Sept. 14, 2009
Sept. 15 - @ N. Illinois - 7 pm
Sept. 18 - @ Loyola - 7 pm
Sept. 19 - @ UIC - 4 pm
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The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's volleyball team heads to the state of Illinois for three games this week. Tuesday, UWM plays its final non-league game of the season at Northern Illinois. Then, the Panthers open Horizon League play at Loyola Friday and UIC Saturday.
UWM went 1-3 at this past weekend's Panther Invitational, beating South Dakota before falling to Western Michigan, Marquette and Ohio State.
Maddie Sueppel earned a spot on the Panther Invitational All-Tournament team and was named the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week thanks, in large part, to a record-setting performance at the net against Marquette. Sueppel set a school and league record with 19 blocks in the contest.
Here's The Latest
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's volleyball team heads to the state of Illinois for three contests this week, including its first two league matches.
About The Opponents
The Panthers' three opponents for the week ahead have all experienced their fair share of ups and downs early in 2009.
Northern Illinois is 5-6 so far this season, having snapped a five-match losing streak with a sweep of Tennessee State Saturday. The Huskies do own a win over UIC.
Loyola is now 6-5 on the year thanks to a five-match winning streak. This current run includes the title of the Country Inn and Suites Tournament in Chattanooga this past weekend. The Ramblers will play at Indiana State Tuesday.
UIC, under first-year head coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley, is 4-7 on the young season with a match against Central Michigan scheduled for Tuesday.
Opening Up In The League
UWM will be looking for its 12th win in its last 14 Horizon League openers when it takes the court against Loyola Friday night. The last time the Panthers opened league play in Chicago, though, was 2005, and Milwaukee lost both contests. Of course, the Panthers went on to win their next 12 league contests to claim the regular season title.
And Back To The Road
After one weekend at home, the Panthers are back on the road for their next four contests and for eight of the next nine matches overall. The stretch includes seven Horizon League contests. The Panthers have played quite well away from Milwaukee in recent seasons, especially in league play. UWM has gone 18-4 in its last 22 league road matches and, if you include neutral-site contests, is 26-14 in its last 40 matches away from the Klotsche Center.
About Last Week
UWM knew it was facing another tough weekend thanks to the field assembled for the Panther Invitational, and the opposition didn't disappoint. Milwaukee wound up going 1-3, beating South Dakota before falling to Western Michigan, Marquette and Ohio State. The Panthers' best chance for a second win came against their crosstown rivals, with UWM winning the first set and then having seven set-point chances over the second and third sets. Maddie Sueppel did earn a spot on the all-tournament team.
Maddie Sueppel and her team each set new school records for blocking in UWM's loss to Marquette Saturday. Sueppel's record-setting performance included 19 total blocks (2 solo, 17 assists), the most by a Panther in a match of any length in the school's Division I history. The previous high was 17, set by Liz House during a five-set match in 1990. It also set a new Horizon League record, and earned Sueppel league defensive player of the week honors. UWM's 23 total blocks against Marquette was also a school-record for a four-set match.
Looking To Get Back On Track
After going 1-3 this past weekend, UWM has fallen to 2-8 for the first time since 2002. That marked eventually became 2-9 before UWM rallied to win 20 matches and claim a spot in the NCAA Tournament. There seems good reason to think a similar story could unfold in 2009 when you consider the competition Milwaukee has faced so far this season. UWM has lost three times in straight sets, twice to Iowa State and once to Ohio State. Those two squads are a combined 17-2, with ISU on the verge of cracking the top 10 in the AVCA poll. Marquette and Western Michigan each beat UWM in four sets, and those two squads are a combined 13-8, with six of those losses either to each other, Ohio State or to top-25 foes. In all, UWM's eight losses have come against seven opponents that are 48-23 this year.
A Few More Notes
The Panthers have still won 128 of their last 146 home matches overall and have a 37-match home league winning streak ... UWM is now 79-48 during in-season tournaments over the last 12-plus years ... Jena Berg has reached double figures in kills in seven of her last eight matches and has five double-doubles in that stretch.
What An Opening Challenge
UWM opened the 2009 season with a pair of matches against #13 Iowa State. It marked the first time the Panthers have ever opened a Division I season with two-straight matches against a ranked foe. The Cyclones were able to avenge their five-set loss to the Panthers last season in Milwaukee with a pair of three-set victories in Ames.
One of UWM's wins this year came in impressive fashion, as the Panthers opened the first set on a 10-0 run en route to a three-set sweep of Alcorn State. Milwaukee hit a school-record .474 in the match, besting a .471 effort against Seneca in 1990. The win was also the 50th UWM head coaching win for Susie Johnson.
