Challenging the Carolinas

PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM Junior Melanie Ukovich and the Boilermakers will take on North Carolina, South Carolina and Coastal Carolina at the GlaxoSmithKline Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C., this weekend.
Junior Melanie Ukovich and the Boilermakers will take on North Carolina, South Carolina and Coastal Carolina at the GlaxoSmithKline Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C., this weekend.

Sept. 8, 2005

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue volleyball team (5-0) looks to build on its early success at the GlaxoSmithKline Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C. this weekend. The Boilermakers will face off against South Carolina, Coastal Carolina and the host Tarheels on Friday and Saturday.

Multi-media information
All of this weekend's matches will be broadcast live on WLAS 1410 AM and on The broadcasts can be accessed by clicking on the listen link next to each match on the schedule located on both the site front page and on the volleyball schedule page. North Carolina also will be providing livestats for all of the matches. Live stats can be accessed by clicking on the GameTracker link next to each match in the same places as above.

Series Information:
North Carolina (The series is tied 1-1): The Boilermakers won the initial meeting on Sept. 10, 1993. The Tarheels swept Purdue in a 1997 match. Both previous contests have taken place in Chapel Hill, N.C.

South Carolina (South Carolina leads 2-0): The Gamecocks have won both previous meetings between South Carolina and Purdue. South Carolina won a five-game decision in the first meeting on Sept. 10, 1994 in Norman, Okla. The Gamecocks then took a 3-0 decision from Purdue in a 2001 meeting in Oxford, Ohio.

Coastal Carolina: This is the first meeting between the Chanticleers and the Boilermakers.

A Look at the Boilermakers
Purdue brings a 5-0 record into the GlaxoSmithKline Classic after sweeping instate foe Butler on Wednesday. The Boilermakers downed Dayton in their season opener, then topped Saint Louis (3-0), Bradley (3-1) and host Pacific (3-1) en route to the Nike Invitational championship last weekend. Senior setter Renata Dargan was named tournament MVP and Big Ten Player of the Week, while sophomore middle hitter Lizzie Jacques and freshman middle hitter Stephanie Lynch earned all-tournament team nods.

Freshman left side hitter Danita Merlau leads a trio of players that averaging three or more kills per game. Merlau is putting down 3.19 kills per game, followed by sophomore middle hitter Lizzie Jacques (3.06) and sophomore left side hitter Sam Mader (3.00). Freshman middle hitter Stephanie Lynch (2.73), senior left side Leah Wischmeier (2.33) and senior outside hitter Marie Franke (2.20) are also providing a bulk of the team's offense. Jacques is hitting .407, while also leading the team in blocks with an average of 1.31 per game. Mader is hitting .364 to go with 1.00 digs and 0.93 blocks per stanza. Merlau adds 1.06 digs per game to her team-leading kills tally. Lynch boasts a .387 hitting percentage to go with 1.13 blocks per game.

Dargan has dished out 13.53 assists per game, while also tallying 1.41 kills per game of her own on a .512 hitting percentage to go with 1.76 digs per game. Freshman left side hitter/defensive specialist Kelli Miller has tallied 3.94 digs per game in the back court, while putting down 1.76 kills per game on a .266 hitting percentage in the front row. Sophomore libero Annie Mastandrea leads the Purdue backcourt players, pulling up an average of 5.76 digs per game. The libero has led the Boilermakers in digs in all five of their contests, including two 20-plus dig efforts. Junior right side hitter Melanie Ukovich has showed off her defensive prowess, chalking up 2.41 digs per game.

The Boilermakers served up 31 aces in their four matches, led by junior Brittany Dildine's tally of 10. Eight of the 15 Purdue players who have seen court time have served up at least one ace.

Talking about the Tarheels
The North Carolina Tarheels opened the 2005 season with a 2-2 mark at the University of San Fransisco Tournament last weekend. UNC swept Long Island and William & Mary, and fell to Fresno State and San Fransisco.

Redshirt senior Camilla Ihenetu is averaging 3.73 kills per game after the team's first four contests to lead the Tarheels. Ihenetu also pulled up 1.93 digs and 0.87 blocks per game to go with a team-high six aces. Redshirt freshman outside hitter Bekah Brinkley recorded 2.80 kills per game as well as 1.07 digs per stanza. Freshman outside hitter Lauren Prussing and junior outside hitter Meg Eckert each accounted for 2.38 kills and 1.00 digs per game in the opening week. Junior middle hitter Amy Beaver averaged 1.80 kills and 1.00 blocks per game for the Bulldogs. Sophomore middle Christie Clark supplied both offense and defense for the team, putting down 1.80 kills and a team-best 1.53 blocks per game.

