Idaho Volleyball Hosts Critical Conference Matches

The University of Idaho Vandal Volleyball (6-5 on the season) team stumbled a bit this past two weekends in opening conference play 0-3, but can regroup against their next opponents at home this coming Thursday and Saturday in Memorial Gym. The opponents will be tough, but this team has the talent and coaching savvy to pull off two mild upsets with your help. Two victories this weekend will restore the Vandals attitude and put them back in the thick of the Big West race.

Upcoming Opponents
Idaho's next opponents are UC Irvine and Long Beach State. Idaho hosts the Anteaters of UC Irvine at 7:00 pm Thursday October 2, 2003 and holds a 9-3 all-time record against the current Big West co-leader. Kelly Wing leads their offense with 5.12 kills per game. UC Irvine is off to a school best start at 13-3, and 4-0 in conference.

Long Beach State (Saturday, October 4, 2003 at 7:00pm) comes to Idaho as an unranked team, but receiving enough votes to be the next in line to return to the AVCA polls that it has been dominating for years.

It truly is a down season for the Beach. Combined with its recent resurgence, it makes a season that Idaho matches up well against them. The Vandals are poised earn their first ever victory against a 3-time National Championship program. Long Beach holds an 11-0 record over the Vandals all-time. The 49ers are led by Erika Chidester with 4.57 kills per game and this past week's AVCA National Player of the week, Jillian Mazzarella at setter. However, they have losses to Eastern Washington and UC Riverside this season as well.

Idaho in the National Rankings
Idaho is currently unranked in the polls after dropping three straight to ranked Pacific and unranked Cal State Northridge and Utah State. However, they are still in the running to make the NCAA Division I tournament this post-season if they return to their winning ways. In the newly released Ballicora rankings, which are similar to Sagarin rankings for football, Idaho ranks 56th nationally. That ranking is ahead of local volleyball powerhouses Washington State (69) and Eastern Washington (67). You can find more about the rankings at the source for Division I Volleyball scores and updates:

Big West Standings
Even though it may appear to be a runaway conference race this season, the Big West conference has never been so wide open. UC Riverside, a team that Idaho swept last season defeated Long Beach State.

(through matches of Sept. 27, 2003)
  Conference Overall
  W L Pct. W L Pct
UC Irvine 4 0 1.000 13 3 .813
UC Santa Barbara 3 0 1.000 7 4 .636
Long Beach State 3 1 .750 8 3 .727
Utah State 2 1 .667 9 4 .692
Pacific 2 2 .500 7 4 .636
UC Riverside 2 2 .500 7 7 .500
Cal Poly 1 2 .333 9 5 .643
CS Northridge 1 3 .250 5 6 .455
IDAHO 0 3 .000 6 5 .546
Cal State Fullerton 0 4 .000 6 9 .400

The Vandal Athletes
Idaho is led by senior Anna-Marie Hammond, a returning first team All-Conference Middle Blocker, who is averaging 4.50 kills per game while hitting at a respectable 0.335 clip. Anna is also averaging 1.11 blocks per game.

Also, contributing at Middle Blocker is Sara Meek who is getting nearly 3 kills and one block per game.

Setter, and team quarterback, Mandy Becker is dishing out 12 assists and 3 digs per game and leading the team with 14 service aces.

Brooke Haeberle is still out with injuries, but in her stead, Meghan Brown is hitting nearly 3 kills per game Kati Tikker is chipping in 2 ½ kills.

Support Vandal Volleyball
Volleyball is one of the few team sports where the crowd's participation can help the outcome of the match. The energy the crowd provides the home team and the supporting atmosphere in volleyball are often worth 2-3 points per game for the home team. Idaho's Memorial Gym is a premier volleyball facility in the nation. I've been to many volleyball facilities, and Memorial Gym is still my favorite as far as how close the crowd can be to the action and the overall atmosphere when the ladies are playing well.

Memorial Gym is often referred to as "The Brick House" by loyal volleyball fans who remember its 49-match home win streak in the mid-90's. The rowdy fans combined with the talent of some of Idaho's all-time great teams meshed perfectly to make the perfect atmosphere for winning. This year's team is right on the bubble of being one of those All-Time Great Vandal teams. Perhaps with a little more fan support to get them back on their winning ways over two of the best programs in the nation will start a new streak!

Get to know your Vandals! Show up this week at Memorial Gym and bring your Vandal Spirit!

Ticket Prices are $6 for adults and $4 for seniors and youth. As always, students get in free with their Vandal Card. Show your Vandal Spirit; let's get back to our winning ways!


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