August 22, 2006

Volleyball to Open Season at Arizona Invitational This Weekend

Aug. 22, 2006

Arizona Invitational Game Notes in PDF Format
Download Free Acrobat Reader

University of Northern Colorado Bears (0-0)
at Four Points Sheraton Arizona Invitational
Tucson, Ariz. * McKale Center (14,545)

vs. University of San Francisco Dons (0-0)
Match #1 * Friday, August 25, 2006 * 12:30 p.m. MT

vs. #18 University of Arizona Wildcats (0-0)
Match #2 * Friday, August 25, 2006 * 7:00 p.m. MT

vs. Siena College Saints (0-0)
Match #3 * Saturday, August 26, 2006 * 4:30 p.m. MT

The Series: Arizona leads Northern Colorado 3-0. Northern Colorado has never faced San Francisco or Siena.

The Coaches: Lyndsey Benson is 14-16 (.467) in her second season as a collegiate head coach. It is her fourth overall year with the Northern Colorado program.

Jeff Nelson is 53-41 (.564) in his fourth year at USF and 219-137 (.615) in his 12th season overall. David Rubio is 278-141 (.663) in his 15th season at Arizona and 400-207 (.659) in his 20th year overall. Garvey Pierre is 34-49 (.410) in his fourth year at Siena.

Live Stats: Live stats will be available through links at UNCBears.com.

GAME INFORMATION
The University of Northern Colorado women's volleyball team kicks off the 2006 season with a tough task this weekend at the Four Points Sheraton Arizona Invitational in Tucson. The Bears will face off with San Francisco, No. 18 Arizona and Siena (a 2005 NCAA Tournament team) in the weekend event.

THE BEAR FACTS
Northern Colorado will not be "easing" into the season this year, as they will challenge a trio of teams this weekend that combined for 63 victories in 2005; two of those teams were in the NCAA Tournament a year ago as well.

The Bears are celebrating the fact they are finally a part of a conference, as they begin play in the Big Sky this season. They are also finished with the reclassification effort to Division I and will be eligible for both the conference and NCAA Tournaments this season.

Northern Colorado's roster sports a pair of seniors in Lizzy Rhoads and Meredith Alder. Rhoads earned first-team Division I All-Independent honors last season while Alder had her best season in a UNC uniform. They are joined by junior libero Abby Mayne, who was the 2005 Division I Independent Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

The roster also includes a group of talented newcomers, two of which will most likely be in the starting lineup on Friday. That includes freshman setter Kristen Schevikhoven and freshman outside hitter Devon Crotteau. Freshmen Allison Raguse, Breanna VanDerMost and Taylor Smith should also see action.

OPPONENT INFORMATION

San Francisco: The Dons return 10 players and five starters from last year's team that was 18-13 overall. USF received six votes in the AVCA preseason poll for the first time in school history.

Arizona: The Wildcats enter the 2006 season as the 18th ranked team nationally in the AVCA/CSTV preseason poll. Arizona returns 11 letterwinners from last year's team that was 25-6 overall (with all six losses coming to nationally-ranked teams) and lost to Santa Clara in the NCAA Elite 8. UA has made 10 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Siena: The Saints also appeared in the NCAA Tournament a year ago, after going 7-2 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and winning the MAAC Tournament Championship. Siena lost to eventual national champion Washington in the first round of the tournament. They return 11 players and four starters from that squad.

Series History: Northern Colorado has never faced San Francisco or Siena. The Bears and Wildcats have faced three times, but not since 1978, when both were competing in the AIAW. Arizona won all three matchups in the series (1976, 1977 and 1978).

NORTHERN COLORADO NOTES

Bears Now Officially a Member of the Big Sky Conference: On July 1, 2006 Northern Colorado officially became a member of the Big Sky Conference, ending its third year run as a Division I Independent after starting the reclassification process to Division I. The team will compete against a full 18-match conference schedule and be eligible for both the conference and NCAA Tournaments. Northern Colorado in the ninth member of the Big Sky, joining Eastern Washington, Idaho State, Montana, Montana State, Northern Arizona, Portland State, Sacramento State and Weber State.