Senior setter McKenzie Byrd handed out 10.00 assists per game, while digging up 1.78 balls per stanza and tallying 0.89 blocks per stanza. The Bulldog defense is led by senior defensive specialist Taylor Rayfield, who pulled up 3.53 digs per game. Freshman defensive specialist Brianna Eskola follows with 2.21 digs per game, while freshman setter Stephanie Jansma tallied 2.11 digs per game in addition to her 7.67 assists per game average. The Tarheels are averaging 3.07 blocks per game and have served up 32 aces. North Carolina is coached by Joe Sagula, who is in his 16th year with the team.

Gazing at the Gamecocks
South Carolina stands at 4-0 after taking the Florida State Invitational title last weekend and defeating Chartlotte on Tuesday. The Gamecocks topped Pittsburgh (3-1), Florida State (3-1) and Mercer (3-0) en route to the FSU title.

Outside hitter Shonda Cole has been effective on both sides of the ball, averaging 4.71 kills per game on a .328 hitting performance, while also putting up 1.36 stuffs per game. Redshirt junior outside hitter Lynae Vanden Hull, freshman outside hitter Marija Milosevic and junior setter/outside hitter Iris Santos are each averaging more than two kills per game with 2.64, 2.57 and 2.29 respectively. Vanden Hull has pulled up 2.14 digs per game and served up four aces to go with her kill tally. Milosevic added 2.14 digs per game and four aces to the team's totals. The Bulldogs are hitting .284 as a team, led by Santos' .458 clip. The setter also has dished out 9.93 assists per game, while putting up 0.86 blocks per game. Senior middle hitter/outside hitter Nicole Miller leads the team's blocking front, averaging 1.71 per game, to go with 1.79 kills and 1.00 digs per game.

Senior outside hitter Sarah Morgan leads the South Carolina defense with 3.93 digs per game. Freshman defensive specialist Dinelia Concepcion follows Vanden Hull and Santos with 1.57 digs per game. Santos has served up a team-high eight aces. The Gamecocks are averaging 3.86 blocks per game. South Carolina is coached by Nancy Somera, who is in her first year with the team.

Chatting about the Chanticleers
The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers posted a 2-2 record in its opening week, including a 1-2 mark at the Loyola Marymount Tournament. CCU opened the season with a 3-0 win over The Citadel, then lost a pair of matches to Idaho (0-3) and host LMU (0-3). The Chanitcleers wrapped up the tournament with a 3-0 win over Northeastern University.

Senior outside hitter Katherine Jensen-Spencer led the offense with 4.42 kills per game, while also serving up a team-best six aces and pulling up 3.08 digs per game. Junior outside hitter Alicia Meyers averaged 2.58 kills and 2.33 digs per game. Four other Chanticleer players compiled double-digit kills in the opening week. Sophomore outside/middle hitter Nakia Thompson (1.73 kpg), junior outside/middle hitter Ashley Scheible (1.57 kpg), junior middle/right side hitter Laura Obert (1.42 kpg) and senior setter Jennifer Hampton (1.33) also contributed to the CCU offense. Obert led the team with 0.92 blocks per game, while Hampton tallied a team-best .419 hitting percentage, while also passing out 9.67 assists per game.

Junior libero Kristin Rinne led the team's defensive effort with 3.40 digs per game. Jensen and Hampton followed with 3.08 and 3.00 digs per game respectively. Meyers (2.33) and freshman defensive specialist Brett Starbuck (2.38) also pulled up more than two digs per stanza. Coastal Carolina is coached by Kristen Bauer, who is in her eighth year with the team.

Sizing Up the Opposition

Category        Purdue        UNC      South Carolina    Coastal Carolina
Hitting %        .276        .204           .272               .207
Kills           17.53       13.33          15.36              14.08
Assists         16.00       11.40          13.64              12.58
Aces             1.82        2.13           2.09               1.92
Blocks           2.53        3.07           4.09               1.67
Digs            19.88       14.47          13.36              15.25 

What a Difference a Win Makes...

If the Boilermakers top North Carolina on Friday...

• They will have begun the season with a 6-0 record for the first time since 1985, when the squad started the season with a 13-0 mark.

• They will take a 2-1lead in the all-time series with the Tarheels.

• They will improve the program's all-time record to 80-67 in non-conference away matches.

