The Drake (1-12, 0-3) volleyball team will play Missouri Valley Conference road matches this weekend against Evansville (5-11, 1-3) and Southern Illinois (11-3, 2-2). The Bulldogs are seeking their first conference win of 2012.
The Purple Aces are led by sophomore outside hitter Ashley Ring as she sits atop the MVC in kills with 218 and 3.82 kills per set and she also has 168 digs with a 2.95 per set average. Mike Swan is in his 10th season as Evansville's head coach and he owns a 120-173 overall record. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 22-16 with wins in both matches in 2011.
The Salukis are coached by first-year head coach Justin Ingram who was previously the head coach at Arkansas State. Ingram has the Salukis off to a strong start this season at 11-3 overall with wins over Illinois State and Memphis. SIU is second in the conference with 14.21 kills per set average and they have a trio of players that rank in the top-10 of the conference in kills. Laura Thole (3.77) is second, Alysia Mayes is fourth (3.71) and Jessica Whitehead (3.52) is fifth. The Salukis lead the all-time series 19-32 and the two teams split last season.
The Bulldogs split a pair of matches in Omaha, Neb. last weekend. The Bulldogs defeated Nebraska Omaha in a five-set thriller, 3-2, Friday night in a non-conference match for their first win of the season. Four Bulldogs recorded double-digit kills in the win led by Bentley Mancini (Burnsville, Minn.) and Amanda Platte (Mount Vernon, Iowa). The next night the Creighton Bluejays defeated Drake, 3-0.
Senior Jadranka Tramosljanin (Ruma, Serbia) is second in the Valley in service aces average. The senior outside hitter is averaging 0.34 per set and has 15 aces overall this season. Tramosjanin has started every match this campaign. Sarah Madden (Van Meter, Iowa) has 12 aces and 0.27 per set average which ranks ninth in the Valley. Drake has 54 aces as a team and is tied for fifth in the MVC with a 1.23 average per set.
Madden and Tramosljanin have provided a strong defensive presence in the back row this year for the Bulldogs. Madden has 218 digs and is averaging 4.95 per set which is third in the conference. Tramosljanin has 160 digs and is averaging 3.64 per set. Madden has started every match in the libero position for the Bulldogs and she was named to the all-tournament team at the New Mexico State tournament.
Freshmen Katie Dulek (Lenexa, Kan.) and Cassie Effken (Lincoln, Neb.) have started every match at the middle blocker positions in their first season for the Blue and White. Effken leads the Bulldogs in total blocks (50), block assists (39), block solos (11) and points (122.5) and she is second in kills (90). She was named to the all-tournament team at the Bulldogs first tournament of 2012 (Green Bay). Effken is sixth in the MVC with a 1.14 blocks per set average. Dulek is second on the team in block assists (35) and fifth in kills (51) and she earned all-tournament honors at the InnTowner Invitational. She had a career-high eight kills with just one error against Creighton and received player of the week considerations from the Valley for her efforts.
Sophomore Halli Meyer (Bettendorf, Iowa) has started every match this fall at the setter position for the Bulldogs. She has dished out 205 assists for an average of 4.66 per set in addition she has 68 digs. Meyer had her career-high in assists with 28 in the win over UNO. Freshman Rebecca Brown (Bentonville, Ark.) has seen action in all 13 matches at the setter position as well. She has dished out 173 assists for an average of 4.11 per set in addition she has 44 digs.
Senior outside hitter Bentley Mancini leads the Bulldogs with 103 kills and 2.34 kills per set. Mancini, a left-handed hitter has started every match for the Blue and White this year. The Minnesota native is a senior captain and has 393 kills in her collegiate career.
Sophomore Amanda Platte had an outstanding performance in the win over UNO. The outside hitter finished with a career-high 12 kills and eight digs and she added four block assists. She is fourth on the team with 76 kills. Platte has started seven matches and Erin Roggenburg (Ankeny, Iowa) has started six matches this fall at the outside hitter position opposite Mancini.
ALL HANDS ON DECK
11 of the 12 student-athletes on this season's roster have seen match action. Drake has one of the youngest rosters in the nation with two seniors, one redshirt junior, three sophomores and six freshmen.
Drake's next home match will be Friday, Oct. 5 when they host the Bradley Braves at 7 p.m. The UNI Panthers will travel to the Knapp Center the next night and that match will also begin at 7 p.m.
2012 LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
This season the Bulldogs will have a leadership council with Bentley Mancini as the designated senior class member, Sarah Madden as the designated junior class member, Halli Meyer as the sophomore class member and Cassie Effken will represent the freshman class.
THE BULLDOGS IN 2012
Second-year head coach Tony Sunga will have a young but talented team in 2012. Drake welcomes six newcomers to the program and they join six returning players. The Bulldogs will face a strong schedule this season with seven opponents that qualified for the 2011 NCAA tournament.
Senior Bentley Mancini (Burnsville, Minn.) will lead the Bulldogs attack this fall. The Minnesota native enters her senior year with significant experience from the previous two seasons with 15 starts and 236 kills in 2011. Amanda Platte (Mount Vernon, Iowa) came on late in 2011 and the sophomore will have an increased role for the Blue and White. Sophomore Erin Roggenburg (Ankeny, Iowa) and Shelby Daum (Battle Creek, Neb.) will provide depth at the position. Senior Jadranka Tramosljanin (Ruma, Serbia) will once again provide help between the front and back rows.
Emily Heffernen and Michelle Reidy graduated from a year ago and their presence in the middle will be missed, but a young and talented group of five is ready to fill their void. Freshmen Katie Dulek (Lenexa, Kan.) and Cassie Effken (Lincoln, Neb.) have stood out early and each will see significant time this season. Freshmen Katie Allen (Mokena, Ill.) will provide depth in the middle and on the outside.
Sophomore Halli Meyer (Bettendorf, Iowa) steps into the setter role after the graduation of Caitlin Johnson. Meyer saw time in 14 matches her freshman season and was elected to the team's leadership council for 2012. Freshman Rebecca Brown (Bentonville, Ark.) will backup Meyer. She also comes from a successful high school program that captured two Arkansas state titles.
Tramoslijanin and junior Sarah Madden (Van Meter, Iowa) both enter their second season at Drake and will anchor the back row. Scarlett Howerter (Lincoln, Neb.) teamed with Effken her senior year of high school in Nebraska and will provide depth in the back row and will occasionally
Drake head coach Tony Sunga is in his second season leading the program. Sunga is a 1988 Drake graduate, who previously served as a Drake assistant coach under former coach Amy Faber Knowles from 2005-07. Sunga was hired from Wyoming, where he was an assistant coach for three seasons.
Sunga is assisted by Erin Hirsch and Rob Batzler. Hirsch is in her sixth season as an assistant coach and she played at the University of Northern Iowa. Batzler is in his first season as an assistant coach after he served as a volunteer coach in 2011.
DRAKE PICKED TENTH
Drake was picked to finish tenth in the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll conducted by league coaches. Northern Iowa captured all 10 first-place votes to top the voting with 100 points. The Bulldogs finished eighth in 2011.