Bears Picked Eighth in Big Sky Preseason Poll: Northern Colorado was picked to finish eighth in its inaugural season of Big Sky play in a preseason vote of league coaches. Sacramento State was picked as the favorite for the fourth time in five years (they received eight of nine first place votes); the Hornets have won either the regular season or tournament titles each of the last nine years. Eastern Washington was picked second, Portland State (who received a first place vote) third, Montana State fourth, Weber State fifth, Idaho State sixth, Montana seventh and Northern Arizona ninth. The Bears first Big Sky Conference matchup is on Sept. 14 when they host Northern Arizona.

Season Openers: Northern Colorado is 23-7 all-time in season openers, including an 8-3 mark in the last 11 years. Northern Colorado has, however, lost each of its last two season openers, falling 3-0 at Creighton last season and 3-2 at New Mexico in 2004. Prior to those losses the team had not lost a season-opener since a 3-1 loss to UC Davis in 1996. Other season opening loses include West Texas State (1990), Regis (1988), Texas (1977) and Northern Arizona (1976).

Mayne Digs Her Way Near 1,000 Dig Club: Junior Abby Mayne, the 2005 Division I Independent Co-Defensive Player of the Year, is only 147 digs away from becoming the 18th member of Northern Colorado's 1,000-Dig Club. Mayne has netted 853 digs in her two-year career as a Bear. The last Northern Colorado players to join the club were Linnea Kiilsgaard and Kristi Krom, both who entered the club during the 2003 season. Mayne has had double-digit digs in 24 of her last 28 matches and in 44 of 63 career matches.

Rhoads Blocks Her Way Into Record Books: Senior Lizzy Rhoads, a 2005 Division I All-Independent first-team selection, was made a splash in the Northern Colorado record books with her blocking efforts during her career. Last season she registered 140 total blocks (1.28/game) to lead the team. Entering this season she needs only 17 block assists and 61 total blocks to enter the Bears Top 10 lists in each category.

Nationally Ranked Teams: Northern Colorado will not have to wait long to face some of the best competition in the country, as they square off with nationally-ranked Arizona this weekend. The Bears are also scheduled to face No. 9 Wisconsin on Sept. 8 in Milwaukee. Last season the Bears raced a pair of nationally-ranked teams in one weekend, taking on No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 14 Missouri; UW and MU won each match in 3-0 fashion. That had marked the first time in the Division I Era of the program that Northern Colorado had faced a nationally-ranked Division I team. Prior to that you had to go back to the AIAW days (pre-1982) to find an instance of playing an opponent of that caliber. As a Division II team, the Bears faced plenty of nationally-ranked D-II teams but never a nationally-ranked D-I team.

Home Sweet Home: The Bears have been nearly unbeatable at home, posting a 265-50 (.841) record at home since Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion (formerly Butler-Hancock Hall) opened in 1976 and winning 47 of their last 51 matches played in the building. The Bears had a 35-match winning streak at home (the second longest Division I home-court winning streak in the country) until falling to IPFW on Nov. 11, 2005. The Bears had the longest active home winning streak in Division I until Sept. 29, 2005 when Ohio University won their 32nd in a row. Prior to the IPFW loss, Northern Colorado had not lost at home since falling to North Dakota State by a 3-2 margin on Nov. 2, 2001. Northern Colorado was a perfect 12-0 at home in 2002, 8-0 in each 2003 and 2004 and were 6-2 in 2005 (they were 6-3 overall at home - one loss at the Student Rec Center is not included in the Butler-Hancock totals). The Bears are 54-5 at Butler-Hancock since the beginning of the 1999 season (the 2000 season was played at the Student Rec Center and not included in those totals). The 35 wins in a row at home established a new school record, breaking the old record of 33 in a row set from 1985-87. The volleyball team played its 300th match in Butler-Hancock on Sept. 7, 2004 defeating the Wyoming Cowgirls 3-0 in front of 914 fans.

SEASON NOTES

Reclassification Finished; Northern Colorado Now NCAA Tournament Eligible: The Northern Colorado volleyball team has completed the reclassification process to Division I and are eligible for both the Big Sky Conference and NCAA Tournaments this season. The Bears began the four-year reclassification process to Division I in the 2003-04 school year. While all other Northern Colorado athletic programs (besides wrestling) have one more year left in the reclassification process, volleyball and wrestling were fast-tracked through multi-division classification and became postseason eligible a year earlier than the department's other 17 sports.

