The Drake (4-19, 3-9 MVC) volleyball team remains in contention for a spot in the MVC tournament but must finish strong in its final six matches starting this weekend with two key road matches. The Bulldogs are behind Missouri State (7-6 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 will travel to Northern Iowa (20-7, 11-2 MVC) and Bradley (8-16, 2-11 MVC) on Friday and Saturday night, respectively. Both matches will start at 7 p.m. and live stats will be available at www.godrakebulldogs.com for both matches.
The Panthers defeated the Bulldogs in four sets earlier this fall at the Knapp Center. UNI and Creighton are battling for the top spot in the MVC this season and will square off Saturday night. The Panthers rank first in the Valley in kills per set (14.52) and digs per set (17.75). Five Panthers led by senior outside hitter Megan Lehman (304) have 200 or more kills this fall.
Drake rallied from a 2-1 deficit to beat Bradley, 3-2, in the first contest between the two teams this season. Three of the last five meetings in Peoria between Bradley and Drake have gone to a deciding fifth-set. Bradley seniors Madelyn Ervin and Jessica McNellis will be honored before the match in their final home contest. Ervin is number two in the MVC in service aces per set at 0.38 behind Drake's Jadranka Tramosljanin (Ruma, Serbia) at 0.41. Drake leads the all-time series 29-25 and has won 10 out of the last 11 contests.
Bentley Mancini (Burnsville, Minn.) had a match-high 12 kills and was one of four Bulldogs in double figures in kills as Drake beat Evansville, 3-0, this past Saturday night at the Knapp Center. Tramosljanin finished with a double-double with 10 kills and 15 digs and leads the team with 11 double-doubles.
The 3-0 win over Evansville (25-21, 25-20, and 25-22) was the first sweep for Drake since they beat Southern Illinois, 3-0, on September 18, 2010. This season the Bulldogs have one sweep, one four-set win and two five-set wins.
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 481 digs. In the second match against North Dakota State this season, she finished with a school record 45 digs. The 45 digs were one away from tying the MVC match record. Madden, a redshirt junior leads the conference in digs per set at 5.87 and her average ranks eighth in the country. In just her second season at Drake, she is sixth all-time in school history with 908 digs and sits just 10 away from moving into the top-five. The defensive award is the first 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 1.18 service aces per set. Drake recorded a season-high 11 aces in the Indiana State win earlier this fall. Tramosljanin has 34 aces and a 0.41 service aces per set average, with both ranking first in the MVC while her average ranks 26th in the nation. Tramosljanin had a career-high six service aces against UNI earlier this fall.
Senior outside hitter Bentley Mancini leads the Bulldogs with 213 kills, a 2.54 kills per set average and is second in points with 233.5. 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 501 kills in her collegiate career.
After Drake lost starting middle blockers, Emily Heffernen and Michelle Reidy, to graduation from the 2011 team, Cassie Effken (Lincoln, Neb.) 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 (25), block assists (65), points (245.5) and is second in kills (182). Effken is eighth in the MVC in blocks per set at 1.10 and earned all-tournament honors at the first tournament of the season in Green Bay. Dulek is second in block assists (50) and fifth in kills (103) and points (135.0) on the team and earned all-tournament honors at the InnTowner tournament earlier this fall.
Five Bulldogs have 100 or more kills this fall led by Mancini with 213 kills followed by Effken (182), Tramosljanin (181), Amanda Platte (Mount Vernon, Iowa) (176) and Dulek (103). 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. Effken (16), Platte (14), Tramosljanin (12) and Dulek (11) rounded out the five that night with Effken and Dulek each setting new career-highs in kills.
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 429 assists this season, which leads the team. Meyer ranks 10th in the Valley with a 5.28 assists per set average. 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 339 assists.
Platte has 94 kills in the last nine matches, including a career-best 16 against the UNI Panthers. She has started the last 13 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 first 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.
READY FOR ACTION
Drake has six players (Dulek, Effken, Mancini, Meyer, Tramosljanin and Madden) who have started every match for the Blue and White this fall.
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.
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 will host two matches to close its 2012 home schedule. The Illinois State Redbirds (13-9, 7-5 MVC)
visit the Knapp Center Friday, Nov. 9, with the Indiana State Sycamores (3-19, 1-11 MVC) the following night. Seniors Mancini and Tramosljanin will be honored Saturday night for their final home match. Both matches will start at 7:05 p.m. in the Knapp Center.
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.