• They will improve the program's record to 6-6 when playing on September 9.

Broken Record
Senior Renata Dargan broke the old Purdue career assists record during Game 1 of the Boilermakers' Sept. 7 match with Butler. Dargan was just nine assists shy of the record going into the match, and ended the night with 38, to up the record tally to 4,613. With 192 assists in Week 1 of the season, the setter moved into second place on the Purdue all-time assists list with 4,575 assists. Her tally against Butler moved Dargan in front of previous record holder Taryn Catlin, who dished out 4,584 assists from 1996-99.

The court director, who has averaged 12.17 assists per game in her career, surpassed both the 3,000 and 4,000-assist milestones in 2004. Dargan became just the fifth player in Boilermaker history to surpass the 4,000 assist mark. Dargan owns three spots among the single-season top 10 lists and put her name in the single-game record book with a 72-assist performance against Michigan on Oct. 1, 2004. That tally was the second-highest, four-game match total in Purdue history. In addition to 13.30 assists per game, Dargan added 1.79 digs, 1.56 kills per game and 26 aces to the team's 2004 totals.

Among the Nation
Three Purdue players rank among the nation's top 30 in three statistical categories. Sophomore libero Anne Mastandrea has the 11th-best digs per game tally in the country with an average of 5.71 per stanza. Senior setter Renata Dargan ranks 19th nationally with 13.71 assists per game. Sophomore middle hitter Lizzie Jacques has compiled a .455 hitting percentage, which ranks 27th in the country. The Boilermaker team also owns three spots in the national top 30. Purdue ranks 10th in digs per game with an average of 19.64 per stanza. The team also is 14th in assists per game (15.86) and 15th in kills per game (17.36).

In the Big Ten
The Boilermakers not only rank among the top of the nation, but also among the top of the Big Ten Conference in statistical listings. Senior setter Renata Dargan ranks second in assists per game (13.71), while sophomore middle hitter Lizzie Jacques is second in hitting percentage (.455). Sophomore libero Anne Mastandrea ranks third in digs per game (5.71), while freshman defensive specialist/outside hitter Kelli Miller is ninth in the category (4.14). Junior defensive specialist Brittany Dildine ranks fourth in aces per game (0.50), with seven in 14 games.

Preseason Picks
Renata Dargan, a 6-foot setter, was one of 12 players named to the preseason All-Big Ten list as voted on by the league's coaches. The honor is just the latest conference accolade for the setter. Dargan was named to the All-Big Ten freshman team in 2002 and as an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection the last two seasons.

The New Lenox, Ill., native has compiled 4,613 assists in her four-year Boilermaker career, an average of 12.17 per game, and owns the school record in assists with that mark. In 2004, Dargan dished out 13.30 assists per game, which ranked 18th in the nation. She also added 1.79 digs, 1.56 kills and 0.78 blocks per game, while serving up 26 aces.

The Big Ten coaches also tabbed the Purdue team to finish fifth in the conference race. Two-time defending league champion Penn State, which is ranked No. 5 in the AVCA preseason national coaches poll, was named as the preseason favorite, followed by Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Tough Competition
The Boilermaker volleyball team will take on tough competition this season, facing 10 teams that participated in last year's NCAA Tournament, including five that finished the season among the nation's Top 25.

Talented Freshmen
This year's freshman class was ranked among the Top 10 recruiting classes nationally by both and Volleyball Magazine. The former dubbed the Purdue freshmen as the sixth-best class in the nation, while the latter tabbed the Boilermaker rookies as the ninth-best class. Left side hitter Danita Merlau (New Palestine, Ind.) and middle hitter Stephanie Lynch (New Albany, Ind.) were named as Fab50 players by Volleyball Magazine, while Merlau, Lynch and left side hitter/defensive specialist Kelli Miller (Muncie, Ind.) were all named among the Top 50 senior recruits by

Tall Tall Trees
At 6-foot-4, freshman Danita Merlau is one of the tallest players to ever don a Purdue volleyball uniform. Lyndsey Phillips (2001) is the only other player of that stature to play for the Boilermakers. Only five players have measured 6-foot-3 or taller in Purdue history. Two current players, freshman Stephanie Lynch and sophomore Lizzie Jacques, as well as Monica Hardy (1991) have each topped out at 6-foot-3.

