The Missouri State volleyball team begins the 2009 season this weekend in Eugene, Ore., in the Oregon Classic at McArthur Court. The Bears open with Eastern Washington on Aug. 28 at 6:30 p.m., and play San Francisco at 2 p.m. Saturday before closing the weekend in the feature match with 14th-ranked Oregon at 9 p.m. that evening.
THE OPPONENTS — Eastern Washington went 18-11 last season and won the Big Sky regular season championship before losing in the league tournament title match. The Eagles, who return all six starters and lose only the libero from the starting rotation, are picked to finish second in the Big Sky in 2009.
San Francisco is coming off a 22-8 campaign in which it advanced to the NCAA Tournament and finished second in the West Coast Conference. The Dons lost four starters from last year’s club and are picked fifth in the WCC preseason poll. USF received nine votes in the preseason AVCA poll.
No. 14 Oregon returns four starters from a club that advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament and went 25-9 on the way to final No. 9 national ranking. The Ducks are picked to finish sixth this year in the rugged Pac 10 Conference.
THE SERIES — Missouri State is 2-3 all-time against this weekend’s tournament field. The Bears defeated Eastern Washington in 1984 in the lone previous meeting and lost to San Francisco in five sets to open the 2008 season in the only match between the two schools. MSU is 1-2 versus Oregon and last faced the Ducks in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament, a 3-0 loss.
COACH MELISSA STOKES — Missouri State head coach Melissa Stokes (San Diego State, 1991) is 293-135 (.685) in her 14th season at Missouri State. A native of El Cajon, Calif., Stokes has guided Missouri State to an overall record of 216-77 (.737) and 127-34 (.789) in the Missouri Valley Conference since 2000. In 2003, the Bears were the MVC regular-season champions and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993. MSU made a return trip to the NCAAs in 2005 after winning the MVC Tournament, and advanced to the second round for the first time in program history in 2006, defeating Arkansas before falling to No. 13 Oklahoma in the second round, and made it four straight trips to the postseason with NCAA bids in 2007 and 2008. Stokes came to Missouri State from the University of Idaho, where she helped the Vandals to four straight NCAA Tournament berths. As a setter at San Diego State, Stokes played four seasons and helped the Aztecs to two NCAA appearances. She coached the 250th victory of her Missouri State career against Florida State, Aug. 31, 2007. Stokes ranked 36th among active Division I coaches in win percentage entering 2009.
LIVE STATS — Live stats for most Missouri State volleyball matches will be available at www.missouristatebears.com. Go to the “Fan Central” link on the left side of the page and select “Live Stats.”
AUDIO AND VIDEO COVERAGE
Coverage of the Missouri game will be as follows:
• Radio: None
• Video stream: Bears Live, Oregon match only (Saturday, 9 p.m.)
• TV: None
• Missouri State received five votes in the initial AVCA Coaches Top 25, placing the Bears 45th in the poll.
• Head coach Melissa Stokes is climbing up the all-time MVC coaching lists in a number of categories. Listed below is the 14th-year coach’s ranking in those categories. Lists are compiled based on statistics at Valley schools only:
• Fourth in total victories with 293
• Fifth in win percentage overall (.685) and third among active MVC coaches
• Seventh in win percentage in MVC matches only (.714)
• Second in MVC victories (167)
• Stokes is now two victories away from tying SIU’s Debbie Hunter (1975-88) for third all-time in wins at MVC schools.
• Missouri State has finished in the top four of the MVC standings 10 years in a row. Only UNI can match that streak among league schools.
• Missouri State has won seven of its last nine season openers and is 9-4 in such games under Coach Stokes. MSU is 23-14 in season openers over the program’s 37-year history.
• MSU is 61-4 the last three seasons when winning set two.
• Missouri State has won at least 20 matches in 10 consecutive seasons, a streak that is currently longer than all but seven others nationally.
• Four Bears - Bethany Fuller, Kelley Michnowicz, Calli Norman and Shayla Patrick - have finished in the MVC’s top 10 in blocking at least one season of their career.
2008 IN REVIEW — Missouri State made a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament trip in 2008, finishing 23-13 overall and 11-7 in the MVC. The Bears won the MVC Tournament as the fourth seed, winning three matches in three days to become the lowest seed ever to win the event.
Four Bears received postseason recognition, as Sara Staubach and Calli Norman were first-team all-league picks, Cara Hackmann was a second-teamer and Kelley Michnowicz and Norman were on the all-freshman team.
1,000th WIN — Missouri State became the second volleyball program in NCAA history to reach 1,000 victories with a sweep on Indiana State on Nov. 17, 2006. The Bears trail only UCLA (1,082) and Nebraska (1,060) on the all-time wins list.
HOMECOMING — Missouri State has been dominant at home since 2000, compiling a home record of 112-20 for an .848 winning percentage at Hammons Student Center. The Bears have completed nine consecutive years with four or fewer losses in a home season and went 11-4 in 2008.
PRESEASON POLL — Coming off four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, the Bears are picked to finish second in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2009 by the league’s coaches. Wichita State is the preseason choice to repeat as league champions.
PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE — Cara Hackmann and Calli Norman occupy two of the eight spots on this year’s preseason all-MVC team. Hackmann was a second-team all-league choice in 2008 and made the all-freshman team in 2007, while Norman was a member of the league’s first and freshman teams a year ago.
TAILGATE ON SEPT. 4 — A volleyball tailgate will be held Sept. 4 beginning at 5:00 p.m. at the southwest corner of Hammons Student Center at the intersection of Holland and Monroe streets, prior the MSU’s match with Memphis. The event is open to the public with a meal of a burger or hot dog, drink and dessert available for $6. Fans can also purchase the meal plus a shirt for $16.