THIS WEEK: Saint Louis volleyball welcomes three teams to Chaifetz Pavilion for the Active Ankle Challenge Friday and Saturday, Aug. 31-Sept. 1. Valparaiso, Southern Illinois and South Alabama will join the Billikens in the round-robin tournament.
TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE: South Alabama (2-1) and Southern Illinois (2-1) will square off Friday at 4:30 p.m. to open the Active Ankle Challenge. Saint Louis (0-3) and Valparaiso (2-2) will play the nightcap at 7 p.m. Saturday's four-match slate begins with Valparaiso vs. South Alabama at 10 a.m., followed by SLU vs. Southern Illinois at noon, Southern Illinois vs. Valparaiso at 4:30 p.m., and SLU vs. South Alabama at 7 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 will be available for all non-SLU matches in the Active Ankle Challenge. Go to the www.SLUBillikens.com home page and find the Upcoming Events entries, located just below Top Stories, to access these features.
ABOUT THE BILLIKENS: Sophomore outside hitter Lauren Baumet leads Saint Louis with 18 kills, followed by senior middle blocker Carly Marcum and freshman middle blocker Megan Gilbert with 14 each, freshman outside hitter Lindsey Dinkelacker with 13 and senior outside hitter Aleksandra Niemiec with 11. Junior defensive specialist Grace Bonoma tops the digs chart with 34 (3.78 per set), with Dinkelacker (27 digs, 3.00 dps) and senior setter Cassie Clarke (20 digs, 2.22 dps) following. Marcum has a team-high nine blocks, followed by Baumet and Gilbert with seven apiece.
BILLIKENS IN THE A-10 STATS: Saint Louis ranks in the upper half of the Atlantic 10 Conference in digs (fifth, 14.33 dps) and blocks (sixth, 1.89 bps). Senior middle blocker Carly Marcum is tied for seventh in blocks (1.00 bps), while junior defensive specialist Grace Bonoma ranks eighth in digs (3.78 dps).
LAST WEEK: The Billikens dropped 3-0 decisions to No. 4 Nebraska and Notre Dame at Nebraska's Husker Classic Aug. 24-25, then fell 3-0 to Santa Clara in the home opener Aug. 27.
A LOOK AT VALPARAISO: The Crusaders opened the season by splitting four matches at Iowa's Hawkeye Challenge, defeating Chicago State and South Dakota State and falling to Southeast Missouri State and Iowa. Sophomore middle hitter/opposite Morgan Beil and junior middle hitter Ellen Vanden Berg are Valparaiso's top two offensive threats. Beil has a team-high 40 kills (2.67 per set) and hits .250, while Vanden Berg boasts a team-high .313 attack percentage with 2.00 kills per set. Sophomore middle hitter/outside hitter Kelsey Victor and junior outside hitter Sarah Dooms average 2.47 and 2.12 kps, respectively. Senior libero Taylor Root and Dooms have bolstered the Crusaders' defense in the early going, averaging 5.19 and 3.94 digs per set, respectively, to help Valpo hold its opponents to a .125 attack percentage. Freshman setter Kelsey Berrington has tallied seven service aces in 16 sets for a 0.44 average. Berrington also averages 2.62 digs per set for Valparaiso, which is the only team in the tournament to have played a five-set match this year. The Crusaders won 20 matches a year ago.
A LOOK AT SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Southern Illinois, which carries a .273 attack percentage, defeated Memphis and Austin Peay and lost to Eastern Michigan at the Memphis Invitational Aug. 24-25. The Salukis' offensive leaders are sophomore outside hitter Jessica Whitehead (3.90 kills per set), junior outside hitter Laura Thole (3.70 kps), junior middle blocker Alysia Mayes (3.30 kps, .491 hitting percentage) and freshman middle blocker Taylor Pippen (2.78 kps, .322). Mayes hasn't limited her contributions to the attack. In addition to leading SIU in hitting percentage, she paces the team in blocking (1.20 bps) and service aces (0.80 saps). Junior defensive specialist Bailey Yeager anchors the Saluki defense with a 5.20 digs-per-set average, followed by Thole (3.10 dps) and sophomore setter Amy Drabant (3.00 dps).
A LOOK AT SOUTH ALABAMA: The Jaguars began the season at the Southern Miss Invitational, where they fell to Central Arkansas in the opener but rebounded to down Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech. South Alabama features a balanced offensive attack. Senior middle blocker Olivia Mohler (.443 attack percentage) and sophomore outside hitter Melissa Waelter are tied for the team lead in kills (32) and kills per set (2.91). Senior opposite/middle blocker Lindsay Schwartz is close behind with 30 kills and a 2.73 average, while freshman outside hitter Savannah Stewart has 24 kills and a 2.18 average. Junior libero Jenna Hassell tops the Jaguars' digs chart with a 4.27 per-set average. Hassell is followed by senior setter Katariina Kananen, who has a 2.64 dps mark. In addition to her offensive success, Mohler leads South Alabama with 1.36 blocks per set.
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.COMING UP NEXT WEEK: Saint Louis travels to Peoria, Ill., to take on Bradley Tuesday, Sept. 4. The Billikens host the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7-8, in Chaifetz Arena. Evansville, Southeast Missouri State and South Florida will join SLU in the round-robin tournament, with the Billikens playing Evansville Friday at 7 p.m., SEMO Saturday at noon and South Florida Saturday at 7 p.m.