October 23, 2006

Volleyball Bears Begin Busy Week With In-State Rival Air Force on Tuesday

Oct. 22, 2006

Air Force/Montana/Montana State Notes in PDF Format
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University of Northern Colorado Bears (10-10, 6-4 Big Sky)
vs. United States Air Force Academy Falcons (3-17)
Match #21 * Tuesday, October 24 * 7:00 p.m. MT
USAF Academy, Colo. * Clune Arena (5,393)

University of Northern Colorado Bears
vs. University of Montana Grizzlies (10-10, 7-4 Big Sky)
Match #22 * Thursday, October 26 * 5:30 p.m. MT
Missoula, Mont. * West Auxiliary Gym (1,218)

University of Northern Colorado Bears
vs. Montana State University Bobcats (6-14, 2-9 Big Sky)
Match #23 * Saturday, October 28 * 7:00 p.m. MT
Bozeman, Mont. * Shroyer Gym (1,900)

The Series: Northern Colorado leads Air Force 47-13. The series with Montana is tied 1-1. Montana State leads the series 3-1.

The Coaches: Lyndsey Benson is 24-26 (.480) in her second season as a collegiate head coach. It is her fourth overall year with the Northern Colorado program.

Penny Lucas-White is 77-225 (.255) in her 11th year at Air Force and 172-305 (.361) in her 16th year overall. Jerry Wagner is 10-10 (.500) in his first year at Montana. Miya Malauulu is 58-48 (.547) in her fourth year at Montana State.

Live Stats: Available through links at UNCBears.com.

BigSkyTV.org: All Northern Colorado Big Sky volleyball matches (and home non-conference matches) can be seen live (and also on-demand) through the first-year venture BigSkyTV.org. Packages to see all Northern Colorado volleyball, football and men's and women's basketball games start as low of $59.99. For more information log onto www.BigSkyTV.org.

GAME INFORMATION
The University of Northern Colorado volleyball team continues a four-match road trip with a trio of matches this week. The Bears begin the week by taking on in-state rival Air Force (Tuesday, 7 p.m.) in a non-conference match before traveling to Montana (Thursday, 5:30 p.m.) and Montana State (Saturday, 7 p.m.) for two important Big Sky Conference matches.

THE BEAR FACTS
Northern Colorado ran its winning streak to three in a row with a 3-0 win over regional rival Wyoming last Wednesday. That win ran the Bears streak at home to 49 wins in its last 54 total matches.

The road proved to be a little harder for the Bears, as they lost a thriller in Flagstaff on Saturday night, falling 3-2 to Northern Arizona. That match was the beginning of the team's four match road trip, their last regular season road matches of the season.

This week the Bears have a busy week, playing three road matches in five days, including an important trip to the state of Montana for two Big Sky Conference matches. At least one win on that part of the trip would put the Bears in a good position to make the Big Sky Tournament.

Following the road swing, the Bears have four straight home matches to end the regular season, hosting Eastern Washington, Portland State, Weber State and Sacramento State.

Saturday's match at Northern Arizona was the 50th for Lyndsey Benson at Northern Colorado. She'll reach her 25th win with the team with her next victory.

OPPONENT INFORMATION

Air Force: After losing 14 matches in a row at one point this season, Air Force broke through with a pair of wins in non-conference action against Centenary and Alcorn State. Returning to Mountain West action this past weekend, the team lost in straight sets at both New Mexico and TCU. The team is still searching for its first home victory of the season, as they have a 0-6 record at Clune Arena this season (the team previously played at the Cadet East Gym).

Montana: The Griz enter this week on a three-match winning streak having topped Montana State, Weber State and Idaho State in its last three matches to improve to 7-4 in the Big Sky, holding the position right in front of the Bears in the standings. Montana has lost three matches in a row at home, although they took league leader Sacramento State to a fifth set in their last home match. Claudia Houle's 4.52 kills/game leads the team.

Montana State: The Bobcats are only 1-6 since playing in Greeley on Sept. 28, defeating Northern Arizona in their first match after playing the Bears and then losing six in a row, including four straight at home. The team is just 2-7 at home this season. They will host Northern Arizona on Thursday before playing Northern Colorado. Kim Stonehouse's 3.14 kills/game leads the team.

Series History: The Bears and Falcons are meeting for the fourth time since the Bears made the move back to Division I; Northern Colorado has won all three of those matchups including a 3-0 sweep at Air Force in 2004. Overall Northern Colorado has won 14 of the last 16 against the Falcons.

The Bears and Griz met for only the second time earlier this season in Greeley when Montana won a dramatic 5-set match in Butler-Hancock. The Bears led game No. 1 by a 25-16 margin before allowing Montana to go on a huge run and the Griz eventually won that set 30-28. The teams battled through the next four sets with UM eventually winning 15-13 in the decisive set. The only other meeting between the teams can in Albuquerque in 2004 when the Bears won in five sets. This will be the first meeting between the teams in Missoula.

Montana State had won the first three meetings with Northern Colorado until earlier this season when the Bears won 3-1 in a match in Greeley. The teams have played only once in Bozeman, with MSU coming out on top 3-1 during the 2005 season.

