February 24

No. 14 CSU to host Rams Volleyball Classic Thursday – Saturday

The Rams are riding a mile high after a huge week of play, and they look to continue their commanding play this weekend as they host the Rams Volleyball Classic, a four-team tournament, at Moby Arena.

Colorado State started off last week losing to No. 16 Oklahoma, their only loss of the season, and bounced back beautifully, beating No. 5 Nebraska on Friday and sweeping Albany Saturday.

Their win Friday night, dubbed the massive match up at Moby, was one of the biggest in school history. The Rams, in front of 6,750 fans (a school and Mountain West attendance record for volleyball), came back from down 0-2 to run off three straight sets and defeat the Cornhuskers.

Junior middle blocker Megan Plourde was the catalyst for the comeback, she recorded six of her nine kills in the match and all of her eight blocks in the final three sets of the match. Her performance was so paramount that she was named MWC Player of the Week, her second such honor in a calendar year.

And while last week was wonderful for the Rams, their attention turns to the Rams Volleyball Classic, which begins tonight at Moby Arena.

Here’s a look at their three opponents over the next three nights:

Rams vs. Nova KBM, Thursday night at 7 p.m. MT at Moby Arena

Nova KBM is a special opponent, they’re the only professional team Colorado State will face all season. Since the team’s founding in 1945, Nova KBM has been the most successful volleyball club in Slovenia as they won four Yugoslavian national championships from 1945-1991. Now, Nova KBM is independent and has won the Slovenian championship 10 times, and the Slovenian Cup 13 times including last year.

Nova KBM is in the middle of making their American tour, which included playing Utah, Utah Valley, Colorado, Regis, Denver, Albany and Wyoming—they’ve won every game on the tour except the game against Albany, CSU’s most recent win.

This is the toughest opponent the Rams (5-1) will face in the Classic, and they must bring their A-game tonight to get a win against the Slovenian Nova KBM.

Rams vs. Wichita State, Friday night at 7 p.m. MT at Moby Arena

Wichita State comes to Fort Collins with a record of 3-3 on the season. The Shockers started their season losing to Arizona (0-3) and Hawaii (1-3) before beating San Francisco (3-2) in the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational. Wichita State then swept Eastern Illinois, lost to Louisville (1-3) and beat Mississippi (3-1) in the Crowne Plaza Cardinal Classic.

The Shockers top player is senior Camri Zwiesler, who leads the team in kills, aces and overall points.

All-time, CSU is 3-0 versus the Shockers, and they look to continue that dominance Friday night.

Rams vs. Northern Colorado, Saturday night at 7 p.m. MT at Moby Arena

The same day the Colorado State football team plays UNC at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium, CSU volleyball faces Northern Colorado at Moby. And just like at the football game, this volleyball match will be Colorado State’s annual “Orange Out,” in which the Rams will don their orange jerseys to show respect for their history and Aggie heritage, and they ask fans to wear their orange in the stands as well.

UNC comes into Fort Collins at 4-3, and they’ve already beaten MWC teams in UNLV (3-0) and Air Force (3-1). The Bears’ best player is Kelley Arnold, and she leads UNC in kills (99), while also being the team leader in points per set (4.05).

Colorado State holds the all-time series advantage at 14-6, and the Rams have beaten the Bears in nine straight matches that date back to 1982.

This should be a fun tournament for Rams fans, and exciting to see if they can stay with their winning ways and continue to move up the rankings.

So get out, have some fun and root on the Rams this weekend in Fort Collins!

Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report, and Swoosh Nation.

Follow Rich on twitter for breaking news, need-to-know retweets and interesting insight on the Rams and everything Colorado sports related.

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February 24

UMSL volleyball picked to finish second in GLVC West preseason poll

The Great Lakes Valley Conference released its preseason women’s volleyball poll on Friday, with defending league champ Indianapolis tabbed the favorite to win the East Division and defending West Division champ Missouri S&T picked to win that title again as well.

The University of Missouri-St. Louis squad, which went 19-8 overall and 13-5 in conference games last year, was picked to finish second in the West behind Missouri S&T, while four-time GLVC Champ Lewis was voted second in the East.

