UALR wraps up intra-divisional play and a four-match in eight days swing when it travels to Tennessee and Kentucky this weekend to take on Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky. The Trojans battle Middle Tennessee (7-18, 4-4) on Friday (Oct. 19) at 7 p.m. before finishing the road trip at Western Kentucky (Oct. 20) at noon. UALR and the Blue Raiders are tied 8-8 in the all-time series while the Trojans trail the Hilltoppers 22-13.
Live stats (free) for both matches will be available on the home page at UALRTrojans.com and on the volleyball schedule page.
Scouting Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee played a tough non-conference schedule that quickly showed as it finished 3-12 before conference play. However, the Blue Raiders are 4-6 since and just finished a weekend sweep of both Florida Sun Belt schools.
It will be a different look for the Trojans this week. The past four matches, UALR has faced teams that are stronger on digging the ball out rather than putting up a block. That will change against the Blue Raiders as they are fourth in the SBC with 2.20 blocks per set but last in digs per set (12.11). Middle Tennessee hits a respectable .205. However, the hitters for UALR could have a good day because MT is last in the conference by allowing teams to hit .237. Aces may be in rare occurrences as both teams average under one a set.
Individually, Middle Tennessee can absolutely swing the ball as two players average more than two kills a set. The Blue Raiders have a strong candidate for Sun Belt Freshman of the Year in outside hitter Chelsea Ross, who is second in the conference and 49th in the nation with 4.08 kills per set. Senior outside hitter Brandi Waller counters with 2.15 kills per set. Youth serves MT well as freshman setter Shelby Anderton is eighth in the conference with 7.99 assists per set.
Defensively, youth comes to the forefront again as freshman Tyler Richardson is second in the conference and 67th in the nation with 1.22 blocks per set. Classmate and libero Bri McCombs sits ninth in the conference with 3.81 digs per set.
Western Kentucky (22-3, 8-0 Sun Belt) is currently ranked 19th in the country and for good reason. The Hilltoppers knocked off then-10th ranked (now 18th) Dayton in four sets and defeated then 22nd-ranked Michigan in five sets in Ann Arbor. WKU's only loss to a ranked team came in the second match of the season against then third-ranked Penn State (now overwhelmingly the top-ranked team in the nation). In fact, the Hilltoppers have won 14-straight matches, dating back to Sept. 8. WKU has only lost 16 sets all year, none in Sun Belt play and has not lost a set since the first against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 15.
Not surprisingly, WKU finds itself atop numerous offensive categories. The Hilltoppers lead the conference and is ninth in the nation with a .294 hitting percentage. They also lead in assists (13.19) and kills (13.94) per set (31st and 39th in the country, respectively). The only offensive category WKU does not lead the SBC in is aces per set (3rd, 1.37). Defensively, WKU is near the middle of the pack (fifth) in both blocks (2.11) and digs (14.50) per set. However, the Hilltoppers are holding teams to a league-low .154 hitting percentage.
Western Kentucky is near the tops of the conference in team numbers but have such a balanced attack that not as many players are near the top in the rankings. Senior outside hitter Jordyn Skinner is 10th in the conference with 3.07 kills per set. However, WKU has four different players that are top-10 in the conference in hitting percentage. Junior outside hitter Paige Wessel leads the way and is 13th in the nation while hitting over .400 while sophomore middle Boyan is right behind at .362 (39th in the nation). Junior setter Melanie Stutzman leads the conference and is 31st in the nation with 11.10 assists per set while is fifth in hitting percentage (.333).
Defensively, junior libero Ashley Potts is fourth with 4.52 digs per set.
Last Time against MT
MIAMI - The UALR volleyball team ended the 2011 in the first round of the Sun Belt Volleyball Championship with a 3-0 (22-25, 23-25, 23-25) loss to Middle Tennessee.
Edina Begic led the team in kills with 17 while Allison Wyatt led the team in digs with 14. Paige Gantar contributed eight kills and five blocks while Eva Xie recorded five kills and a career and team-high of eight blocks.
The Trojans recorded more blocks than Middle Tennessee at 12 to 10, but the Blue Raiders out hit the Trojans .234 to .184 and recorded more assists and digs.
UALR opened the first set with a kill by Xie, before Middle Tennessee (19-10, 14-2 SBC) rattled off two points. The lead changed four more times with the score tying ten.
With the score tied at 19, the Blue Raiders recorded three-straight points on two kills and a UALR attack error for the lead. MT won the set by three.
Both teams exchanged point to start set two, before a service ace by Daniele Souza Moura sparked a 3-0 run for UALR. MT pushed points tying the score at five on a UALR attack error and taking the 8-5 advantage. The score tied nine more times throughout the set. With the score tied at 21, a Blue Raider kill followed by a UALR attack error gave MT the edge. UALR fell by two.
Xie opened set three with a kill. The scored tied 14 times with the lead changing hands 11. A kill by Begic tied the score at 22, before a Blue Raider attack error gave the Trojans the one-point edge. MT won the final three points to win the finale by two.
Last Time against WKU
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - Despite taking the first two sets, the UALR volleyball team lost a hard fought battle to WKU 2-3 (25-19, 26-24, 20-25, 23-25, 13-15).
Freshman Edina Begic led the Trojans with team-highs of 24 kills and 22 digs, while freshman Marleen de Zoete also recorded a double-double with a career and team high of 54 assists and 11 digs.
Junior Eva Xie contributed 11 kills, while Emily Pepperman contributed 20 digs. Kristi Block led the team in blocks with eight, and Daniele Souza Moura recorded 17 digs.
The scored tied 14 times with the lead changing hands nine to open set one. UALR recorded the team's highest attack percentage in the set recording 16 kills on26 attempts with no errors and a .615 mark.
With the score tied at 15, a kill by Eva Xie sparked a three-point run by UALR to take the advantage. After a WKU (14-1, 1-0) kill, a kill by Block sparked another Trojan run of 4-0.
UALR held WKU to 19 points and won the set on a kill by Begic.
A kill by Xie opened the second set for the Trojans, before the Lady Toppers tied the score and rattled off three more points for the lead.
The score tied eight more times with the lead changing hands four. With the score tied at 22, a kill by WKU gave the team the edge, but UALR answered back with a kill by Paige Gantar.
The Trojans took set point on a kill by Xie, before WKU tied the score at 24 on a kill. A kill by Xie followed by a Lady Topper attack error won the set for the Trojans.
Over the next three sets, the Trojans recorded below .100 attack percentages while totaling 20 attack errors.
In set four, the score tied nine times with the score changing hands four. With the score tied at 19, a WKU service error and attack error gave the Trojans the two-point advantage.
WKU pushed points tying the score at 21 and gaining the lead. The Trojans came within one point on a WKU attack error but lost the set on a Lady Topper kill.
Both teams exchanged leads in set five. A UALR attack error tied the score at 12, before a WKU kill gave the home team the lead.
A kill by Xie tied the score at 13, but a UALR attack error followed by a WKU kill gave the Lady Toppers the set and match win.
Moving On Up
A trio of Trojans have their eyes on the career record book, including a pair of sophomores.
Having broken the record her junior season, senior Emily Pepperman has 1,553 digs for her career and moved into the top five for the Sun Belt record book (rally scoring). With 317 digs this year, she is 41 digs away from reaching the top-10 in single-season digs all four years at UALR.
Sophomore Edina Begic has 853 kills for her career and 431 this season. She only needs two kills to surpass her total last year. With a minimum of six matches left, if she averages 23 kills a match, she will break the single season record.
Sophomore Marleen de Zoete is eighth with 1,741 career assists and only need 110 more assists this season to reach the top 10 in career annals.