Wisch is a Star
Left side hitter Leah Wischmeier became the 17th Boilermaker player to surpass the 1,000-career kill mark last year. The Brownstown, Ind., tallied the milestone kill came in Game 5 of Purdue's Nov. 6, 2004, match with Michigan. Wischmeier wrapped up the season with 1,089 total kills. In her Boilermaker career, Wischmeier has tallied 1,124 kills, an average of 3.29 kills per game, a tally which ranks eighth on the Purdue kills per game list. She needs 99 more kills to enter the career top 10 list in that category.

Can You Dig It?
With 31 digs in Purdue's Sept. 4, 2004 match with Missouri, defensive specialist Anne Mastandrea became the first Purdue player since 1990 to pull up more than 30 digs in a match. With the effort, the Downers Grove, Ill., native became the first Purdue player to eclipse the 30-dig mark since Kelly Niedbalski tallied 32 on Oct. 12, 1990. Graduated senior Daren Poe followed the effort with a 33-dig performance against Illinois on Nov. 13, marking the second highest dig tally behind Becky Kanitz's pair of 37-dig matches in 1987.

Across the Pond
Graduated senior Kim McConaha has taken her talents to the next level. The middle hitter from Centerville, Ind., is playing volleyball professionally in La Rochette, France this fall. McConaha is a member of the Melun Val De Seine La Rochette team. The squad will play its first match of the season on Sept. 9 in Belgium. Former Penn State player Sydney Nadeau also is on the team.

Going for the Record
Purdue set the NCAA single-match attendance record for volleyball on Oct. 29, 1985, when 10,645 fans filled Mackey Arena for a match between the Boilermakers and Western Michigan. That record has since been topped, but the Boilermakers hope to reclaim the record for their own. The squad will play in Mackey Arena on Oct. 2 as part of a Pack Mackey promotion, during which tickets are just one dollar and the Boilermakers hope to pack in an NCAA record crowd. It would take 13,195 fans to break the current NCAA mark of 13,194, which was set when Long Beach State and Penn State met in the 1998 NCAA Finals. The match took place on Dec. 19, 1998 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.

If the Boilermakers achieve a new record mark, they would also break the Big Ten regular season record of 10,927, which was set when Minnesota and Illinois met in Williams Arena (Minneapolis) on Oct. 16, 2004.

A Banner Year
The 2004 Boilermakers reached several team and program milestones in 2004. The team beat four Top 25 teams, matching a task last completed by the 1985 team.

The Boilermakers also picked up season sweeps of Illinois, Michigan State, Indiana and Iowa. The sweep of the Fighting Illini was the first since 1982, while the Michigan State wins were the first since 1992. Purdue swept Indiana for the second straight season, a task last accomplished in the 1984-1985 seasons. Purdue swept Iowa for the first time since 1998, then followed it with the program's first win over Wisconsin since 1992.

Individually, three players surpassed the 1,000-kill milestone in seniors Kim McConaha and Kim Cappa as well as redshirt junior Leah Wischmeier. Senior Daren Poe reached the 1,000-dig milestone for her career and setter Renata Dargan posted both her 3,000th and 4,000th career assist. McConaha posted her second career triple-double in the regular season finale. Poe and freshman Annie Mastandrea became the first players to compile more than 30 digs in a match since 1990.

Several players earned spots among the Boilermaker single season and career top 10 lists. On the single-season lists, Poe posted the third-best digs per game tally (4.02) and is third on the digs list with 470. Dargan has handed out 1,556 assists to rank second on that list, while McConaha ranked third on the single-season block assists list with 129 and 10th on the kills per game register with 4.02.

The trio also rewrote the career top 10 lists. In her three years at Purdue, Poe averaged 3.72 digs per game, topping the previous record of 3.56 dpg set by Becky Kanitz (1985-88). She also ranked second on the all-time digs list with 1,299. McConaha set a new Purdue career block assists mark with 282 total, while Dargan climbed to fourth on the career assists list with 4,383. She is just 201 shy of Taryn Catlin's career tally of 4,584. McConaha put herself among the career top 10 in seven different categories: block assists (1st with 382), total blocks (6th with 441), blocks per game (6th with 1.06), kills per game (6th with 3.40), kills (7th with 1,418), total attempts (7th with 3,438) and hitting percentage (10th with .286).

The team finished the regular season with a 16-14 overall record, including a 9-11 mark in the Big Ten Conference. Their 17 overall wins and the nine conference victories were the most since the 1992 season, when the team went 17-13 and 10-10 in the Big Ten. With the 9-11 conference mark, Purdue finished in a sixth-place tie with Michigan, marking the team's best Big Ten finish since 1993, when the team also placed sixth.