S&T, which posted a school-record 24 wins and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history last year, received 12 of the 16 first-place votes and totaled 116 points in the GLVC West Division poll.

UMSL got the other four first-place votes and totaled 103 points.

The Tritons are gunning for another successful season under second-year head coach Ryan Young. UMSL brings back three starters from last year, led by all-GLVC honoree Chelsea Burkle, a junior outside hitter; Corinne Hoekstra, a senior right-side hitter; and Anna McNulty, a junior setter and defensive whiz.

UMSL will also bring back senior Kelsie Rankin, a three-year starter for the Tritons, who missed all of last year due to a knee injury.

Rockhurst was third in the preseason West rankings with 80 points, followed by Quincy (76 points), Drury (70), William Jewell (56), Maryville (39), and Illinois-Springfield (28).

In the East, UIndy received 14 first-place votes and totaled 119 points. Lewis got two first-place votes and 105 points, followed by Southern Indiana (91 points), Wisconsin-Parkside (73), Bellarmine (70), Saint Joseph’s (44), new GLVC member McKendree (38), and Kentucky Wesleyan (28).

Just as it did last season, the GLVC regular season will feature an East Division and a West Division in 2012, with the top three teams from each side and two wild cards earning a berth to the eight-team GLVC Volleyball Tournament, which will be played in November.

The 2012 women’s volleyball season will begin nationwide the weekend of August 31-September 1, with the first GLVC league contests scheduled for the following weekend on September 8.

UMSL will open its 2012 season at the Days Inn/Bulldog Invitational, a season-opening showcase hosted by Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., on August 31, with a pair of non-conference matches against Winona State and Ashland.

The Tritons 2012 home opener is scheduled for September 14, when UMSL will host Illinois-Springfield at the Mark Twain Gym at 7 p.m.

2012 Great Lakes Valley Conference Volleyball Preseason Poll

East Division

Team (1st-place votes) Total Points
1. Indianapolis (14) …………… 119
2. Lewis (2) ……………………. 105
3. Southern Indiana ……………. 91
4. Wisconsin-Parkside ……….. 73
5. Bellarmine ……………………. 70
6. Saint Joseph’s ………………. 44
7. McKendree …………………. 38
8. Kentucky Wesleyan ………. 28

West Division

Team (1st-place votes) Total Points
1. Missouri S&T (12) ……… 116
2. UMSL (4) …………………. 103
3. Rockhurst …………………… 80
4. Quincy ………………………. 76
5. Drury ………………………… 70
6. William Jewell …………… 56
7. Maryville …………………… 39
8. Illinois-Springfield ……… 28


February 24

HBU Volleyball opens season with win over Lamar

It took one set for the Houston Baptist University volleyball squad to get into a rhythm, but once they did, the Huskies powered their way to a season-opening four-set victory over the Lamar Cardinals on Friday afternoon in the North Texas Invitational at the North Texas Volleyball Center in Denton.

Led by the trio of Caiti Wenger, Madeline Gaffney and Heather Leaverton, HBU won 3-1 (16-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-13) over one of the teams that will be a Southland Conference foe when the team joins that conference next season.

Wenger, a junior middle blocker from Plano High School, posted a career-high 16 kills in the match to lead the way.

Gaffney, a sophomore transfer from Texas State who made her debut for HBU, had 15 kills and four blocks while senior outside hitter Leaverton, a Pearland graduate, added a double-double with 11 kills and 11 digs. She also posted three service aces.

After HBU jumped out to an early 7-4 lead in the opening set, Lamar rallied to outscore the Huskies 21-9 and take the first game 25-16. Tiffani Hunnicutt led Lamar with five kills in the set.

The Huskies got untracked in the second set. Led by Leaverton’s three service aces and three kills, HBU jumped out to an 18-8 lead en route to a 25-15 win to even the match at 1-1.

The third set was pivotal and the Huskies held off Lamar for a 25-22 win. Gaffney led HBU with six kills in the set, while Wenger added five more.

Midway through the fourth set, HBU held a slim 13-12 lead, but Gaffney notched three kills and a block assists and the Huskies finished on a 12-1 run to capture a 25-13 win in the set and the match.

