GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - The Green Bay volleyball team (15-13, 6-8 HL) begins its quest for the 2012 Horizon League Championship on Friday, as the fifth-seeded Phoenix will face fourth-seeded Loyola (16-11, 8-6 HL) in quarterfinal action at 4 p.m. CT at Woodling Gymnasium in Cleveland, Ohio.
The winner of the Green Bay-Loyola match will face either No. 1 Cleveland State or No. 2 UIC in the semifinals on Saturday, depending on the winner of the No. 3 Valparaiso-No. 6 Youngstown State contest. Cleveland State will play the lowest remaining seed.
The top-seeded Vikings earned the right to host the 2012 Horizon League Championship by virtue of their 13-1 record in conference play (21-6 overall). The top six teams in the regular season standings qualified for the league championship. The winner of Sunday's title match (1 p.m. CT) earns an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Fans can follow Green Bay's quarterfinal match against Loyola with live stats and free live video on the Horizon League Network. The official Green Bay volleyball Twitter (@GBPhoenixVB) and Facebook (Green Bay Phoenix Volleyball) accounts will also be posting live updates throughout the match and the tournament.
SCOUTING THE RAMBLERS
Green Bay split its regular season contests against Loyola, falling 3-2 in Chicago on Oct. 6 before winning 3-0 at the Kress Center on Nov. 2. The Phoenix was dominant on the defensive end in the recent sweep, holding the Ramblers to a .071 hitting percentage and finishing with a 13-4 advantage in total team blocks. The Oct. 6 meeting resulted in a heartbreaking loss for the Phoenix, as the visitors surged out to a 2-0 lead before dropping three close ones in sets three through five.
Loyola is led by senior transfer Anna Eytchison, who picked up All-Horizon League and Newcomer of the Year honors earlier this week. Eytchison finished the regular season second in the conference in kills with 446 (4.37 per set), and has recorded 20 or more kills in 11 matches this year. A total of four Ramblers landed on the All-Newcomer Team, as freshmen Brittany Brown (1,052 assists, 10.12 per set), Stephanie Kinane (530 digs, 5.10 per set) and Kathleen Vogel (246 kills, 2.46 per set) joined Eytchison on the seven-member squad.
GROTH, LEITERMANN HONORED BY LEAGUE
Green Bay had two All-Horizon League honorees of its own, as seniors Brittany Groth (Oak Creek, Wis.) and Carmen Leitermann (Schofield, Wis.) were both named to the 14-member all-conference team. Groth broke the school's career and single-season digs records last weekend, helping her earn Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week honors for the third time this season. Leitermann also broke a school record this season when she became Green Bay's career leader in solo blocks on Oct. 19 at Youngstown State.
LAST TIME OUT
The Phoenix went 1-1 during the regular season's final weekend, sweeping Wright State 3-0 last Friday before falling 3-0 to Valparaiso on Saturday in a pair of road matches. Groth notched a match-high 27 digs in the sweep of the Raiders to move her past former Phoenix standout Megan Elfering (1,789 from 2005-08) on Green Bay's all-time list. Groth now has 1,836 for her career. Leitermann had a team-high 12 kills in the win, hitting .417 for the match.
Groth then broke her own single-season record of 659 digs (2011) with 22 more against the Crusaders, pushing her 2012 total to 665. Lyndsay Zabkowicz (Oak Creek, Wis.) led the Phoenix offense at Valpo, registering a team-best 11 kills.
Green Bay enters the 2012 Horizon League tournament having won five of its last eight contests.
DOING MORE ON DEFENSE
The Phoenix has been one of the top defensive squads in the Horizon League in 2012, leading the way in blocks per set (2.35) and digs per set (18.58). The digs per set average currently ranks sixth among all NCAA Division I schools, while Groth's 6.27 average is first in the league and third nationally. In addition, Phoenix junior Katie Mroczenski (New Berlin, Wis.) ranks second among all Horizon League players in blocks per set (1.20).
Green Bay volleyball head coach Debbie Kirch joined host Ryan Hartwig in studio on Wednesday for this week's episode of Match Point. Kirch recaps the team's recent awards and previews the 2012 Horizon League tournament.
Green Bay needs three victories in Cleveland to win the 2012 Horizon League Championship and earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. It would be the school's second trip to the Big Dance, as Kirch's squad qualified in 2003 by winning the conference tournament title.
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