Volleyball opens NCAA Tournament play with #13 Oregon



The Missouri State volleyball team earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament and brings a 25-7 overall record into this weekend’s action. The Bears open the tournament with 13th-ranked Oregon at 5:30 p.m. Friday inside Ahearn Field House in Manhattan, Kan. Oregon went 20-10 in the 2007 regular season for its best record since 1989 and finished in a tie for fifth in the Pac-10 Conference a 9-9 league mark.

The other two teams in Manhattan are the No. 9 overall seed and host Kansas State Wildcats (22-8, 14-6 Big 12) and Tulsa (27-8, 11-5 Conference USA).

KSU is ranked 11th in this week’s AVCA Top 25 poll, and faces Tulsa at 7:30 p.m. Friday, with the winners scheduled to play at 7 p.m. Saturday for the right to advance to the Sweet 16 in Stanford, Calif.

The matches will be broadcast live on KTXR 101.3 FM in Springfield and online at


Scoring updates for the entire NCAA Tournament can be accessed at www.ncaasports.com.

THE OPPONENTS No. 13 Oregon enters the NCAA Tournament with its best record since the 1989 season, and sits at 20-10 overall after a 9-9 finish in the Pac-10. Outside hitter Gorana Maricic ranks sixth in the country with 5.44 kills per game on .282 hitting, and the Ducks rank 15th nationally with a .273 team hitting percentage. Oregon averages 17.22 kills, 15.62 dogs, 1.64 aces and 2.70 blocks per game.

Kansas State is ranked 11th in the AVCA Top 25 Coaches poll and earned the No. 9 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament after a 22-8 overall record and 14-6 showing in the Big 12. The Wildcats opened the season with a 3-2 win over #14 Cal Poly, and own two wins against the MVC this year, beating Wichita State 3-1 and UNI 3-0. Natalya Korobkova paces an offense that hits .265 by averaging 4.39 kills per game, and the Wildcat defense blocks 2.92 opponent attacks as well. KSU is also dangerous at the service line, averaging 1.91 aces while six players have 28 or more.

Tulsa won the Conference USA Tournament as the fourth seed and finished the regular season with a 27-8 record. Fabiola Nepomuceno leads the Golden Hurricane with 4.86 kills per game, and versatile setter Julia Silva average 2.24 kills on .296 hitting, 10.89 assists, 3.28 digs and 0.82 blocks per game. She was honored as the CVU National Player of the Week on Nov. 20, and has 10 triple-doubles to her credit this season.

NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY Missouri State is making its seventh NCAA appearance in the 27-year history of the event, and is 1-6 all-time. The Bears also made the field in 1982, 1990, 1993, 2003, 2005 and 2006. Below is a list of previous tournament results:

1982 - Texas def. Missouri State; 15-10, 8-15, 15-7, 15-13 (Austin, Texas)

1990 - Hawaii def. Missouri State; 15-4, 15-11, 15-4 (Honolulu, Hawaii)

1993 - Illinois def. Missouri State; 15-7, 15-13, 17-15 (Springfield, Mo.)

2003 - Arkansas def. Missouri State; 30-26, 30-28, 16-30, 30-26 (Manhattan, Kan.)

2005 - Missouri def. Missouri State; 30-27, 30-18, 16-30, 30-26 (Columbia, Mo.)

2006 - Missouri State def. Arkansas; 28-30, 30-21, 30-27, 30-28 (Fayetteville, Ark.)

2006 - Oklahoma def. Missouri State; 30-19, 30-22, 30-19 (Fayetteville, Ark.)

THE SERIES The Bears and Oregon have met just twice before, splitting the two meetings with the last being a 3-0 Duck victory in 1984.

MSU leads Kansas State 15-5 in the all-time series, but the Wildcats have claimed the last three, including a 3-0 win in Springfield on Aug. 27, 2005, which was the last time the Bears were swept at home prior to this year’s MVC tournament loss to Illinois State.

Missouri State leads Tulsa 17-1 in the all-time series, including 16 wins in a row since the Golden Hurricane earned a victory in 1973. The Bears beat the Golden Hurricane 30-20, 30-23, 30-20 in Springfield on the first day of this season.

COACH MELISSA STOKES Missouri State head coach Melissa Stokes (San Diego State, 1991) is 270-121 (.691) in her 12th season at Missouri State. A native of El Cajon, Calif., Stokes has guided Missouri State to an overall record of 199-64 (.757) and 116-27 (.811) 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.

