With the second half of conference action underway, the Drake (3-18, 2-8 MVC) volleyball team remains in contention for a spot in the MVC tournament. The Bulldogs are in a pack with three other teams behind Missouri State (5-6 MVC), which currently sits in sixth place in the standings. The top six teams qualify for the tournament, which will be held in Springfield, Mo., Nov. 22-24. Drake has rematches remaining with everyone in the Valley except for second-place Creighton. Starting this Friday, the Southern Illinois Salukis (17-5, 7-4 MVC) visit the Knapp Center, with the Evansville Aces (8-16, 3-8 MVC) following on Saturday night. Both matches will start at 7 p.m. Live stats and video streaming will be available at www.godrakebulldogs.com.
The Salukis currently sit in fourth place in the standings and lead the MVC in hitting percentage and rank third in assists, kills and blocks. One year ago, SIU was 9-11 overall and 3-8 in the MVC. Southern Illinois is led by first-year head coach Justin Ingram, who previously was the head coach for three seasons at Arkansas State. Senior middle blocker Alysia Mayes is second in the conference in hitting percentage (.396), kills (3.80) and blocks per set (1.40). Sophomore setter Amy Drabant leads the conference with an 11.75 assists per set average. The Salukis defeated the Bulldogs, 3-1, earlier this season and lead the overall series 33-19.
The Aces currently sit in seventh place in the standings and rallied to beat the Bulldogs, 3-1, in their first conference match this year. Sophomore outside hitter Ashley Ring leads the conference in kills with 311 and is third in kills per set at 3.66. Mike Swan is in his 10th season as Evansville's head coach. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 22-17.
The Creighton Bluejays defeated the Drake Bulldogs, 3-0, Saturday night at the Knapp Center in the team's annual Dig Pink match. Set scores were 25-17, 25-17 and 25-11. Cassie Effken (Lincoln, Neb.) had seven kills and added three digs, three block solos, one block assist and one service ace for Drake.
Sarah Madden (Van Meter, Iowa) was named the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Week for the period of Oct. 15-21. Madden has started every match at the libero position this year for the Bulldogs tallying 418 digs. Against North Dakota State last week, she finished with a school record 45 digs The 45 digs were one away from tying the MVC match record. Madden followed that performance with 24 digs against Creighton, which is second in the Valley with a .251 hitting percentage. Madden, a redshirt junior, leads the conference in digs per set at 5.56 average and her average ranks 12th in the country. In just her second season at Drake, she is 10th all-time in school history with 845 digs. It is the first MVC Defensive Player of the Week award for Madden and the first for a Drake volleyball student-athlete since Alana Wittenburg won it in 2010.
The Bulldogs are one of the top serving teams in the Missouri Valley Conference averaging 1.24 service aces per set. Drake recorded a season-high 11 aces in the Indiana State win earlier this fall. Jadranka Tramosljanin (Ruma, Serbia) has 32 aces and a 0.43 service aces per set average, with both ranking first in the MVC while her average ranks 23rd in the nation. Tramosljanin had a career-high six service aces against UNI earlier this fall.
Senior outside hitter Bentley Mancini (Burnsville, Minn.) leads the Bulldogs with 194 kills, a 2.59 kills per set average and is second in points with 213.5. 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 481 kills in her collegiate career.
After Drake lost starting middle blockers, Emily Heffernen and Michelle Reidy, to graduation from the 2011 team, Effken and Katie Dulek (Lenexa, Kan.) 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 (22), block assists (63), points (215.5) and ranks third in kills (156). Effken earned all-tournament honors at the first tournament of the season in Green Bay. Dulek is second in block assists (48) and fifth in kills (94) and points (126.0) on the team and earned all-tournament honors at the InnTowner tournament earlier this fall.
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), Effken (16) and Dulek (11) all set new career-highs in kills with Tramosljanin adding 12. Mancini leads the team with 194 kills followed by Tramosljanin (159), Effken (156), Amanda Platte (Mount Vernon, Iowa) (154), and Dulek (96).
Sophomore setter Halli Meyer (Bettendorf, Iowa) dished out a career-high 40 assists in the win over Bradley. Meyer has four double-doubles and has posted double figure assists in every match but one this fall. Meyer has tallied 386 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 305 assists.
Platte has 72 kills in the last seven matches, including a career-best 16 against the UNI Panthers. She has started the last 11 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
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.