Volleyball Conference Play Begins ... Then a Trip to Mile High
GREELEY, Colo. -- The Bears are off to their best start at the NCAA Division I level, and now they hope that carries over into the start of Big Sky Conference play.
Northern Colorado will travel to take on the Montana Grizzlies at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, in Missoula and the Fighting Bobcats of Montana State at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, in Bozeman.
Both games will be available for viewing at BigSkyTV.org.
The Bears will then dip out of conference play for a single match on Tuesday, Sept. 23, when they travel south to take on in-state rival Denver at Hamilton Gymnasium. Northern Colorado holds a decided advantage in the all-time series with the Pioneers (25-5), but they’re off to a 7-2 start in 2008.
* Middle blocker Taylor Smith, a junior from Denton, Texas,
continues to excel on the Bears' frontline. Through Sept. 14,
Smith's hitting percentage (.459) had her ranked seventh in the
nation. She’s one of only three juniors in the national top
15 in the category. Fellow Northern Colorado junior Allison Raguse
was ranked 20th (.414), and the Bears, as a team, ranked 31st
* This is just the 10th time since 1976 that the Bears have started a season 6-0, and the team’s 6-1 mark through seven games was Northern Colorado’s best start to a season at the NCAA Division I level, which they began playing at in 2003.
* Juniors Kenzie Shreeve and Allison Raguse were named to the 2008 North Dakota State Doublewood Inn Classica All-Tournament team on Saturday, Sept. 6. Shreeve totaled 49 kills in the Bears’ three tournament matches.
* Allison Raguse, a Northern Colorado junior from Lincoln, Neb., was tabbed in early September by the Web site Collegiate Volleyball Update (CVU.com) as one of 10 Top Performers nationally for her work in the Bears’ 4-0 championship run through the La Salle Tournament in Philadelphia on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 29 and 30.
COLLEGIATE VOLLEYBALL UPDATE TOP PERFORMERS FOR WEEK 1
* Hillary Otte, Xavier, Junior, Right side, 6-0
* Angie Porche, Valparaiso, Junior, Outside hitter, 5-8
* Julie Rubenstein, Pepperdine, Senior, Outside hitter, 6-3
* Megan Argabright, Western Kentucky, Senior, Middle hitter, 6-1
* Yarimar Rosa, Florida International, Junior, Outside hitter, 5-10
* Caitlyn Vann, Missouri, Sophomore, Defensive specialist, 5-6
* Allison Nieters, Iona, Sophomore, Libero, 5-9
* Jessica Walters, UNLV, Junior, Outside hitter, 5-9
* Allison Raguse, Northern Colorado, Junior, Middle blocker, 6-0
* Ashley Asberry, Middle Tennessee State, Senior, Middle blocker, 5-9
* Allison Raguse was announced on Sept. 1 as the first Big Sky Conference Volleyball Player of the Week for matches played between Aug. 25 and Sept. 1. The honor came on the heels of Raguse earning Most Valuable Player honors during the Bears’ run to a season-opening 2008 La Salle Tournament title in Philadelphia.
* The Bears’ 4-0 start in 2008 was the program’s first such beginning since starting play at the NCAA Division I level and the program’s best start overall since beginning 10-0 in 2002.
* This season marks just the second time the Bears have started a season 4-0 since 1995.
* The Bears’ trip to Philadelphia in August was the first time Northern Colorado's volleyball program had competed in Pennsylvania since playing there in Sept. 2003 during the West Chester Ram Fest in West Chester, Pa.
n In terms of majority, the Bears are a “young” “Colorado” bunch this year. Seven of the 15 members of the Benson’s squad are freshmen in 2008 and nine of the players reside in The Centennial State.
* Lyndsey Benson’s Northern Colorado volleyball team was announced in August as one of only 70 NCAA Division I teams across the nation to earn a American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award for the 2007-2008 season.
The Bears, which also had 10 players named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team in 2007, were the only Big Sky team honored among the 70 D-I squads.
* There were four teams above and four teams below for Northern Colorado in the 2008 Big Sky Conference preseason poll, which was released in August.
The Bears received 34 points and no first-place votes to come in fiffth behind preseason favorite Portland State (61 and five), Sacramento State (53 and three), Weber State (50) and Eastern Washington (49 and one).
Montana (30), Northern Arizona (24) Idaho State (12) and Montana State (11) were all picked to finish lower than Northern Colorado in head coach Lyndsey Benson’s fourth season in Greeley.
* A strong junior class of Allison Raguse, Kenzie Shreeve, Taylor Smith and Breanna VanDerMost will be counted on heavily in 2008.
Raguse led Northern Colorado in service aces (25), solo blocks (12) and attack percentage (.249) in 2007, while Shreeve was one of Northern Colorado’s best all-around performers as a sophomore, leading the team in kills (365), attacks (1152), points (400.5) and points per game (3.51). Smith’s 122 blocks led the team last year, and VanDerMost’s 297 digs are the most of all the returning players.
* Also returning in 2008 are sophomores Jaclyn Bruns (122 digs in 2007), Ashley Lichtenberg (second-best .171 attack percentage last year) and Julie Stephenson (played in 20 of the Bears’ 30 matches last season), whose play loomed large in an increased role during the Northern Colorado’s China trip.
* Northern Colorado coach Lyndsey Benson announced in April the signing of high school senior Breanna “Bre” Williams to a National Letter of Intent. Williams (Littleton, Colo.) joins Amanda Arterburn (Aurora, Colo.), Natasha Law (Seabrook, Texas), Jill Dawson (Lincoln, Neb.), Natalie Laband (Monument, Colo.) and RaeLynn Snyder (Simla, Colo.) as new players who enrolled at Northern Colorado for fall semester 2008. Abbie Howe (Eaton, Colo.), another commitment, arrived on campus a semester early after transferring from the University of Colorado.
* The Bears will enter the 2008 season after finishing 3-1 in May during a 10-day exhibition tour through eastern China. Northern Colorado defeated Beijing Sport University (3-2), Beijing’s 101 Middle School (2-1) and Fuxing Senior High School (3-0) before falling 3-2 to Quing Pu Training Base.