BigSkyTV.org: Do you want to see every Northern Colorado Big Sky (and home non-conference games) volleyball, football, men's basketball and women's basketball game this season but cannot make it to the venues? Well with a new venture this season that is possible at BigSkyTV.org. When watching the games, fans can listen to the radio audio from either home or visiting team, participate in a live chat room and view live stats. For $99.99 per year, fans will have access to events from all conference teams. If fans want to just watch Northern Colorado events for the year, they can choose the $59.99 package. If fans want access to a month's worth of events, they can pay $49.99 for conference-wide events or $39.99 for a single team's events. Individual events cost $6.99. Revenues from subscriptions to the Northern Colorado feed go to the athletic department.

Bears Home Gets an Upgrade: A new conference is not the only thing the Bears have new about the program this season, as they move into the newly renovated Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion this season. The program's home since 1976, the building got a makeover as part of a $16 million dollar student fee referendum (that also including improvements to Jackson Soccer Stadium, Butler-Hancock Athletic Center practice fields, Butler-Hancock Tennis Complex and the addition of a practice gym). Butler-Hancock, which opened in 1976, received brand new theater-style chairback seats, a new sound system, scoreboard/message center and new entrance among other things, in helping to spruce up the building that is now over 30 years old. The construction completion will prevent the Bears from playing their first home match in the building (Sept. 14 vs. Northern Arizona) but the Bears will finally get to be in their new home on Sept. 28 when they host Montana.

Bears Earn AVCA Team Academic Award: Academics are always a priority for the Northern Colorado volleyball team and last year was no exception. Northern Colorado once again earned the AVCA Team Academic award (one of 54 Division I schools and 287 total volleyball teams to earn the honor) for the 2005-06 school year. The award (given since the 1992-93 school year) honors teams that have at least a 3.30 cumulative GPA. In 2005-06 Northern Colorado had a combined 3.57 GPA in the fall and a 3.53 GPA in the spring.

Benson Fourth Youngest D-I Volleyball Head Coach: When Lyndsey Benson assumed head coaching duties on August 9, 2005, she became the fourth youngest Division I head women's volleyball coach in the country. Entering this season Benson, 26, is still the fourth youngest coach, trailing only Kristina Hernandez of Loyola (24), Holly Strauss of Connecticut (24) and Nicole McRay (25) of Georgia Southern. Benson earned his first victory as Bears head coach Sept. 3, 2005, as the Bears topped rival Wyoming by a 3-2 margin (30-28, 24-30, 30-26, 25-30, 15-9) at the UniWyo Cowgirl Classic.

It's A Sister Thing: Sisters playing at Northern Colorado has been somewhat of a tradition over the years for the Bears. When sophomore Lenay Goble joined the program, it marked the eighth time a set of sisters has played volleyball at Northern Colorado. Her sister Teale was an All-American from 1999-02 and served as an assistant coach in 2003. Six of the eight sets of sisters to play at Northern Colorado have done so at the same time.

Bears Have Pair of Multi-Sport Stars: It is hard enough to play one varsity sport at the Division I level in college, but this season Northern Colorado's roster has not one but two multi-sport stars on it. Junior Dani Veal and freshman Kaley Hoover are also both on the women's basketball roster and will suit-up and set on the hardwood this winter. Each, however, is coming off off-season injuries and will redshirt this season for the Bears (sophomore Kenzie Shreeve will also redshirt).

It's All One Big Happy Family: Six current Bears volleyball players have a relation to someone now or in the past that have played for the Northern Colorado Athletics Program. (1) Senior Meredith Alder's mother, Carol Johnson-Klein, was an All-American volleyball player at UNC (1978-81); (2) Senior Lizzy Rhoads' father played basketball for the Bears from 1968-71; (3) Junior Dulcie Stone's father played basketball (1971-74) for the Bears as did her uncle Don (1968-71) and her uncle Dale was a UNC football player (1974-77); (4) Sophomore Lenay Goble's sister Teale was an All-American outside hitter for UNC (1999-02); (5) Junior Dani Veal's uncles' Dennis (1984-86) and Darren (1991-93) both wrestled while at Northern Colorado; (6) Junior Abby Mayne's father did not play athletics at UNC, but he is currently the UNC Band Director, giving him a close association with the UNC athletics programs.