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Volleyball set to open at State Farm Illini Classic

Blue Raiders to begin season Friday afternoon in Champaign, Ill.

August 25, 2010 · Athletic Communications
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - After four consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Middle Tennessee volleyball team will begin trying for their fifth at the State Farm Illini Classic in Champaign, Ill.

"I think all of our players are aware of our past success, but we're not dwelling nor harping on it," said head coach Matt Peck. "It's a new year, which brings new challenges and new players. It's like starting from scratch."

Under Peck, the Blue Raiders have experienced unprecedented success, a fact that is especially true of the past four seasons. In addition to making the successive NCAA Tournament runs, the Blue Raiders have compiled three Sun Belt Tournament Championships and finished first in the conference's East Division standings twice.

This season, Middle Tennessee will lean heavily on contributions from their upperclassmen, specifically 2009 All-Sun Belt selections Izabela Kozon and Stacy Oladinni. The duo combined for 749 kills last season, with Oladinni hitting at a blistering .396 clip.

"I think Iza and Stacy are among the top returners in the conference, and I think they've earned everyone's respect for their ability to take over matches," said Peck. "They're two key players for us right now, especially going into the first weekend with some inexperienced players. We're going to rely a lot on those two."

Also returning for the Blue Raiders will be seniors Alyssa Wistrick and Sasha McGlothin, the latter coming back for a fifth year after missing 2009 with a knee injury. Defensive specialists Brynne Henderson and Halie Vannoy will be coming back as well after each appeared in nearly every set last season.

There will be a number of new faces for the Blue Raiders this year who have yet to earn consistent play in their collegiate careers. Lindsay Cheatham, Brandi Waller and Ashley Adams will figure to play a larger role for the team while Courtney Wilson and Morgan Peterson have been competing along with freshman Angela Peyton for the starting setter role.

Maria Szivos looks to headline the class of newcomers for Middle Tennessee. The Jaszbereny, Hungary, native was a prominent part of former Sun Belt school New Orleans' squad, totaling 690 kills to go along with 87 service aces in two seasons for the Privateers and earning a spot on the 2009 All-Sun Belt Second Team. Due to New Orleans dropping down to Division III, the junior will be eligible to play this season.

Joining Peyton and Szivos as new members of the Blue Raiders will be defensive specialist Kendall Howard, who was considered one of the best liberos in the country as a high school senior last year, as well as Murfreesboro native and Riverdale standout Riana Cain.

Middle Tennessee will open play at the Illini Classic Friday afternoon at 4:30 PM against South Carolina before taking on both Brigham Young and sixth-ranked Illinois on Saturday.

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