The Drake volleyball team (2-15, 1-6 MVC) will travel to Indiana State and Illinois State this weekend in search of their first MVC road win of 2012. The Indiana State match Friday night will start at 6 p.m. and the Illinois State match Saturday night will be at 7 p.m. Live stats for both matches will be available at www.godrakebulldogs.com.
Indiana State (3-14, 1-6 MVC) goes into Friday night having lost four straight matches and sits tied with Drake in the ninth position of the MVC. Drake will try to attack Indiana State at the net as the Sycamores have allowed the highest opponent hitting percentage in the conference at .245. Middle blocker Shea Doran leads the Sycamores in both kills (258) and blocks (56). Drake leads the all-time series, 27-23.
Illinois State (10-7, 4-3 MVC) has won three of their last four matches, including a five-set thriller at Missouri State. The Redbirds held a 2-0 lead and held off a late rally by the Bears. Illinois State boasts one of the best defenses in the Valley this fall, holding opponents to just a .156 hitting percentage and they have the second-best blocks per set average at 2.71. Ashley Rosch with 185 kills leads a balanced Redbirds offensive attack as six players have 75 or more kills. Illinois State leads the all-time series, 7-52.
This past Friday night, Drake rallied from a 2-1 deficit against Bradley to earn their first Missouri Valley Conference win since defeating Southern Illinois, 3-2 on Oct. 22, 2011 at the Knapp Center. The Bulldogs beat the Braves, 3-2 (26-24, 24-26, 22-25, 25-22, and 15-10) behind season-highs in kills (75) and hitting percentage (.224). The following night against Northern Iowa the Bulldogs dropped a close match to the Panthers, 3-1 (28-26, 25-18, 23-25, 25-19).
Drake had a season-best five players with double figures kills in the Bradley win led by senior Bentley Mancini's (Burnsville, Minn.) 18, which tied her career-high. Sophomore Amanda Platte (Mount Vernon, Iowa (14) and freshmen Cassie Effken (Lincoln, Neb.) (16) and Katie Dulek (Lenexa, Kan.) (11) all had their career-highs. Senior Jadranka Tramosljanin (Ruma, Serbia) added 12 kills and has tallied double figure kills in four straight matches. Mancini leads the team with 155 kills followed by Effken (129), Tramosljanin (126), Platte (122) and Dulek (72).
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 points (176.0), block solos (16) and block assists (54) and is second in kills (129) and earned all-tournament honors at the first tournament of the season in Green Bay. Dulek is second in block assists (44) and fourth in kills (77) and points (104) on the team and earned all-tournament honors at the InnTowner tournament earlier this fall.
Sarah Madden (Van Meter, Iowa) and Tramosljanin have provided a strong defensive presence in the back row this year for the Bulldogs. Madden has 307 digs and a 5.03 digs per set average, which is tied for third best in the conference. Tramosljanin has 218 digs and is averaging 3.57 per set. Madden has started every match in the libero position for the Bulldogs and was named to the all-tournament team at the New Mexico State tournament. Defensive specialist Scarlett Howerter (Lincoln, Neb.) has appeared in every match for the Bulldogs to steadily improve in her first year.
The Bulldogs are one of the top serving teams in the Missouri Valley Conference as they average 1.11 service aces per set. Tramosljanin has 25 aces and a 0.41 service aces per set average, both rank first in the MVC and her average ranks 39th in the nation. Tramosljanin had a career-best six service aces against UNI. Madden has 15 service aces with a 0.25 per average, which ranks 10th in the Valley.
Sophomore setter Halli Meyer (Bettendorf, Iowa) dished out a career-high 40 assists in the win over the Bradley Braves. Meyer has recorded 20 or more assists in four straight matches and has started every match this fall. She has tallied 323 assists this season, which leads the team. Freshman Rebecca Brown (Bentonville, Ark.) tied her career-best with 24 assists in the win over the Braves and has seen action in every match in her first year. Brown has recorded double digit assists in 12 of the last 13 matches and has 249 assists overall.
Senior outside hitter Bentley Mancini leads the Bulldogs with 147 kills, a 2.54 kills per set average and 172.5 points. 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 445 kills in her collegiate career.
Amanda Platte has 40 kills in the Bulldogs last three matches, including a career-best 16 against the Panthers. She has started the last seven matches at the other outside hitter position opposite Mancini. Shelby Daum (Battle Creek, Neb.) has recovered from an injury early in the season and has 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.
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.
HITTING THE ROAD
Drake will have a quick turnaround for their next match. The Bulldogs will travel to Fargo, N.D. over the fall break for a rematch against North Dakota State on Monday, Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. The Bison knocked off the Bulldogs, 3-1, earlier this season at the InnTowner Invitational. NDSU leads the all-time series, 4-0-1.
The Bulldogs next home contest will be against the Creighton Bluejays and will be the annual Dig Pink match. The student-athletes 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. Fans will receive a Drake volleyball limited edition poster and there will be a postgame autograph session on the Knapp Center floor.
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 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 Faber 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.
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.