HBU hit .231 for the match and held Lamar to .144. The Cardinals posted 48 digs to HBU’s 39, but the Huskies took the edge in service aces (7-4) and blocks (6-3).

For the Huskies, senior setter Victoria Weatherly contributed 44 assists, four digs, two kills and a pair of blocks.

HBU continues tournament play in Denton with two matches Saturday against host North Texas at 12:00 noon and University of Missouri-Kansas City at 5:00 p.m. before returning to Houston to play their first home match on Tuesday at Sharp Gym against Prairie View A&M.


February 24

USA men, women rule the podium at FIVB beach volleyball event

At this weekend’s FIVB beach volleyball event in Shanghai, China, four American pairs found glory at the top. Representing the only country with two or more teams in the final four, the men schooled the competition with a gold-silver finish, while the ladies sealed second and fourth place spots.

On Saturday, Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser outmanned a rejuvenated pairing of Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal, 21-18, 24-22 in the championship final. Both partnerships, each of whom competed in the Beijing Olympics, tore up the ranks by winning all matches in the first five rounds of the tournament.

In the finals, the top-seeded pair fought off challenges by the eleventh-seeded tandem who landied on the podium for the first time in a year.

“It was a pretty good match and we were playing our compatriots. We have played each other a lot of times and we know each other very well, I hope the crowd enjoyed it,” said Rogers in a FIVB press release. The Beijing Olympics gold medalists are putting the world ranks on notice by winning each of this season’s two FIVB tournaments.

Germany’s third-ranked team of Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann battled Spain’s Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira Collado to win the bronze, 14-21, 22-20, 15-10.

Just missing a chance at the podium were Americans Matt Fuerbringer and Nick Lucena who finished in a fifth place tie. And surprisingly, the best Brazilian team had to settle for a ninth.

Women’s Play – Close Contests

In the absence of the gold medal goddesses, Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor, two American women’s couples advanced into the medal round on Sunday. Jen Kessy and April Ross, the sixth-seeds, defeated Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Hanson, 21-17, 21-15. Then, the latter 16th seeded pair almost notched a bronze medal, in a narrow loss to the Austrian sister team of Stefanie Schwaiger and Doris Schwaiger, 19-21, 23-21, 12-15. For this rising US pair, their fourth place matched their best ever FIVB finish.

Kessy and Ross, an early favorite to make Team USA for the London Olympics, then faced the seventh-ranked Holland pair, Marleen Van Iersel and Sanne Keizer for the gold medal. In an hour-long match, the Americans nearly won the title before falling to the energetic Dutch duo, 21-15, 24-26, 13-15.

Nicole Branagh and Angie Akers, the next best US team, finished in a respectable 13th spot.

The FIVB tour next resumes in two weeks with the men competing in Prague, Czech Republic, while the women contend in Myslowice, Poland. May-Treanor, who is recovering from a MCL knee injury sustained at last week’s semifinal match in Sanya, China, may indeed miss this event too.

Keep checking back here for the latest beach volleyball news!


February 24

Glenn Volleyball Team Still Going Strong

With the undefeated football team, and the girls’ basketball team’s recent success over the past few years, the most consistent team at Glenn is often overlooked – the girls’ volleyball team.
The volleyball team has been Glenn’s most successful sports team since the early ‘90s, when Coach Kevin Harrington began coaching the team. In those days, the team (renamed the Spiders by Harrington, due to a spider’s ability to move quickly on eight legs, the way he wants his team to be able to move around the court) competed in the spring season rather than in the fall, something that Harrington fought to get changed. The logic behind playing in the spring was that in a school as small as Glenn, there may not be enough girls to field both Varsity and JV volleyball, soccer, cross country and tennis teams, whereas in the spring there were only softball and track. Many of the female athletes were crucial members of both the soccer and volleyball teams during the ‘90s as well, another factor that was taken into consideration.
But Harrington felt that his teams were good enough to make it to the New York State Championship, which only takes place in the fall. At this point, right before the move to the fall in 2001, the team was routinely adding a league championship banner to the wall each year and more often than not a Suffolk County Small Schools Championship as well. So in the fall of 2001 the volleyball team made the move from the fall to the spring, and as if to prove his point about the team being good enough to make it to states, the team made it there in their first year and brought home a state championship not too long after.
Harrington, who is also the Middle School volleyball coach, has always managed to instill a strong work ethic in his team, and they all fully expect practices to go as long as three hours on occasion. One quote which he has used as a team motto in certain years is “Perfection is our goal; excellence will be tolerated”. It’s this mentality that allows the team to remain as competitive year after year, the mentality that has made Glenn volleyball a team to be reckoned with. After their most recent 3 game victory over Babylon, Glenn is now 7-0.
Today Glenn faces off against Bayport Blue Point High School at home at 4:30, and hosts the John Glenn Invitational Tournament on Saturday.


