The Drake (3-17, 2-7 MVC) volleyball team will try to halt a two-match losing streak when it returns to MVC play Saturday against the Creighton Bluejays (17-3, 8-1 MVC) in the first of three-straight home matches. The contest with the Bluejays is the annual Dig Pink match and first serve is set for 7 p.m. at the Knapp Center. Live stats and video streaming will be available at www.godrakebulldogs.com.
The Bluejays swept the Bulldogs, 3-0 (25-23, 25-14, 25-11), earlier this season in Omaha. Creighton sits at the top of the Valley tied with Northern Iowa. The Bluejays limit opponents to an MVC-best .147 hitting percentage and have the best blocks per set average in the MVC at 3.11. Leah McNarly is the top hitter for the Bluejays with 216 kills and Kelli Browning leads the MVC with a 1.69 blocks per set average. Creighton holds a 24-15 advantage in the all-time series between the two schools.
The Drake team will wear special pink jerseys that will be auctioned off after the match. Limited edition pink t-shirts will be sold as well and the proceeds from the t-shirts and auction will go to the Side-Out Foundation. Side-Out is an independent non-profit organization that awards grants to medical research organizations and entities dedicated to providing compassionate support to breast cancer patients and their families. Fans will receive a Drake volleyball team limited edition poster and there will be a postgame autograph session on the Knapp Center floor.
The Bulldogs finished 1-2 on their three-game road trip with matches in three states in four days. Drake knocked off Indiana State, 3-1; was swept by Illinois State and dropped a close rematch to North Dakota State, 3-1. In the win over the Sycamores, sophomore Amanda Platte (Mount Vernon, Iowa) had a team-high 13 kills and the Bulldogs had a season-high 11 service aces. Senior Bentley Mancini (Burnsville, Minn.) posted a match-high 12 kills against Illinois State, but the Redbirds limited the Bulldogs to just 33 kills and had eight service aces to get the victory. Mancini paced the Bulldogs with 13 kills in the loss to the Bison and Jadranka Tramosljanin (Ruma, Serbia) posted her team-best ninth double-double of the season with 11 kills and 19 digs.
The Bulldogs are one of the top serving teams in the Missouri Valley Conference averaging 1.25 service aces per set. Drake recorded a season-high 11 aces in the Indiana State win. Tramosljanin has 30 aces and a 0.42 service aces per set average, with both ranking first in the MVC while her average ranks 21st in the nation. Tramosljanin had a career-high six service aces against UNI earlier this fall.
Sarah Madden (Van Meter, Iowa) has played outstanding defense at the libero position this year for the Bulldogs tallying 394 digs. Madden finished with a career-high 45 digs against North Dakota State Monday night and set the new school record for most digs in a match. Her career night propelled her to the top of the MVC in digs per set at 5.13 and her average is tied for 46th in the nation. In just her second season at Drake, Madden is 11 digs away from moving into the career top-10 in the Drake record book.
Drake had a season-high five players with double figure kills in the win over Bradley earlier this fall led by Mancini's 18, which tied her career-high. Platte (14), Cassie Effken (Lincoln, Neb.) (16) and Katie Dulek (Lenexa, Kan.) (11) all set new career-highs in kills with Tramosljanin (Ruma, Serbia) adding 12. Mancini leads the team with 187 kills followed by Tramosljanin (155), Platte (154), Effken (149) and Dulek (94).
After Drake lost starting middle blockers, Emily Heffernen and Michelle Reidy, to graduation from the 2011 team, Dulek and Effken were inserted into the middle positions at the start of the year and both have produced in their first collegiate seasons for the Bulldogs. Effken leads the team in block solos (19) and block assists (62). She is second on the team in points with 204.0 and fourth in kills (149). Effken earned all-tournament honors at the first tournament of the season in Green Bay. Dulek is second in block assists (47) and fifth in kills (94) and points (123.5) on the team and earned all-tournament honors at the InnTowner tournament earlier this fall.
Sophomore setter Halli Meyer (Bettendorf, Iowa) dished out a career-high 40 assists in the win over Bradley. Meyer has four double-doubles for the Bulldogs this fall and has posted double figure assists in every match. Meyer has tallied 380 assists this season, which leads the team. Freshman Rebecca Brown (Bentonville, Ark.) tied her career-best with 24 assists in the Bradley win, and has seen action in every match while recording 293 assists.
Senior outside hitter Bentley Mancini leads the Bulldogs with 187 kills, a 2.60 kills per set average and 206 points on the season. 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 474 kills in her collegiate career.
Platte has 72 kills in the last six matches, including a career-best 16 against the UNI Panthers. She has started the last ten matches at the outside hitter position opposite Mancini. Shelby Daum (Battle Creek, Neb.) has recovered from an injury early in the season and earned more playing time at the hitter position in her first year. Daum, a left-hander, came off the bench in the SIU match and had four kills in nine attempts with no errors. Defensive specialist/outside hitter Scarlett Howerter (Lincoln, Neb.) has appeared in every match for the Bulldogs to steadily improve in her first year.
ALL HANDS ON DECK
Eleven 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.
READY FOR ACTION
The match against the Bison was the 20th of the season and Drake has six players (Dulek, Effken, Mancini, Meyer, Tramosljanin and Madden) who have started every match for the Blue and White.
2012 LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
This season the Bulldogs have a leadership council with Bentley Mancini as the designated senior class member, Sarah Madden as the junior class member, Halli Meyer as the sophomore class member and Cassie Effken representing the freshman class.
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 under former coach Amy Farber Knowles from 2005-07. Sunga was hired from Wyoming, where he was an assistant coach for three seasons and was responsible for recruiting, defensive scouting and match preparation for the Cowgirl program.
Sunga helped transform Wyoming into a contender in the Mountain West Conference. The Cowgirls improved from five wins during his first year to 22 wins - the most since the 1989 squad made a run to the NCAA Elite Eight. In addition, Sunga spearheaded the recruitment of Winterset, Iowa product Jodi Purdy, who earned 2010 MWC All-Conference honors and was named the 2009 MWC Freshman of the Year. In his first season at Drake, his team was named a 2011-12 AVCA Team Academic Award recipient.
Sunga is assisted by Erin Hirsch and Rob Batzler. Hirsch is in her sixth season as a Drake assistant coach and played at the University of Northern Iowa. Batzler is in his first season as an assistant coach after serving as a volunteer coach in 2011.