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 recorded her 100th career victory in the Bears’ five-game win over Manhattan College, Sept. 1, 2001 and coached the 250th victory of her Missouri State career against Florida State, Aug. 31, 2007. Stokes ranked 37th among active Division I coaches in win percentage entering 2007.

LAST WEEK Missouri State bowed out to Illinois State 30-26, 30-20, 30-28 in the quarterfinals of the MVC Tournament in Springfield, the first time the Bears had fallen short of the finals since 2002.

The Redbirds hit .410 in the first game and .282 for the match, while the Bears attacked at just a .124 clip against a red-hot Illinois State club that upset No. 22 Wichita State later that evening before falling to UNI 3-1 in the finals.


The Bears are 7-4 against against members of the 2007 NCAA Tournament field. MSU owns non-conference wins over Middle Tennessee, South Dakota State, Sacramento State and Tulsa. The Bears also picked up a pair of conference wins over Illinois State and beat UNI.

Losses have come against Illinois State, UNI, and twice to Wichita State.

The Missouri Valley Conference advanced a record four teams to the NCAA Tournament this season. Last year was another record season for the Valley, as two teams, UNI and Missouri State, advanced to the second round.

MVC teams are 0-3 all-time against the Pac-10, 2-8 versus the Big 12 and have never faced a Conference USA team in NCAA Tournament competition. All-time, Missouri Valley Conference schools have compiled a 15-30 record in the tourney.

Melissa Stokes became the third coach in league history to earn 150 MVC wins with a victory at Creighton Oct. 13. She is currently 156-60 (.722) in league matches. She ended the regular season one more MVC win shy of tying former Illinois State coach Julie Morgan for second all-time.

Missouri State has held all but three opponents this season to a .225 or lower hitting percentage.

MSU received votes in the AVCA Top 25 for 10 weeks this season and reached as high as 29th on two occasions.

Stokes earned her 250th career victory when the Bears defeated Florida State on Aug. 31.

Missouri State ranks among the nation’s top 55 in the following categories through Nov. 25. There are 325 Division teams in the rankings:

23rd in digs per game (19.16)

29th in winning percentage (.781)

43rd in blocks per game (2.86)

46th in kills per game (16.19)

53rd in assists per game (14.68)

Katelyn Panzau ranks 71st in the NCAA with 12.12 assists per game.

Sara Thomas became the 17th player in MSU history to reach the 1,000-dig mark Oct. 19 against Illinois State and now ranks 13th with 1,109.

Thomas has one of 12 kill-block-dig triple-doubles in the country this season, doing so Oct. 5 against Wichita State. She is the only player in school history with a triple-double of that variety and one of kills, assists and digs.

Thomas is the only player in the MVC averaging at least three kills (3.20), three digs (3.47) and one block (1.20) per game.

Head coach Melissa Stokes is climbing up the all-time MVC coaching lists in a number of categories. Listed below is the 12th-year coach’s ranking in those categories. Lists are compiled based on statistics at Valley schools only:

Sixth in total victories with 270

Fourth in win percentage overall (.692) and second among active MVC coaches

Sixth in win percentage in MVC matches only (.722)

Third in MVC victories (156)

Sara Thomas, Jamie Adams and Sara Staubach have all posted matches with 20 or more kills this season.

Those three are all averaging over three kills per game in 2007, something that hasn’t been done at Missouri State since 1993.

With 23 kills at Creighton Oct. 13, sophomore Sara Staubach became the first Bear since Amanda Omar in 1999 to get 20 or more kills in a three-game match.

Shayla Patrick leads all MVC freshmen with 1.11 blocks per game.

MSU is 21-2 this year and 45-3 the last two seasons when winning game two.

The MSU defense has been very difficult to ace this season, surrendering an average of 0.99 aces per game to opponents to lead the league.

Katelyn Panzau is third in school history with 2,775 assists and now holds the record for assists by a two-year player.

Missouri State’s win over No. 25 Middle Tennessee on Sept. 9 was the first over a ranked team since 2003.

Jamie Adams has reached at least 10 kills in 34 of her last 39 matches.

Missouri State has hit over .200 in 23 of 32 matches this season and at least .169 in all but five.