February 24

Bikini rules stripped away from London Olympics beach volleyball regulations

Bikinis and beach volleyball – what’s not to like! After all, images of women diving and jumping for balls across a sandy court under the bright lights of an Olympic stadium equate to high television ratings worldwide. An equation that deserves the accolade of the “The hottest Olympic sport”, as dubbed by the NBC broadcaster.

With a wink and a grin, the sport’s governing International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) has long mandated this provocative, yet functional, “uniform” at past Olympic Games.

Yet, just this spring, this formal organization relaxed its tight restriction by allowing women to also compete in shorts and sleeved tops.

Many long-time observers as well as newfound followers were at first astounded by this decision. What next, tutus and leotards? Talk about a buzz kill!

The FIVB explained that its decision was borne out of respect for the cultural norms, religious beliefs and clothing standards of nations which will be newly competing at the London Olympics.

“Many of these countries have religious and cultural requirements so the uniform needed to be more flexible,” said FIVB spokesman Richard Baker. We introduced it due to top-level requests from our African confederation, where some countries prefer not to play in bikinis.”

For the first time, women from the tropical island of Mauritius, just off the African coast, will compete in Olympics beach volleyball. This pair earned the trip to London by winning a newly introduced FIVB competition – the Continental Cup, which gives smaller countries from five continental areas the chance to qualify. At this late May tournament, many competitors covered their midriffs with sleeveless tops.

This change was not only welcomed by athletes representing countries such as these, but also feminists. These “rear guard” activists have long questioned the specific FIVB requirement, set forth in 1999, that the bikini be “closely fitted to the body,” and have a bottom with a side no greater than seven centimeters (2.75 inches).

Despite this ruling, most athletes will stick to their bikinis, thank you very much. These elite and fit athletes have long professed that these two-pieces are flexibly suited to their leaps and bounds, all the while preventing sand from creeping into tight areas causing discomfort and constant readjustment.

“It’s something I feel empowered by, not distracted with. I’m not a sex symbol; I’m an athlete. I want to be streamlined out there,” said two-time Olympics gold medalist Kerri Walsh, in a recent Sports Illustrated interview.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest beach volleyball stories!

February 24

April Ross honored as USA Volleyball’s beach volleyball athlete of the year

April Ross, among the world’s best beach volleyball players, was awarded the “Female Beach Athlete of the Year” honor by USA Volleyball on Friday.

The 29-year-old Ross is well-known for her cagey quickness and dominating strength that she has honed during her mere, five-year beach volleyball career.

The 6’1” athlete transitioned to the beach, after a stellar indoor college career where she led the University of Southern California Trojans to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2002 and 2003.

During her first beach season in 2006, she paired with fellow USC teammate Keao Burdine to land several middle-of-the-pack finishes.

In the offseason, she switched teammates and began training with rising player, 6’0” Jennifer (Boss) Kessy. The forming of this “tall-tall” tandem mirrored a partnership trend that began to surface in the middle of the decade.

Right from the outset, this tandem dominated the ranks – on both domestic and international circuits. Leading up to this season, the powerful duo won 16 major tournaments, and just missed qualifying as the second team for Team USA at the Beijing Olympics.

While competing in the shadow of the two-time Olympics gold medalists, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, Ross and Kessy began to shine – as May-Treanor and Walsh took breaks from the beach tours during the 2009-2010 campaigns.

