Idaho Volleyball Starts Strong

The Vandal Women's Volleyball team jumped out to an impressive 6-2 record to start the season (including 3-0 sweeps over UConn, Western Michigan and BSU), but had some trouble last week as they lost on the road at #20 Pacific and at Cal State Northridge to start Big West Conference play. This weekend the Vandal Women head to Logan, UT to take on the Aggies of Utah State.<br> <br> Here is a quick look at the team and the players to look for this fall.

The Idaho Vandal Volleyball team came home 2 weekends ago to host a tournament: The Idaho Challenge. Idaho welcomed then #18 Washington (now ranked 14th) and Northern Arizona to the cozy confines of Memorial Gym. Vandal Volleyball started the season strong and looks to continue its winning ways. The Huskies swept the Vandals here in close game play and the Vandals swept the Lumberjacks in what the coaches called "sloppy play."

Head coach Debbie Buchanan and assistants, Ken Murphy and Corie Isaacson, have worked hard to bring back the tournament to Moscow.

The Idaho Volleyball squad is 6-4 going into this weekend's Big West conference play after two tournaments on the road, plus the Idaho Challenge and a tough 2 game Conference road swing last week that caused Idaho to stumble a bit out of the gate with an 0-2 Conference mark. But, the team has looked impressive early this season as they waltzed to the crown at the University of Connecticut tournament the weekend of August 29-30, and placed second to #9 UCLA at the University of Montana tournament September 5th and 6th.


THE PLAYERS
Idaho's middle blockers have been a strong point for the squad with both Anna-Marie Hammond and Sara Meek earning All-Tournament honors for three-weekends in a row. Hammond, a reigning first-team all-Big West pick last season, and the only senior on this talented, young squad is on track to repeat the honor this weekend while averaging 4.16 kills per game and a 0.328 hitting percentage. Sara Meek is chipping in 3.08 kills per game and hitting at a very respectable 0.302 clip and is looking to gain a spot on the all-conference team as evidence by her MVP performance at the Connecticut Tournament.

On the outside, Meghan Brown (6-1 sophomore, Nanaimo, B.C.) leads the way with 3.28 kills per game hitting at a 0.225 percent. She's also averaging 2.80 digs per game. Kati Tikker (6-0 sophomore, Nine Mile Falls, WA) is also contributing 2.64 kills per game. Brooke Haeberle (5-10 junior, Omak, WA), last year's go-to hitter, has been sidelined with injuries and complications from a pre-season car accident and is healing steadily.

A freshman sensation, Saxony Brown (6-0 freshman, Nanaimo, B.C.), joined her sister, Meghan, as a Vandal this fall and, like her sister did, is contributing right away. She has a good sense of the game and has been performing well with 1.28 kills per game at a 0.403 hitting percentage and 2.08 digs per game. She has a strong jump serve and a great court sense.

The cornerstone of the Vandal offense has been Mandy Becker (5-9 junior, Fort Collins, CO). A sensational setter averaging just over 12 assists per game and chipping in 3.00 digs per game. Mandy plays the position of Setter or "court quarterback" and leads the Vandal offense. Becker earned All-Tournament honors at the Idaho Tournament.

The Libero position is in its second year of emplacement at the collegiate level. In her second year as a Vandal, Jessica Yearout (5-7 sophomore, St. Maries, ID) is embracing the position and making it look simple. As a freshman last year, she led the Big West conference in digs per game and is the anchor for a solid defense fielded by the Vandals this year.

The libero can be spotted on the court with the "off-color" jersey, and will be substituting seemingly at will with back row players. However, with the benefit of unlimited substitutions, the libero's restrictions are she is unable to serve or attack the ball.


IDAHO'S FIRST TWO OPPONENTS
The Pacific Tigers were led by three-time 2nd team All-American senior, Jennifer Joines with over 5 kills per game. Joines is a middle blocker with a strong jump serve and solid defense. Pacific plays at the Spanos Center in Stockton, California, where last season, Idaho beat Pacific in 5-games for the first victory ever for the Vandals over Pacific. However, last Thursday the Vandal women dropped a hard fought 3-2 match to the Tigers on the road to open Big West Conference play. After losing the first 2 games, the Vandals rallied to take the next 2 games and knot the match. But the 20th ranked Tigers took the last game 15-2, and walked away with their sixth victory of the season.

Last Saturday Idaho continued its California road swing taking on Cal State Northridge, who is led by senior Jennifer Fopma, a transfer from Pepperdine and back into volleyball after a few years of burnout. She seems to be over her burnout this season and is ripping up the opponents for over 5 kills per game and 1 and a half blocks. On Saturday, the Vandal women jumped out to sweep the first 2 games, but dropped all 3 of the remaining games for their second road loss, dropping to a mark of 6-4 on the season.

This week the Vandals travel to Logan to take on the Utah State Aggies at the Smith Spectrum. If you're in the area, please stop in and cheer on the Vandals as they continue their Big West Conference road swing!


REMAINING VOLLEYBALL SCHEDULE (Home dates in BOLD)
Complete 2003 Vandal Volleyball Schedule (Official Site)

9/18/2003 *University of Pacific, Stockton, CA 7 p.m.
9/20/2003 *Northridge, Northridge, CA 7 p.m.
9/26/2003 *Utah State, Logan, UT 7 p.m.
10/2/2003 *UC Irvine, Memorial Gym 7 p.m.
10/4/2003 *Long Beach State, Memorial Gym 7 p.m.

10/10/2003 *Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA 7 p.m.
10/11/2003 *UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 7 p.m.
10/14/2003 Gonzaga, Memorial Gym 7 p.m.
10/16/2003 *UC Riverside, Memorial Gym 7 p.m.
10/18/2003 *Cal State Fullerton, Memorial Gym 7 p.m.

10/21/2003 Boise State, Boise, ID 7 p.m.
10/25/2003 *Utah State, Memorial Gym 7 p.m.
10/28/2003 Washington State, Pullman, WA 7 p.m.
10/31/2003 *Long Beach State, Long Beach, CA 7:30 p.m.
11/1/2003 *UC Irvine, Irvine, CA 7 p.m.
11/6/2003 *UC Santa Barbara, Memorial Gym 7 p.m.
11/8/2003 *Cal Poly Memorial Gym 7 p.m.

11/14/2003 *Cal State Fullerton, Fullerton, CA 7 p.m.
11/15/2003 *UC Riverside, Riverside, CA 7 p.m.
11/20/2003 *Cal State Northridge, Memorial Gym 7 p.m.
11/22/2003 *Pacific, Memorial Gym 7 p.m.


All times Pacific Time (PT) and subject to change *Indicates Big West Conference Game


GO VANDALS!!!



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