FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Florida Gulf Coast University volleyball team will open the 2010 season this weekend by hosting the 2010 FGCU Homewood Suites Volleyball Invitational at Alico Arena.
Friday, August 27th
|Bethune-Cookman vs. FGCU
||UCF vs. Houston Baptist
|| FAU vs. Bethune-Cookman
|Houston Baptist vs. FAU
|UCF vs. FGCU
Saturday, August 29th
| Houston Baptist vs. Bethune-Cookman
|| FAU vs. FGCU
|| Bethune-Cookman vs. UCF
| Houston Baptist vs. FGCU
The Eagles, tabbed to finish second in the Atlantic Sun Conference preseason coaches’ poll, will host Bethune-Cookman (8 a.m.) and UCF (7 p.m.) on Friday before finishing the weekend with matches against FAU (11 a.m.) and Houston Baptist (7 p.m.) on Saturday. FGCU is 54-7 all-time at home, including 29-4 since moving to Division I.
FGCU is 2-0 all-time against B-CU and 4-0 against members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. It will be the Blue and Green’s second meeting with UCF, after the Eagles defeated the Knights in Orlando, Fla. 3-1 on Oct. 21, 2008. FGCU is 1-1 all-time against Conference USA competition. FGCU and FAU have met once with the Owls taking the lone matchup. The Eagles are 0-4 all-time against Sun Belt schools. It will be FGCU’s first meeting with Houston Baptist and an opponent from the Great West Conference.
Under the direction of third-year head coach Dave Nichols, the 2010 edition of the Eagles return 11 players from the 2009 club that was the runner-up at the 2009 Atlantic Sun Volleyball Championships and went 15-5 in the A-Sun to finish the regular season in third place. FGCU will be without All-Conference performer Jelena Simic (Lazarevac, Serbia), who will redshirt the 2010 season.
Live stats for every match of the will be available at FGCUAthletics.com and FGCU’s four matches will be broadcast online at ASun.TV.
Tickets for the 2010 Homewood Suites Volleyball Invitational can be purchased through the FGCU Ticket Office in Alico Arena either in person or by phone at (239) 590-7145. Tickets are also available at www.FGCUathletics.com/tickets. All Tournament passes, valid for all games during the tournament, will be $10 for adults and $5 for youth (ages 3-18). Admission for FGCU faculty, staff, and students is free.
The Wildcats of B-CU were predicted to finish second in the MEAC Southern Division, for the second consecutive season. No Wildcats were named on the All-Conference team
B-CU will have challenges to match last season’s 13-15 overall mark and 5-3 conference mark. After the graduation of Chelle Tison, the Wildcats kill leader with 249.
Jessica Wilson and Kaiyana Johnson, the leading returners in kills, will be relied upon heavily this season. Johnson finished last season as the MEAC Tournament’s leading blocker before the Wildcats’ exit, and was named to the All-Tournament team.
Juniors Kristin Fisher and Sara Rex will be looked upon to lead the fresh-faced UCF squad this season, a group that consists of four juniors, four sophomores and seven freshmen.
A season ago, Fisher led UCF with 24 service aces, while ranking second on the squad with 359 kills, a 3.18 kills-per-set average, 12 block solos and 407.5 points as an outside hitter. She was also one of only three Knights to play in all 30 matches as UCF finished 12-18 overall (3-13 Conference USA).
Rex was also a major role player in UCF's system in 2009, finishing her sophomore season with a .285 hitting percentage, 100 kills, 62 total blocks and a 0.83 blocks-per-game average. The middle blocker would have tallied even higher numbers had she not missed the final six matches of the year due to an injury.
FAU was selected to finish tied for fifth in the Sun Belt Conference’s East Division. The Owls were 6-19 overall and 4-12 in Sun Belt play in 2009.
The Owls will be led by senior setter Joanne Marras Tate. Marras Tate led the team with 614 assists in 2009. Last season, she posted 47 assists in a four-set win over FGCU (Oct. 20, 2009).
FAU also returns the senior duo of Kristyna Dzmuranova and Anne Vaughan, who finished the 2009 season second and third on the team in kills, respectively.
Houston Baptist Notes
Houston Baptist returns eight players from a team that posted a 13-20 overall record in 2009.
The Huskies will be without Ligia Clemente and Natalie Magat, who were the team leaders in kills and assists, respectively. Clemente finished the season with 287 kills and 2.56 kills per set, while Magat racked up 927 assists and 21 service aces.
Houston Baptist will look to Heather Leaverton to step up during the 2010 campaign. Leaverton started in all 33 matches for HBU and recorded 272 kills and 36 services aces, which ranked her second on the squad.