and 183rd, respectively, with 8.59 assists per set. However, UALR sophomore Edina Begic may get a golden opportunity to set a new career-match high (currently at four) in aces for a match this weekend because FAU is giving up 1.67 aces a set. Begic is currently fourth in aces in the SBC.
Three different FAU players are averaging more than two kills a set, led by sophomore outside Alessia Pizzocheri with 3.05 kills per set. Junior outside hitter Darija Sataric adds 2.38 kills a set while senior ouside Thacilli Pereira contributes 2.03.
While senior libero Cintia Nightingale gets the majority of digs at 3.46 per set, the bumps are pretty evenly distributed as three different Owls average more than two per set. PIzzocheri averages 2.62 digs while Pereira is close behind at 2.51 digs per set. Jovanovic is the possible double-double threat from the setters position with two digs a set. Last Time against FIU
Last Time against FIU
MIAMI, Fla. - Paige Gantar led the team in kills with nine, while Emily Pepperman led the team in digs with 17. Kristi Block recorded a team-high of three blocks.
UALR opened the first set on a 2-0 run with kills by Block and Eva Xie. After a kill by FIU (13-7, 5-4 SBC), the Trojans scored two-straight points on kills by Xie and Block for the 4-1 edge.
UALR maintained the advantage, but the Golden Panthers pushed points tying the score at six and seven before taking the team's first lead 8-7 on a kill.
The score tied nine times, before a UALR attack error gave FIU the 19-18 advantage. The Golden Panthers held the Trojans to 19 points recording the final four points and winning the set on a kill.
UALR opened the second set with a kill by Xie, before FIU rattled off six-straight points including a service ace and UALR attack error for the lead.
The Trojans never recovered as FIU scored as many as seven-straight points and held UALR to 14 as the Golden Panthers won the set on a kill.
Both teams exchanged points to open set three, before FIU scored three more points for a 4-1 lead. UALR pushed points tying the score four-times before taking the 13-12 lead on a FIU attack error.
The score tied ten more times, before a UALR attack error gave FIU the 23-22 edge. FIU reached match point with UALR coming within one on a kill by Gantar. The Golden Panthers won the set and match 25-23 on a kill.
Last Time against Florida Atlantic
BOCA RATON, Fla. - Paige Gantar led the Trojans in kills with 12 and also contributed seven digs, while Edina Begic recorded a double-double with 11 kills and 12 digs.
Emily Pepperman recorded a team-high of 13 digs, and Allison Wyatt recorded 11 digs in the win.
In the first set, a kill by Eva Xie gave UALR the 1-0 lead, before a Florida Atlantic (3-16, 0-7) kill tied the score. A kill by Begic followed by two-straight FAU errors regained a 4-1 edge for the Trojans.
UALR maintained the lead, but the Owls came within one-point twice. UALR held FAU to 19 points and won the set on an Owl attack error.
Florida Atlantic opened the second set on a 2-0 run, before a kill by Begic gave the Trojans' the team's first point.
The score tied twice, but UALR pushed points for the lead. The Trojans maintained the team's advantage holding the Owls to 19 points and winning on a kill by Xie and an FAU error.
A kill by Xie opened set three. The score tied 18 times and the lead changed hands six throughout the set.
With the score tied at 23, a kill by FAU gave the Owls set point, before a kill by Xie tied the score. Two-straight Florida Atlantic attack errors gave the Trojans the 26-24 set and match win.
New Kids on the Block
Head coach Van Compton is currently beginning her 25th season (22nd with the Trojans in the Sun Belt) as the head coach, which makes her the dean of all Sun Belt coaches. In comparison, four of the 11 schools in the SBC have new coaches for the 2012 season. In an interesting twist, both of the schools in South Florida not only have new coaches, both are beginning their first season at the helm of an NCAA Division I program.
Compton will be facing off against FIU's Trevor Theroulde on Friday. Theroulde served the last four seasons as assistant coach of the Golden Panthers after assistant stints at UCF and Marshall. He replaced former UALR player and assistant coach Danijela Tomic. Tomic led FIU to a 158-61 record, three SBC regular season titles and two NCAA appearances in seven seasons. Tomic is the second-winningest coach in FIU volleyball history.
Fernada Nelson takes over the reins at Florida Atlantic after four seasons as assistant at Florida Gulf Coast. While she has no NCAA Division I head coaching experience, she helped National American University to the 2002 (player) and 2006 (coach) NAIA national championships in volleyball.
They Say It's Your Birthday
During the volleyball season in just more than a month span, seven different Trojans will celebrate a birthday.
The celebrations began Saturday (Sept. 15) with senior Daniele Souza Moura, and what a party it was. In two matches, Souza Moura had 16 kills and only one error on 35 attempts (.429 hitting percentage). In the five-setter against SMU, she just missed double-digit kills for the second time this season and the first since the Trojans first match.
This week, two Trojans celebrated birthdays in freshman Mikalah Booher on Sunday (Sept. 16) and sophomore Marleen de Zoete on Tuesday (Sept. 18). Booher has appeared in four matches for UALR and turned in critical kills in the win against Austin Peay in five sets on the first day of the season (Aug. 24). De Zoete is currently third in the conference with 10.73 assists per sets. Earlier this year, she had the most assists in a match by a Trojan in six years and the most by any Sun Belt player in five with 71 assists against Austin Peay (Aug. 31).
Other birthdays during the season include sophomore Edina Begic on Oct. 9, freshmen Jordan McKinley and Tyler Davis on Oct. 18 and 20 and sophomore Allison Wyatt on Nov. 5.
The Begic File
Sophomore Edina Begic continues to have the accolades pour in for the season. Before the year, she was named to the Preseason All-Sun Belt volleyball team. She promptly went out and received All-Tournament honors at the Memphis and Saluki Invitationals.
Add to that the Oklahoma Invitational this past weekend (Sept. 14-15). She recorded her team-leading eighth double-double with 25 kills and 19 digs against SMU. With at least 20 kills in every match, including 20 in a straight-set loss to Oklahoma (Sept. 15), Begic now has 15 consecutive games (dating back to last season) with double digit kills. She remains only one of four players in the country to record more than 30 kills in a single match. She achieved that feat against UT-Martin with 31 kills in four sets.
Begic still leads the nation at 6.02 points and is second with 5.33 kills a set, narrowing the gap with the national leader, Tyler Herderson of Tulsa (5.44). Begic is also fourth in the Sun Belt with 0.37 aces per set.
The UALR volleyball team ended a two-match losing streak Friday with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 26-24) sweep at FAU. The Trojans improve to 9-14 overall and 4-5 in Sun Belt play.The UALR volleyball team ended the Trojans trip to Florida with a 0-3 (19-25, 14-25, 23-25) loss at FIU Sunday. The Trojans fall to 9-15 overall and 4-6 in Sun Belt Conference action.