Video/Notebook: Green Bay Volleyball Clicking on Offense, Defense

Courtesy: Green Bay Athletics
Release: September 05, 2012
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By: Ryan Hartwig (@RyanHartwig)

GREEN BAY, Wis. ( - Green Bay (3-4) played some of its best volleyball of the young season over the weekend at the UND Classic, leaving Grand Forks, N.D., with two wins and a high level of confidence about both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

The Phoenix started the tournament with an exciting five-set victory over Stephen F. Austin on Friday night and ended it with a dominant 3-0 sweep of South Dakota on Saturday. The team's lone defeat was a hard-fought loss to tournament champ North Dakota, which also had a 2-1 record but won the title based on set winning percentage.

Offensively, Green Bay out-hit its opponents .237 to .176 at the UND Classic, finishing with the edge in kills, assists and service aces. Junior Lyndsay Zabkowicz (Oak Creek, Wis.) - who had a career-high 22 kills against SFA - led the Phoenix with 44 kills, and five Green Bay players had at least 19 kills in the three matches. Junior Leah Poel (Jenison, Mich.) managed the Phoenix attack with 115 assists, averaging more than 10 per set.

Senior Brittany Groth (Oak Creek, Wis.) led the Green Bay defense with 61 digs at the UND Classic, helping her earn All-Tournament honors. Poel also had a solid tournament on the defensive end, picking up 44 digs and three blocks, while junior Katie Mroczenski (New Berlin, Wis.) posted a team-high 12 blocks to help the Phoenix win the block battle 21-18.

Green Bay looks to continue its well-balanced play this weekend at the South Dakota State Jackrabbit Invitational when it plays host SDSU on Friday at 7 p.m. and Bradley on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Phoenix head coach Debbie Kirch joined host Ryan Hartwig on Wednesday for this week's episode of Match Point. The two recapped Green Bay's successful trip to North Dakota, talked about some standout individual performances and previewed the upcoming Jackrabbit Invitational. To watch this week's show, click here.

The Phoenix has demonstrated strong defensive play to start the 2012 campaign, leading the Horizon League in two of the major statistical categories. Green Bay is tops in blocks (2.12) and digs (18.54) per set, registering 51 total blocks and 445 digs in 24 sets played.

Groth currently leads all Horizon League players with 5.96 per set. Her league-best 143 digs in 24 sets played is 14 ahead of Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Taylor Root from Valpo, who has 129 in 27 sets (4.78). The senior registered 61 digs in the UND Classic over the weekend and was named to the all-tournament team, and earlier this year broke Green Bay's record for digs in a three-set match (29, Aug. 25 vs. Auburn). For her efforts, she was named Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week for the fourth time in her career on Aug. 27.

Groth now has 1,314 career digs, good for fifth on Green Bay's all-time list, and will need 476 more to pass Megan Elfering (2005-08) as the school's career leader. As a junior in 2011 she set the school record for digs in a season with 659 - 82 more than Elfering's 577 in 2008 - and her 5.78 digs per set average ranked ninth among all NCAA Division I players.

Zabkowicz knocked home a career-high 22 kills in Green Bay's 3-2 win over Stephen F. Austin in the opening match of the UND Classic last Friday. The total broke her previous career-best of 18, which she achieved her freshman season in a contest at Milwaukee. The junior leads the Phoenix with 78 kills - a figure that ranks fifth among Horizon League players.

Senior Carmen Leitermann (Schofield, Wis.) is in the top 10 in the Horizon League in two categories, ranking fifth (.324) in hitting percentage and eighth (0.79) in blocks per set. She recorded the league's top individual hitting percentage effort against Auburn (Aug. 25) when she hit .545, registering 13 kills on 22 swings. With nine so far in 2012, Leitermann has moved into second on Green Bay's all-time solo blocks list with 85 (97, Marie Kaland, 1992-95), and also ranks eighth on the school's total blocks list (292).

Poel has recorded five straight double-doubles (assists and digs), averaging nearly 10 assists per set and 3.67 digs per set in the last five matches. She notched season highs in both categories in Friday's win over Stephen F. Austin, totaling 51 assists and 18 digs. She then celebrated her 20th birthday on Saturday by totaling 64 assists and 26 digs in the final two contests (six sets) of the UND Classic.

The Phoenix is in the midst of its longest road stretch of the season, playing nine straight away from home after opening the season with the Green Bay/Country Inn & Suites Tournament at the Kress Center Aug. 24-25. The team's next home match is set for Sept. 21 when it hosts Cleveland State to open Horizon League competition.


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