The Opening Serve
UALR makes the trek to Houston, Texas to take part in the Rice Invitational this weekend (Sept. 6-7). The Trojans begin the tournament against LSU (3-0) on Friday night at 4 p.m. before taking on host Rice (0-3) on Saturday at noon. UALR concludes the weekend against Texas A&M Corpus Christi (1-2) Saturday at 5 p.m.
While live video is available (subscription, for UALR at Rice only) is available by clicking here, Trojan fans can follow live stats all weekend for free. Live stats against LSU are available by clicking here, while stats against Rice will be available here. Live stats for the final match against Texas A&M Corpus Christi are available by clicking here.
• UALR (1-2) looks to continue its momentum this weekend when it travels to Houston, Texas for the Rice Invitational. The Trojans take on LSU (2-0) on Friday (Sept. 6) at 4 p.m. before taking on host Rice (noon) and Texas A&M Corpus Christi (5 p.m.) on Saturday.
• UALR leads the Sun Belt Conference in assists per set (13.50), kills per set (14.17), blocks per set (2.79) and digs per set (18.75).
• Junior Sonja Milanovic’s 22 digs against Southeast Missouri State Friday (Aug. 30) was the most digs in the first match of the season since Emily Pepperman’s 24 against Georgia State Aug. 26, 2011. It was also matched the most digs in a match for a newcomer in UALR history, (Larisa Durmisevic on Aug. 30, 2002.
• In their only meeting, UALR lost to LSU in four sets on Sept. 2, 2011. Edina Begic led the Trojans with 14 kills while Desiree Elliot had 14 kills for the Tigers.
• UALR fell to Texas A&M Corpus Christi in five sets on Aug. 27, 2010. Logen Bourque for the Islanders is the only current player for either team to appear in that match, finishing with 13 digs.
It will be the third-straight match against an SEC West opponent for the Trojans when LSU (3-0) and UALR (1-2) collide Friday afternoon (Sept. 6) at 4 p.m.
The Tigers began the season with a pair of 3-1 wins over Texas-San Antonio and UC Davis before knocking off San Diego State in five sets. Cati Leak leads LSU with 4.92 kills per set. Desiree Elliot (3.00), Briana Holman (2.50) and Emily Ehrle (2.00) all average two or more kills a set for the Tigers. Malorie Pardo helps keep the hitters going for LSU to the tune of 12 assists per set while Katie Lindelow paces the Tigers’ defense with 4.31 assists per game.
While the Tigers own a 14.38-14.17 kills per set edge over UALR, LSU is allowing opponents almost 15 kills a set while the Trojans are holding opponents to only 13.33 kills per set. UALR will also put its SBC-best 2.79 blocks per set on the line as LSU is surrendering only 1.46 blocks per set.
LSU was picked to win the SEC West in 2013.
Despite only being eight hours apart, this will be the first time in the history of the two programs that Houston-based Rice (0-3) will face UALR (1-2) when the two square off Saturday (Sept. 7) at noon.
The Owls are led by Stephanie Mendivil’s four kills a set, followed by Jillian Humphrey’s 2.79 kills per set. However Rice likes to sub its setters freely as Mariah Riddlesprigger leads the team with 8.71 assists per set while Sara Blasier is close behind with 5.33 assists per set. Four Owls lead a balanced defense as four players average two or more digs per set, led by Kimberly Vaio’s 2.93.
Rice was picked to win the 2013 Conference USA crown.
Scouting Texas A&M Corpus Christi
UALR (1-2) is looking to avenge a tough five-set loss from 2010 when the Trojans square off against Texas A&M Corpus Christi (1-2) Saturday (Sept. 7) at 5 p.m.
The Islanders feature a balanced offensive attack, led by Ivy Baresh’s 2.67 kills per set. Briana Brink is second (2.25) on the team while Ashley Phelps is third (2.20) in kills per set. Logen Bourque averages 9.08 assists per set while Baresh (3.25) and Hailey King (3.00) are first and second, respectively, in digs per set.
Texas A&M Corpus Christi was picked fourth by the SIDs and seventh by the head coaches in the Southland Conference preseason poll.
Putting Up a Wall
UALR had an auspicious start to the season at the net in terms of blocking, recording no rejections in the first three sets of the year against Southeast Missouri State (Aug. 30). That all changed fairly quickly.
In their last nine sets, the Trojans have recorded 33.5 blocks (3.72 blocks per set). That includes seven blocks in the final two sets against SEMO, seven in three sets at Mississippi State (Aug. 30) and 19.5 in four sets in a rematch at MSU (Aug. 31). The 19.5 blocks were the most team rejections since UALR had 20.5 against Louisiana Oct. 25, 2002.
Junior converted middle blocker Adisa Hodzic leads the team with 14 blocks while freshman Carolee Dillard is second with 12 blocks. Six of Dillard’s blocks are of the solo variety, which is the most for an individual in the SBC and is more than or equal to seven teams in the conference.
People Have Noticed
On the heels of capturing the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year honor, junior Edina Begic was named the 2013 Preseason Player of the Year in a vote of the conference head coaches released Aug. 26.
Becoming just the second player in conference history to win Freshman and Player of the Year honors in consecutive years, Begic finished the 2012 regular season as the national leader in both kills per set and points per set. She also led the conference with 37 aces for the season.
In the season’s opening match against Southeast Missouri State, Begic became only the ninth Trojan with 1,000+ career kills with a floater mishandled by the Redhawks in the second set. Reaching the milestone in only 222 sets, Begic became the fastest UALR to 1,000 kills. She bested the 260 sets it took Amila Barakovic (2005-08).
Running the Defense
The past four seasons, Emily Pepperman (2009-2012) dominated the digs category for UALR, finishing her career as the school’s all-time digs leader (1,625). So far in 2013, it has been defense by committee from the back row.
Junior Capri Rino leads the team and is fifth in the SBC with 3.92 digs per set, reaching double-digits in digs each of her first three matches at UALR. Joining Rino is junior teammate Edina Begic, who is 10th in the conference with 3.50 digs per set.
Joining Rino and Begic is sophomore newcomer Sonja Milanovic, who registered 22 digs in her first collegiate match against Southeast Missouri State (Aug. 30). The 22 digs ties Larisa Durmisevic (2002-2005) for the most digs in a debut match for the Trojans.
Trojan Rewind: Mississippi State
Junior Edina Begic ran her double-double streak to eight matches while classmates Adisa Hodzic and Marleen de Zoete narrowly missed their own double-dips as UALR beat Mississippi State 3-1 (25-22, 23-25, 25-20, 25-17) Saturday (Aug. 31).
Begic recorded 15 kills and 18 digs for the Trojans while de Zoete added 43 assists and nine digs. Hodzic narrowly missed her first career double-double with 10 kills and nine blocks. Sophomore Sonja Milanovic contributed 11 spikes while junior Capri Rino had 18 digs.
Freshman Kelsey Leech chipped in the UALR defense with 11 digs.
In the team stats, MSU led in kills 55-54, but the Trojans hit .245 to Mississippi State’s .145. The biggest advantage for UALR came on the block, 19.5-4.
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UALR returns to a familiar atmosphere when it makes the trek to Las Cruces, N.M. to take part in the New Mexico State Tournament, hosted by former SBC member New Mexico State. Besides the host Aggies, UALR will face Northern Illinois and La Salle for the first time.