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Blue Raiders gear up for weekend at Missouri State

MT slated to play Missouri State, Oklahoma and Alabama A&M

September 11, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee volleyball team (5-2) heads to Springfield, Mo., this weekend for the 2013 Dr. Mary Jo Wynn/University Plaza Invitational hosted by Missouri State. MT posted a 2-1 showing at the Middle Tennessee Invitational. The Blue Raiders fell to Virginia Tech on Friday before defeating Austin Peay and North Dakota on Saturday.

The Blue Raiders were taken to five sets in both of their Saturday matches before prevailing against the Lady Govs and North Dakota. Sophomore Rachel Shaughnessy and freshman Jale Hervey were named to the Middle Tennessee Invitational All-Tournament Team for their performances.

Two of the three weekend opponents played on Wednesday night, with Missouri State falling at Colorado State in straight sets, while Alabama A&M dropped a five-set decision to Division II Alabama-Huntsville.

NOTES (For full notes, view PDF):

Scouting the Bears
Missouri State has a quick turnaround after a match at Colorado State on Wednesday, a three-set loss to the undefeated Rams of the Mountain West. Colorado State is the top team in the receiving votes category of this week's AVCA poll. The Bears are 1-0 against ranked opponents this season, defeating No. 22 Dayton in four sets on the Flyers' home court on Aug. 31.

Entering Wednesday's match, the Bears have featured a balanced offensive attack, with five players averaging between 2.12 and 2.52 kills per set. Carly Thomas does the setting, tied for first in the MVC with 10.81 assists per set. Ashley Mason has posted a team-best 4.81 digs per set.

Scouting the Sooners
Oklahoma is receiving votes in this week's AVCA coaches' poll, sitting at 6-1 through two weekends of play. The Sooners went 2-1 in last weekend's action at Portland State, falling to Pacific for their first loss of 2013 before defeating Portland State and BYU.

Sallie McLaurin leads Oklahoma with 3.89 kills per set, with Kierra Holst right behind at 3.11. Julia Doyle has posted a team-best 9.48 assists per set, while Keila Rodriguez has tallied 3.81 digs per set. McLaurin's .455 hitting percentage leads the Big 12, and is 17th in the nation through matches played Sunday.

Scouting the Bulldogs
Alabama A&M fell Wednesday night at Alabama-Huntsville in a five-set defeat to the hands of the Chargers. The Bulldogs will be looking for their first victory of 2013, a year after appearing in the final match of the SWAC Championship.

Entering Wednesday's match vs. Alabama-Huntsville, reigning SWAC Player of the Week Kyanna Sales led the Bulldogs with 2.33 kills per set, followed closely by Leslie Ekpe at 2.26. Ashley Forman leads Alabama A&M with 7.58 assists per set, while tallying a team-high 3.05 digs per set.

Taking to the Polls
Oklahoma will be the third opponent so far in 2013 for MT that is receiving votes in the AVCA poll at the time of the matchup. The Blue Raiders are 1-1 so far in those matchups.

Visiting the Valley
Missouri State is the second Missouri Valley Conference opponent the Blue Raiders will face in 2013, both on the road. MT defeated Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Ill. on Sept. 3. Prior to this season, the Blue Raiders had not faced an MVC opponent since Northern Iowa visited Alumni Memorial Gym in 2009.

Bulldogs Looking to Accomplish Rare Feat
Alabama A&M is 0-7 entering the weekend, and if the Bulldogs are unable to capture their first victory of 2013 vs. Oklahoma or Missouri State, they will be up against unfriendly history when they play the Blue Raiders. Since the start of the 2005 season, only one team has notched its first victory of the season against MT, when Furman defeated the Blue Raiders in both teams' season-opener on Aug. 24, 2012.

Digs = Wins
The Blue Raiders are 5-0 on the season when they record more digs than their opponent. They are 0-2 when the opponent tallies more.

Drive at Five
Four of the Blue Raiders' first seven matches in 2013 have been of the five-set variety. Remarkably, MT has an unblemished 4-0 record in those matches, with wins over San Francisco (Aug. 30), Southern Illinois (Sept. 3), Austin Peay (Sept. 7) and North Dakota (Sept. 7).

Tres Liberos
MT used three liberos in a five-set win over North Dakota (Sept. 7). Redshirt-junior Kendall Howard exited the match during the fourth set, with sophomore Miri Shade finishing the set before sophomore Kristina Headrick could replace her for the final stanza, a 15-10 victory.

Howard Enters Record Books
Redshirt-junior Kendall Howard tallied a career-best 29 digs in a five-set win at Southern Illinois (Sept. 3). It was the highest dig total for a Blue Raider since the current first-to-25 format was instituted in 2008.

Shaughnessy, Hervey Earn All-Tournament Honors
Freshman Jale Hervey and sophomore Rachel Shaughnessy were named to the MT Invitational All-Tournament team on Sept. 7. It capped off a week in which Shaughnessy was named C-USA Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, Sept. 2.

Next Up: Mizzou
Middle Tennessee returns to the Show-Me State for three more matches next weekend at Missouri. MT will face Southeast Missouri on Friday, Sept. 20 at 4:00 p.m. before facing Towson (12:00 p.m.) and the host Tigers (6:30 p.m.) on Saturday.

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