NORTHERN COLORADO NOTES

Bears Look to Increase Win Streak on Tuesday's: Northern Colorado has just one match on a Tuesday this season, this week at Air Force. Entering the season the Bears have won 15 consecutive matches on Tuesdays, dating back to Oct. 16, 2001 when the Bears lost to Nebraska-Omaha by a 3-1 margin.

Stone Cold: Junior Dulcie Stone is making the most of her new found playing time. After seeing only sparse action her first two years with the program, Stone has become a key part of the Bears squad this season. Through 20 matches she is first in kills (2.79/game). She set a career-high with 19 kills in a 3-2 win over Weber State (Oct. 7) and a career-high with 20 digs in a 3-2 loss at Northern Arizona (Oct. 21).

Mayne Digs Her Way Into 1,000 Dig Club: Junior Abby Mayne, the 2005 Division I Independent Co-Defensive Player of the Year, became the 18th member of the Bears 1,000-Dig Club on Sept. 14 against Northern Arizona. She is the first player to join the club since the 2003 season when both Linnea Kiilsgaard and Kristi Krom became members. Mayne has now netted 1,135 digs in here three-year career, which is the 14th highest total in program history; she is 24 digs out of 13th place. She has had double-digit digs in 17 of 19 matches this season, 41 of her last 47 matches and in 61 of 83 career matches. She currently ranks fifth in the Big Sky Conference in digs/game (4.34/game). She missed one match this season (Montana on Sept. 30) due to injury.

Rhoads Blocks Her Way Into Record Books: Senior Lizzy Rhoads, a 2005 Division I All-Independent first-team selection, has 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. She recorded her 229th career block assist against Central Michigan (Sept. 8) to put her in the Bears career top 10 list. She now has 275 block assists which ranks seventh all-time, only nine out of sixth place. She has 313 career total blocks which ranks ninth all-time in program history; she joined that top 10 list following a seven-block performance against Idaho State (Oct. 12). Rhoads needs 14 blocks to move to eighth on the Bears career list.

Home Sweet Home: The Bears have been nearly unbeatable at home, posting a 268-51 (.840) record at home since Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion (formerly Butler-Hancock Hall) opened in 1976 and winning 49 of their last 54 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, were 6-2 in 2005 (they were 6-3 overall at home - one loss at the Campus Rec Center is not included in the Butler-Hancock totals) and 3-1 this season (not including a match in the Campus Rec Center). The Bears are 56-6 at Butler-Hancock since the beginning of the 1999 season (the 2000 season was played at the Campus 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.

Colorado Success: The Bears volleyball team has had tremendous success in matches played in the state of Colorado and against teams from the state of Colorado. The Bears had won 17 consecutive matches against teams from the state of Colorado before falling to Denver on Nov. 25, 2005 (the last loss prior to that had been to Colorado Christian 3-2 on Sept. 18, 2001). Overall, the Bears had won 47 of 48 matches they played in the state of Colorado (against all opponents - only dropping a 3-2 match to CS-San Bernardino on Sept. 6, 2003 at the Premier Challenge in Denver) before losing five straight in the state of Colorado to end the 2005 season (three at the D-I Independent Championship in Greeley and two at the DU Thanksgiving Classic). Northern Colorado has now won 51 of its last 58 matches played in the state of Colorado.

Bears Like a Quick Start: In a year-plus under head coach Lyndsey Benson the Bears like to get out to quick starts. Northern Colorado is 21-1 when leading a match 1-0. However, if the team falls behind early - watch out. The Bears are only 3-24 under Benson when trailing 1-0 (although two of those wins - vs. N.C. State on Sept. 2 and vs. Northern Arizona on Sept. 14 - came this season).

Fifth Set Victory: Northern Colorado earned its first fifth set victory of the season on Oct. 7 when they topped Weber State (30-24, 30-23, 24-30, 20-30, 15-11). Overall the Bears have played three five-setters this season; Montana topped the Bears 3-2 on Sept. 30 and Northern Arizona won 3-2 on Oct. 21. It was the team's first fifth set victory since topping South Dakota State 3-2 on Oct. 7, 2005. Northern Colorado is 3-4 in five-set matches of the past two years and 9-8 in five setters over the last three seasons.

SEASON 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.

Bears Make Impressive Conference Debut: Northern Colorado wasted no time winning in the Big Sky Conference, as the Bears topped Northern Arizona (Sept. 14) 3-1 in its inaugural Big Sky Conference match and then turned around and won its first-ever Big Sky road match, topping Idaho State 3-1 (Sept. 16). The last time the Bears entered a conference was in 1989 when they topped Minnesota State 3-0 in their North Central Conference debut. Prior to that the Bears were a member of the Continental Divide Conference, a league the Bears also opened play with, 2-0 over Colorado Mines on Sept. 10, 1982.

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.

