GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Winners of four straight and five of the last six matches, the Green Bay volleyball team (7-5) returns to the Kress Center this weekend to open Horizon League play against Cleveland State (Friday at 7 p.m.) and Youngstown State (Saturday at 4 p.m.). They will mark Green Bay's first home contests in nearly a month, as the Phoenix embarked on a nine-match road stretch following its season-opening home tournament Aug. 24-25.
Fans can follow Green Bay's matches against Cleveland State and Youngstown State with live stats and live video on GreenBayPhoenix.com. The official Green Bay volleyball Twitter (@GBPhoenixVB) and Facebook (Green Bay Phoenix Volleyball) accounts will also be posting live updates throughout both contests.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
Green Bay opens its conference slate with a pair of tough tests, as Cleveland State and Youngstown State boast the two best records among Horizon League teams. The Vikings enter Friday's contest with a record of 8-5, which is second only to the Penguins' 10-4 mark.
Cleveland State, picked second in the Horizon League preseason poll, enters Friday as the conference's top offensive team, leading the way in hitting percentage (.243), kills (14.04 per set) and assists (13.23). CSU is paced by seniors Kara Koch and Marie Frease, who both earned all-tournament honors as the Vikings went 1-1 at the West Virginia Invitational last weekend, beating Murray State (3-0) and falling to WVU (3-2). Koch ranks first in the conference in kills with 233, averaging 4.85 per set, and Frease is second in hitting percentage (.318) behind Green Bay's Carmen Leitermann (Schofield, Wis.) (.341).
Youngstown State, winners of eight of the last 10 matches, enters the weekend with its best non-conference record in the last 13 seasons. The Penguins are fresh off a pair of 3-1 wins over UNC Greensboro and UNC Wilmington in last weekend's Spartan Spiketacular in Greensboro, N.C. YSU has been one of the league's best defensive teams in the early going, ranking first in blocks (2.17) and opponent hitting percentage (.152). Junior Jenna Cavanaugh is the league's top blocker, averaging 1.15 per set.
LAST TIME OUT
Green Bay is coming off a championship performance at last weekend's Wildcat Classic in Davidson, N.C. The Phoenix swept NC Central and High Point before earning the tournament title with a 3-2 win over Davidson on Saturday evening. Junior setter Leah Poel (Jenison, Mich.) earned Wildcat Classic MVP honors after averaging 12.1 assists per set, while Monica Anderson (Cottage Grove, Wis.) and Leah Van Zeeland (Kaukauna, Wis.) also picked up all-tournament honors. Anderson led the team with 41 kills, including a career-high 22 in the tourney-clinching win over the Wildcats, and Van Zeeland posted solid kill (34) and dig (38) numbers in the three matches.
Leitermann leads all Horizon League players in hitting percentage, hitting an impressive .341. The senior middle has committed just 26 errors on 299 attempts while compiling 128 kills, good for second on the team behind Anderson's 134.
Senior libero Brittany Groth (Oak Creek, Wis.) is tops in the Horizon League in digs (260) and digs per set (5.78), with the latter ranking seventh among all NCAA Division I players. Groth is no stranger to the nation's top-10 list, as she finished her junior campaign ranking ninth in the NCAA with the same 5.78 digs per set average.
Groth is also climbing in the school record books, as her 1,431 career digs have moved her into fourth on Green Bay's all-time list. With six digs on Friday, the senior would surpass former All-American and Phoenix Hall of Famer Janelle Tomlinson (1,435, 2000-03) in third place, and she needs 359 more digs this season to break Megan Elfering's career record of 1,789 (2005-08).
Green Bay head coach Debbie Kirch recently joined host Ryan Hartwig for another episode of Match Point. The two discussed the team’s winning streak, including the championship performance at the Wildcat Classic, and previewed the start of Horizon League play against Cleveland State and Youngstown State.
SERVE WITH THE PHOENIX
Following Saturday's meeting with Youngstown State - and after all Saturday home matches in 2012 - Green Bay volleyball is inviting all children in attendance to join the team on the floor to Serve with the Phoenix. Serve with the Phoenix provides the opportunity for youngsters to interact casually with the Green Bay players, be on the game floor and hit with the game balls.
JUNIOR PHOENIX CLINIC
Green Bay volleyball is hosting its annual Junior Phoenix Clinic for kids in eighth grade or younger this Sunday, Sept. 23 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Kress Center. Those interested can sign up online or pick up a registration form at this weekend's matches. Walk-ups on the day of the clinic are also welcome.
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE
Following the brief homestand, the Phoenix heads back on the road to face DePaul next Wednesday at 7 p.m. before resuming league play with a trio of matches at Milwaukee (Sept. 28), UIC (Oct. 5) and Loyola (Oct. 6). Green Bay's next home contest will be on Oct. 9 when it hosts Chicago State in its final non-conference match of the season.
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