Nov. 30, 1999
Clemson (31-2) is making its fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament over the past seven years. The team earned its first AVCA Top 25 ranking at the beginning of the regular season and has continued to rise in the poll. Clemson spent three weeks at #13 at the end of the regular season, then moved to 16th in this week’s poll.
The team opened the season by winning the Michigan State Volleyball Classic, where Clemson defeated then-16th ranked Texas A&M and Michigan State, ranked 22nd in the preseason. The Tigers won their first nine matches 3-0, the third longest streak of consecutive games won in Clemson history.
Clemson won its first 16 matches, setting a Tiger record for consecutive matches won. Following a loss to North Carolina at home, the Tigers went on to win their next 15 matches. Clemson entered the ACC Tournament as the number one seed with a 15-1 ACC record, then defeated Florida State and Virginia to advance to the finals, where the team lost to the Tar Heels 3-1.
Tiger middle blocker Cindy Stern was honored as the ACC Player of the Year, and freshman setter Jessi Betcher was chosen ACC Rookie of the Year. Senior outside hitter Alison Coday and Stern were members of the All-ACC first team, while sophomore right side hitter Jodi Steffes and Betcher were named to the All-ACC second team. Betcher was also a member of the ACC All-Freshman team.
Stern leads the team with a .371 hitting percentage and 1.14 blocks per game, followed by freshman Mallory Benson who is hitting .323 and averaging 0.80 blocks per game. Betcher is averaging 14.18 assists per game, and senior Emily Gorla leads the team with 3.05 digs per game.
Indiana (19-10) will be making its second-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. With five seniors leading the way, the Hoosiers jumped out to a perfect 9-0 start in nonconference play, claiming the Florida State Invitational, the Duke Classic and the HoosierTimes.com Invitational.
The Hoosiers won their last three matches of the regular season which put them in a three-way tie with Michigan State and Ohio State for fifth place in the final Big Ten Conference regular season standings. Finding themselves in a must win situation, Indiana put together wins over Michigan, Iowa and then No. 20 Minnesota in the season finale to earn its place in the NCAA 64-team field.
Outside hitter Ryann Connors leads the Hoosiers’ attack this season, averaging 3.91 kills per game. Connors was named to the 1999 All-Big Ten Honorable Mention team and is IU’s career kill leader with 1,509 kills. Teammate Amanda Welter averages 3.58 kills per game and also leads the team with a .259 hitting percentage. Senior middle blocker Cydryce Carter leads the team in digs and blocks, averaging 2.96 digs and 1.07 blocks per game. Senior Erin Heimann ranks second in the Big Ten in serving with 50 aces, while freshman Laurie Gardner sets the Hoosier attack, averaging 12.55 assists per game.
Katie Weismiller is in her seventh season as Indiana’s head coach and carries a 110-110 (.500) school record and an eight-year career mark of 160-132 (.548).
Northern Iowa enters the tournament as the only undefeated team in the nation with a 28-0 record and ranked 17th nationally. The Panthers’ 28-match winning streak is the longest in school history. In fact, the last time UNI lost was in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament to Indiana, Clemson’s first-round opponent this year. UNI has put together back-to-back Missouri Valley Conference titles and has gone through the conference schedule undefeated the last two seasons at 36-0.
The Panthers are led by senior setter Shannon Perry, the Missouri Conference Player of the Year the past two seasons. She’s the school’s career assist leader and ranks fifth all-time in the conference. Senior Holly VanHofwegen and junior Alexandra Auker are two-time first team all-conference selections. VanHofwegen currently is ranked 16th nationally in block average after finishing 12th a year ago. Auker, the Valley Tournament MVP, was the only player in the league to rank in the top 10 in four categories — kills, digs, hitting percentage and service aces. Sophomore Kim McCaffrey also was an all-conference first-teamer after leading the team in kills and hitting percentage. Freshman Kim Kester was a second team all-conference pick and voted the MVC Newcomer of the Year.
Panther coach Iradge Ahrabi-Fard has compiled a 472-136 (.776) mark in his 18 seasons at the helm. He is ranked 12th among active coaches in terms of winning percentage and 20th in total victories.
Ball State (28-6), which has won 21 of its last 23 matches, will compete in its fifth NCAA Tournament of the 1990s when the Cardinals meet Northern Iowa on Thursday. BSU, which became just the second team in Mid-American Conference history to win a regular-season championship without a senior on its roster, earned its berth by virtue of a 15-11, 16-14, 15-9 victory over Western Michigan in the championship match of the MAC Tournament.
Junior Emily Sallee set a league record and tied the fourth-highest total for a three-game match in NCAA history by dishing out 75 assists in the contest. That improved her season total to 1,802 assists, which sets a conference record and represents the ninth-best effort in NCAA Division I annals. The majority of Sallee’s assists have been to sophomores Megan Hammons, Susie Meshberger and Julie Zylka, each of whom was selected to the All-MAC Second Team.
Hammons has totaled a league-best 533 kills this season and needs just three more to set a school record, while Meshberger’s 435 kills are the most ever by a Ball State middle attacker. Her .381 hitting percentage is the second best in team annals. Zylka lead the Cardinals and ranks second in the league with 1.26 blocks per game. Her .362 hitting percentage places third in team history.
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