Bears 4-1 Start Was Best-Ever By A First-Year Big Sky Member: Northern Colorado got off to a 4-1 start in the Big Sky this season, its inaugural year of play in the conference. The Bears started with a 2-0 record (beating Northern Arizona and Idaho State) before falling at Portland State and beating Eastern Washington and then Montana State. Three other teams have joined the Big Sky Conference since the NCAA-era of volleyball began (Eastern Washington in 1987 and Sacramento State and Portland State in 1996). Of those teams Northern Colorado's start was the best-ever in the conference, topping a 3-2 record by Eastern Washington, a 0-4 start by Portland State and a 2-2 beginning by Sacramento State. The Bears will have a tough road ahead if they want to match the best first-year conference record which was Sacramento State in 1996; after starting 2-2 they rolled off seven straight wins and eventually finished that season 12-4 in conference play.

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.

It's All One Big Happy Family: Five 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 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.

Season Openers: After a 3-0 loss to San Francisco (Aug. 25), Northern Colorado is now 23-8 all-time in season openers, including an 8-4 mark in the last 12 years. Northern Colorado has lost its last three season openers, falling to USF this season, 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).

Home Openers: Following the Bears 3-1 win over Northern Arizona (Sept. 14), Northern Colorado is now 26-5 all-time in home openers and has won five straight at home to open the year. The last time the Bears suffered a loss in their home opener was to Metro State on Sept. 4, 2001.

East Coast Bound: The Bears trip to Raleigh, N.C. on Sept. 1-2 for the N.C. State Wolfpack Classic marked the second consecutive season the team has played in a tournament on the East Coast. The Bears finished with a 2-1 record and second place finish at the event. In 2005 the Bears competed at the Long Island University Classic, falling 3-2 to LIU in the championship match. The Bears have not played on the East Coast that much over the years, as this year's trip marked only the fourth time in the last six years the Bears have played in a state that touches the Atlantic Ocean.

Bears Knock Off ACC Team: With a 3-1 victory over North Carolina State on Sept. 2 in Raleigh, Northern Colorado scored its first-ever victory over an Atlantic Coast Conference team. Previously the Bears were 0-1 all-time against ACC teams, falling to Virginia Tech during the 2005 season. Northern Colorado finished 2-1 at the Wolfpack Classic, claiming second place at the event.

Schevikhoven Named MVP of Wolfpack Classic: Freshman setter Kristen Schevikhoven proved that freshmen can make big impacts when she claimed MVP honors of the N.C. State Wolfpack Classic (Sept. 1-2). Schevikhoven averaged 8.30 assists, 1.80 kills, 3.90 digs and 0.50 blocks/game in the three matches at the event, as the Bears topped Chattanooga and N.C. State and fell to Winthrop to finish second overall. Schevikhoven had a season-high 36 assists in the finale of the tournament, a 3-1 win over the host Wolfpack.

One Setter is Good, Two is Better: Northern Colorado experimented with using a 6-2 offense for the first time in recent history at the Wolfpack Classic. The Bears teamed sophomore Lauren Carter with freshman Kristen Schevikhoven to produce a punch that helped the Bears to a 2-1 record and second place finish at the event.

Nationally Ranked Teams: Northern Colorado did not have to wait long to face some of the best competition in the country, as they squared off with nationally-ranked Arizona (#18) the opening weekend of the season. The Bears fell to the Wildcats by a 3-0 score in Tucson (Aug. 25). Two weeks later it was No. 11 Wisconsin, who defeated the Bears 3-0 at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Classic. 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.

Rekindling Old Rivalries: The Bears are making some new friends this season as first-year members of the Big Sky, but they are also renewing old rivalries. Northern Colorado's match with Northern Arizona (Sept. 14) was the first between the teams since 1978 and the meeting with Idaho State (Sept. 16) was the first since 1982. The Bears have not played Sacramento State (who they match-up with Oct. 5) since 1984. UNC has played Montana, Montana State, Portland State and Weber State within the past three two years and faced off with Eastern Washington for the first time on Sept. 23.

Campus Recreation Center: Due to the fact that Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion was not yet done with its summer renovation, the Bears opened the season by playing in the Campus Recreation Center, a building located next door to Butler-Hancock. The team is not a stranger to the building, however, as they played the entire 2000 campaign in there, compiling an 11-1 record on its way to a NCAA Regional berth. The Bears also played one match during last season's Division I Independent Championships in the Rec Center. After the season-opening 3-1 win over Northern Arizona (Sept. 14), the Bears are 12-2 (.857) all-time in the Campus Recreation Center, suffering losses to only Augustana (2000) and Utah Valley State (2005).

Bears Out-Hit Griz and Lose: The Bears out-hit Montana (Sept. 30) by a .173 to .152 and lost. It marked the first time in two years under head coach Lyndsey Benson that the Bears had out-hit an opponent and lost. The team had been 20-0 entering the match in those situations. The Bears may have won the match anyway, had they not blown a 9-point lead (25-16) in game one, a game Montana won 30-28.

Idaho State Plays in Greeley For First Time Since 1981: When Idaho State played in Bears at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion on Oct. 12, it marked the first time since the 1981 season that the Bengals played in Greeley. In the 2006 contest senior Meredith Alder led the team with 11 kills. Ironically the last time Idaho State played in Greeley, Alder's mother - Carol Johnson-Klein - was an All-American on the Bears team.