FGCU Volleyball Opens 2012 Season This Weekend
Thursday, August 23, 2012 | by Mike Hill (@mike_hill84)
Florida A&M (0-1)
Florida Gulf Coast (1-0)
8/24/2012 | Gainesville, Fla. | Attendance: 0
Florida A&M17292514 --
Florida Gulf Coast25312325 --
Stats at a GlanceFAMUFGCU
Hitting Pct..102.231
Total Attacks147130
Statistical LeadersFAMUFGCU
AssistsGONZALES - 36
MEYER - 25
DigsMARQUEZ - 16
BlocksSORIANO - 3

FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Florida Gulf Coast University volleyball team will open the 2012 season this weekend when they head to Gainesville, Fla. to play in the 2012 Florida Tournament from August 24-25.

Tournament Schedule:
Friday, August 24th, 2012
5:30 p.m. – FGCU vs. FAMU

7:30 p.m. - Florida vs. FIU

Saturday, August 25th, 2012
10:00 a.m. - FIU vs. FGCU
12:00 p.m. - Florida vs. FAMU
5:30 p.m. - FAMU vs. FIU
7:30 p.m. - Florida vs. FGCU

Live stats will be provided for all three of FGCU’s matches and live video and audio for the Green and Blue’s Saturday night matchup with the No. 18 Gators will be available, at a minimal cost, via GatorVision.TV.

The Eagles, tabbed to finish second in the Atlantic Sun Conference preseason coaches’ poll, will face Florida A&M on Friday before finishing the weekend with a matches against FIU and tournament host No. 18 Florida on Saturday.

FGCU will meet both FAMU and Florida for the first time in program history, while the Green and Blue and FIU will battle for the sixth time. The Panthers own a 5-0 lead in the all-time series with the Eagles, winning the last meeting 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-15) on Nov. 8, 2011 in Miami.

Under the direction of fifth-year head coach Dave Nichols, the Eagles return 11 players, including preseason All-Conference selections Jill Hopper (Muncie, Ind./Yorktown HS) and Gigi Meyer (Gainesville, Fla./Buchholz HS). FGCU also welcomes four newcomers to the program, including transfers Courtney Greenberg (Fort Myers, Fla./Fort Myers HS/Juniata College), Christine Pinder (Gainesville, Fla./Buchholz HS/Houston/Central Florida CC) and Karina Mambuca (Naples, Fla./Gulf Coast HS/Northeastern).

The Lady Rattlers of FAMU were predicted to win the southern volleyball division of the MEAC in the 2012 preseason poll. FAMU libero Karol Marques, who registered 447 digs last season, was selected to the preseason All-MEAC team.

The Lady Rattlers, who finished as the runners-up in the 2011 MEAC championship game, will feature a pair of solid setter on this year’s roster. Setter Diana Gonzales solidified herself as the Lady Rattlers' primary setter after dishing out 899 assists in 2011. Gonzales will have some help/competiton this season in Patricia Figueiredo, a transfer setter from Florida State.

The Panthers, who finished 20-10 overall and 10-6 in conference play last season, were predicted to finish third in the Sun Belt Conference (East Division) by the league’s head coaches in the 2012 preseason poll.

Senior outside hitter Jovana Bjelica, an All-Sun Belt Conference Preseason Team selection for the third-consecutive season, is one of three seniors on FIU’s roster. A season ago, Bjelica led the SBC with 479 kills (4.52 kps) as she recorded a squad-best 11 double-doubles. The two-time All-SBC pick reached the double-digit kill plateau in all but four matches on the year, and registered 10 20-plus kill outings, including a career-high 31 kills versus Arkansas State (Oct. 21, 2011). Bjelica earned SBC Player of the Week honors on four occasions and CVU.com Top Performer of the Week recognition three times as a junior, and was named SBC Freshman of the Year in 2009.

The Gators, who are coming off an Elite Eight run in 2011 (27-6 overall) and their 21st consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, are the winningest program in the NCAA since Florida head coach Mary Wise’s arrival in 1991, earning 19 SEC titles. Florida boasts the highest attendance in the SEC annually and has ranked in the top-10 in the NCAA in nine out of the last 10 seasons.

Florida’s No. 18 in the 2012 American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I Preseason Coaches’ Top-25 Poll marks the 21st consecutive year that Mary Wise’s squad has been regarded as one of the nation’s top-20 teams headed into the season.

Florida junior middle blocker Chloe Mann, a Preseason All-SEC team selection, had a breakout sophomore campaign for the Gators, starting 14 matches and playing in 27 matches overall, setting a new Florida program record for hitting percentage in a season (.500). Mann tallied 145 kills and 67 blocks on the year. Her hitting efficiency aided the Gators to the nation’s best hitting percentage (.308) and the Gainesville native led the SEC in hitting percentage over the last six weeks of the campaign.