THIS WEEK: Saint Louis volleyball begins the 2012 season this weekend with a pair of matches at Nebraska's Husker Classic in Lincoln, Neb. The Billikens take on Nebraska Friday, Aug. 24, at 7 p.m. and face Notre Dame the following day at 3:30 p.m. SLU welcomes Santa Clara to Chaifetz Pavilion for the home opener Monday, Aug. 27, at 7:30 p.m.
TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets for all Billiken volleyball home matches can be purchased at the gate, by phone at (314) 977-4SLU or online at www.SLUBillikens.com. Single-match tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for youth. SLU students are admitted free with a valid University ID.
FOLLOWING THE ACTION: All Billiken home matches this season will be video streamed live on the Internet at www.SLUBillikens.com. Subscriptions are available for $79.95 annually or $9.95 a month. Live statistics also will be offered free of charge for all home matches. In addition, live stats are available for both matches at the Husker Classic, and the SLU-Nebraska match will be video streamed live for a $9.95 fee. Go to the www.SLUBillikens.com home page and find the Upcoming Events entries, located just below Top Stories, to access these features.
BILLIKENS RETURN 10 PLAYERS: Second-year head coach Kent Miller welcomes back 10 players from the 2011 squad. The Bills' senior class consists of defensive specialist Andrea Bolt, setter Cassie Clarke, middle blocker Carly Marcum, outside hitter Aleksandra Niemiec and middle blocker Carly Schumacher, with defensive specialists Grace Bonoma and Erin Klostermann comprising the junior class. Outside hitter Lauren Baumet is a redshirt sophomore, while defensive specialist Erin Nakatsuka and outside hitter Nicole Sniffen are redshirt freshmen.
FOUR FRESHMEN JOIN THE RANKS: Saint Louis has added four freshmen to its 2012 roster. The quartet is made up of setter Meredith Boe, defensive specialist Anna Church, outside hitter Lindsey Dinkelacker and middle blocker Megan Gilbert.
DEFENDING THE NET: Senior middle blockers Carly Marcum and Carly Schumacher give the Billikens a solid presence at the net. Marcum (1.10 bps) and Schumacher (1.06 bps) ranked second and fourth, respectively, in the A-10 in blocking last season.
A LOOK AT NEBRASKA: The Huskers, who were 25-5 overall and 17-3 in their inaugural Big Ten Conference campaign last year, are picked to repeat as Big Ten champions. Nebraska is ranked fourth, with one first-place vote, in the American Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll following a second-round defeat in the program's 30th consecutive NCAA Championship appearance last season. The Huskers return five starters and a libero from their 2011 team, including four All-Americans - senior outside hitter Gina Mancuso (first team), senior outside hitter Hannah Werth (honorable mention), junior right-side hitter Morgan Broekhuis (honorable mention) and senior setter Lauren Cook (honorable mention). Nebraska defeated SLU Nov. 20, 1975, in the only prior meeting between the Billikens and Huskers.
A LOOK AT NOTRE DAME: The Fighting Irish play top-ranked UCLA Friday before battling the Billikens. Notre Dame returns 12 letterwinners, including four starters and a libero, from its 2011 team that posted a 17-13 record and finished fifth (8-6) in the Big East Conference. The Fighting Irish made a strong run in the Big East Championship before falling to Cincinnati in the tournament final. Among the returning players is second-team All-Conference selection Jeni Houser, a sophomore opposite. Notre Dame leads Saint Louis 8-4 in the all-time series, with the teams' last meeting occurring in 2005.
A LOOK AT SANTA CLARA: The Broncos open the season with matches against host SIUE, Montana State and Western Illinois at this weekend's Cougar Classic before crossing the Mississippi to take on the Billikens. Three starters and seven additional letterwinners return from last year's 11-16 squad that placed seventh (6-10) in the West Coast Conference. Santa Clara's top three players in kill average are among that group of veterans. Junior outside hitter Katherine Douglas averaged 2.98 kills per set in 2011, followed by senior outside hitters Kaleigh Durket (2.43 kps) and Kayla Lommori (2.37 kps). The Billikens and Broncos are meeting for the first time.
HEAD COACH KENT MILLER: Head coach Kent Miller is in his second season at Saint Louis. Miller, who came to SLU after serving two seasons as an assistant at Illinois, spent 12 years as head coach at Toledo. In two seasons with the Fighting Illini, he helped the team reach two Sweet 16s and post a 50-15 record. Miller played a significant role in the Illini reaching a No. 3 national ranking, and he coached four AVCA All-Americans, one Academic All-American and six All-Big Ten selections during his tenure. Prior to Illinois, Miller recorded 136 wins in 12 years as head coach of Toledo. Inheriting a program that had finished with only two winning seasons in 17 years, he rebuilt the Rockets into a contender in the Mid-American Conference. Miller's teams also were successful in the classroom as the Rockets earned nine AVCA team academic achievement awards. He coached Kate Bean, who became the first UT volleyball student-athlete to earn ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America first-team honors in 2005 and 2006. In addition, Miller has vast experience on the international volleyball scene. He was an assistant on the USA National Team from 1987-96. With the USA Women's Olympic Squad, Miller was an assistant on the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Team that won the bronze medal. Miller is aided this season by assistant coaches Ben Spurlock and Sue Webber and volunteer assistant Kyle Homeyer.LAST SEASON: Saint Louis registered a 15-13 overall record and finished third in the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 10-5 league slate. The Billikens reached the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Championship.