During the grueling seven-month Federation Internationale de Volleyball tour this year, the couple placed among the top ten a phenomenal thirteen times, including seven podium finishes.

Although this long season posed both physical and mental challenges for them as they competed mostly overseas, Ross’s strong attacks and overpowering serves kept their opponents off-balance each match

In recognition, she was awarded with two FIVB honors: Best Hitter, as voted by players, coaches, referees and officials; as well as Best Server, where she has been clocked with missile-like serves exceeding 50 miles per hour.

The pair will soon resume practicing for the upcoming season where they will strive to lock the second USA berth at the London Olympics, behind the already qualifying May-Treanor and Walsh. Coach Jeff Conover will continue to guide them towards fulfilling their dream.

“We still have to take care of a lot of business. But we’re happy with where we are,” said the optimistic Ross in a USAV press release.

Keep up with the latest beach volleyball news by following me here.

February 24

Bizarre Olympic Photos: Katrin Holtwick gets blue taped at beach volleyball

Katrin Holtwick of Germany showed off her serve on Saturday during the women’s beach volleyball match between Germany and Czech Republic, but it was her tape that has attracted major attention. Strips of blue tape were seen running down the athlete’s stomach and under her mini uniform with fans speculation exactly what the blue strips could be as it looked like simple tape.

Well, come to find out the blue strips are actually piece of kinesiology tape that Holtwick is using to this tape as an aid to alleviate certain pains. Put in very precise location, the blue take can reduce pain and even strengthen muscles allowing the athlete to be more productive during their matches.

Seen on other athletes in past Olympic Games over the years, the tape usually isn’t so obvious and doesn’t always attract attention. With as many blue strips that ran down the front of Katrin Holtwick, its obvious people are curious on what the deal is as it doesn’t look like an official part of the uniform.

Take a look at Katrin Holtwick’s taped moment on the sandy beach of the Olympic Games.


February 23

Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame – Inaugural event to attract sport’s legends

Beach volleyball needed an uplifting finale this year. After all this past season’s missteps, mis-starts, and misunderstandings which rocked this teetering ship, many are wondering what lies ahead for this struggling sport that is striving to domestically survive.

For those weary and dubious about this sport’s outlook, they can find great comfort and hope with Friday evening’s combined Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame Kick Off celebration and Museum fundraiser.

Hosted by the California Beach Volleyball Association and the Hermosa Beach Historical Society, this four-hour gala will lure dozens of former star athletes, and numerous devout fans to the Hermosa Beach Community Center starting at 6 p.m.

In this tribute to beach volleyball, the event will feature the largest gathering of male and female beach volleyball legends ever – many of whom will be receiving Hall of Fame medals to commemorate their past selections by the CBVA streching back to 1992.

Tonight’s epic event is the brainstorm of two presidents – the Historical Society’s Rich Koenig and CBVA’s Chris Brown. This idea’s origin stemmed from a mind meld of these two sport devotees – Koenig who was seeking to add more sport memorabilia to the historical society’s museum, and the obliging Brown who could attract interest and contributions from the celebrated Hall of Fame athletes and followers.

This once-in-a-lifetime gathering is part trip down memory lane, part ceremony, and part tribute. For many of these players, this will be the first chance to catch up to their former competitors since their playing years – stretching back to the 1960s where pioneer Ron Van Hagen ruled the sand.

Fellow veterans, Gene Selznick, Ron Lang, and Kevin Cleary (CBVA board member), are among the 64 athletes, all past Hall of Fame award recipients, who will be formally honored at a special, medal presentation ceremony. Four new inductees will also be awarded this sport’s top honor: players Holly McPeak, Brian Lewis, and John Hanley, as well as historian and author Artie Couvillion.

You can count on memorable stories beig shared, many of which will need to be sanded-off. Tales of weather-beaten balls, marathon-like sideout scoring games, late night parties, and tournaments ending in darkness will catch the attention of many. And old-school versus new school rules debates will likely spark challenges – reminiscent of the taunting of yesteryear.

Space is limited for this once-in-a-lifetime event, the proceeds for which will go towards the $15,000 needed to herald the opening of the CBVA/Hermosa Beach Historical Society Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame next spring.