By winning MVC Player of the Week honors Sept. 10, Thomas became the first MSU player to win the award multiple times in the same season since Linette White in 2003.

Thomas has recorded at least six kills in each match, hitting .500 or better four times, .400 or better 11 times, .300 or better 16 times, and .200 or better 21 times.

DIGGIN’ THE VALLEY As a league, with updated stats after the release of the Nov. 25 NCAA report, Valley teams are averaging 18.18 digs per game.

That number is better than every individual team from the Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, WAC, West Coast Conference and all but one team in the Mountain West (UNLV, 19.89) and Pac-10 (UCLA - 19.21).

HOMECOMING Missouri State has been dominant at home since 2000, compiling a home record of 101-16 for an .863 winning percentage at Hammons Student Center. The Bears have completed seven consecutive years with three or fewer losses in a home season and finished 13-3 in 2007.

20 WINS AGAIN By virtue of its victory over Illinois State on Oct. 19, Missouri State reached the 20-win mark for the ninth consecutive season. Such a streak has not happened since 1972-84. In fact, Missouri State has finished with at least 24 wins six times in 12 seasons under Melissa Stokes.

LUCKY 13 The Bears finished 14-4 MVC play, marking the eighth consecutive season MSU has reached at least 13 conference victories.

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. Now with 1,028 all-time victories, the Bears trail only UCLA (1,055) on the all-time wins list.

PANZAU CHASING A RECORD Senior setter Katelyn Panzau is in just her second season on the floor for the Bears, but is in line to finish as one of the top setters in school history. She recorded 1,502 assists in 2006, and a repeat of that will put her in third place on MSU’s all-time list. She now occupies third place on the career list with 2,775.

Just a pair of two-year players appear in the career top 10 in addition to Panzau, with Jessica Brester (2,027) and Lani Kim (1,838) occupying the ninth and 10th spots, respectively.

THOMAS DOY Sara Thomas adds to her long list of awards this season by being voted as the MVC’s inaugural Defensive Player of the Year.

The only player in the league to average at least three digs and one block per game, Thomas ranks 15th in the MVC in digs with a 3.51 per game average, and fourth with 1.22 blocks per game.

ALL-CONFERENCE Five of Missouri State’s six regular starters earned all-conference recognition this season. Katelyn Panzau and Sara Thomas were first-team selections, with Panzau earning that honor for the second year in a row.

Jamie Adams was a repeat second-team choice and was joined on the team by Sara Staubach.

Cara Hackmann rounded out the honorees by appearing on the all-freshmen team.

SCHOLAR-ATHLETES Three Bears have been honored for their academic and athletic performance with a spot on the MVC Scholar-Athlete team.

Jamie Adams is the Bears’ lone first-team selection, and has a 3.58 cumulative grade point average in entertainment management. She was an honorable mention choice in 2006.

Nikki Vandepopulier and Sara Staubach appear as honorable mention selections. Vandepopulier has a 3.71 GPA in public relations, while Staubach has a 3.57 GPA through her first two semesters and is undecided on an academic major.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK Sara Thomas and Shayla Patrick brought home MVC awards in the first week of the season. Thomas was the league’s player of the week after averaging 3.79 kills, 4.07 digs, 1.07 blocks and hitting .357 on the way to becoming the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational MVP.

Patrick was the freshman of the week after leading MSU in hitting efficiency (.377) and blocking (1.29/game). She was named to the all-tournament team in her first collegiate action.

Thomas earned the award a second time on Sept. 10 after averaging 4.23 kills, 2.92 digs, 1.54 blocks and 1.46 assists per game in MSU’s 4-0 trip through Tennessee. She hit over .400 in three matches and .368 for the weekend, including a career-high 20 kills and a .405 attack efficiency in MSU’s 3-1 win at 25th-ranked Middle Tennessee.

Thomas added another award to her resume Oct. 8 by earning MVC Defensive Player of the Week honors. She averaged 4.57 digs and 2.71 blocks against WSU and SDSU, recording a triple-double against the Shockers.

Patrick brought home her second freshman honor Oct. 15 after leading the Bears with a .419 hitting figure and 1.29 blocks per game in wins at Drake and Creighton.

Thomas earned a fourth weekly honor Oct. 29 by winning Defensive Player of the Week a second time. She averaged 3.0 digs and 1.86 blocks in road victories against Evansville and Southern Illinois.




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