Snapping A Long Streak
The one down side to the dominance of Alcorn State was the lack of dig opportunities for libero Lauren Felsing, who saw her 61-match double-figure dig streak snapped when she had just five digs in the contest. In fact, no Panther reached double figures in the category and Alcorn State had just 58 attack opportunities. Felsing has since been back in double figures in digs in four of five matches since then.
UWM has been picked to win the 2009 Horizon League championship. The Panthers, who have won the last six regular season titles, received seven of nine first-place votes and totaled 63 points in the poll. Last season, the Panthers exceeded preseason expectations after being picked third in the poll. UWM wound up winning the regular season title and then won three matches in the league tournament to secure an NCAA Tournament berth. Valparaiso, which finished just behind the Panthers in last year's standings, was picked second in the poll. The Crusaders, who return league player of the year Angie Porche, received a pair of first-place votes. Cleveland State, who was picked to win the title last season and who UWM beat in the league tournament title match, finished third in the poll.
One year after fielding one of the youngest teams in the country, the Panthers return all but one starter and 12 of 14 letterwinners. Two of the returnees made the All-Horizon League squad, with senior Lauren Felsing and junior Maddie Sueppel both recognized last season. Meanwhile, two other returnees made the league's all-newcomer team, with Samantha Trawitzke and Kerri Schuh both honored last year.
UWM's impact newcomer is Tennessee transfer Jena Berg. The former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Player of the Year sat out last season after transferring to Milwaukee in January of 2008 and has two seasons of eligibility remaining. Berg is starting at outside hitter for the Panthers.
Milwaukee has a pair of seniors on its 2009 roster. Lauren Felsing has gained a reputation of being one of the best liberos in the Midwest. In addition to her all-league recognition, Felsing claimed honorable mention all-region honors from the American Volleyball Coaches' Association. She was also a three-time winner of the Horizon League's Defensive Player of the Week award and she set a new single-season UWM digs record. She has now reached double figures in digs in 67 of her last 69 contests and is third on the Milwaukee's all-time list. Meanwhile, Kellye Zaporski has been a regular at both setter and in the back row throughout her career. She began the 2009 season with nearly 1,600 assists.
Summing Up The 2008 Season
No one quite knew what to expect from a very young Panther squad in 2008, as they were picked third in the Horizon League after losing five seniors from the 26-3 squad of 2007. But, Milwaukee served notice on the first weekend it was a force to be reckoned with, as the Panthers knocked off then-#18 Iowa State in a five-set thriller. UWM wound up claiming seven non-league wins against a difficult slate and carried that momentum into league play. The Panthers were 8-1 before a weekend road trip to Valpo and Butler dropped them back to 8-3. But, UWM bounced back to win its final five league contests and clinch its sixth-straight regular season league crown. From there, UWM won three-straight matches in the league tournament in Cleveland - including a five-set thriller over the host Vikings in the title match - to claim its seventh NCAA Tournament berth. Nationally-ranked Illinois then proved too much for the Panthers in the postseason, ending UWM's season with a three-set sweep in Champaign in the first round of the tourney.
The 2008 season allowed the Panthers to add to their already stellar numbers over the past decade-plus. Milwaukee has now won six-straight outright league titles, something no other league school has ever accomplished. It was also UWM's 10th overall crown, easily the most among league schools. UWM has now won at least 11 league matches for 12-straight seasons while never losing more than three league contests during that same time. In that time span, Milwaukee has built a 146-18 record in regular season league play. UWM also pushed its overall win total to 23, which marked its 11th 20-win season in the last 12 years. Finally, UWM entered the NCAA Tournament riding an eight-match winning streak, meaning the Panthers have had a winning streak of seven or more matches in 12-straight seasons.
Getting Others Involved
One of the other keys to the success a young Panther team enjoyed last season was the variety of people stepping up with big performances at key times. UWM had 12 different players earn at least one start, while four players (Becky Peters, Maddie Sueppel, Natalie Schmitting and Lauren Felsing) started all 32 matches. Meanwhile, six different players had at least one double-figure kill match while six different players had at least one double-figure dig outing.
An Academic Standout
Junior Lauren Felsing earned CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Second-Team Academic All-America honors last season. Felsing carries a 3.98 grade-point average in marketing. Felsing also earned academic all-region and academic all-league recognition in addition to being a three-time U.S. Army Horizon League Scholar-Athlete of the Week honoree. She also earned Horizon League All-Academic honors.