DENTON (10/25/06) In a year highlighted by national leaders and broken records, the Mean Green has positioned itself for a run at its first division-title since joining the Sun Belt in 2000. In a three-way tie for first place in the Sun Belt West with six matches to go, the Mean Green will play the role of host for the third straight weekend when Arkansas State and Arkansas-Little Rock invade the North Texas Volleyball Center.
This will mark the second trip through the SBC West this season for the Mean Green (17-11, 8-4). North Texas began conference play with a loss at ASU followed by a sweep of UALR.
The Mean Green had its longest winning streak of the season (6) snapped when it fell at Denver, 3-1, Monday night.
Over the course of the streak it was the Mean Green out-hitting their opponents .212 to .071, and also putting up 15.5 more blocks. Four of the six matches were decided in only three games, and NT won the first game in each match.
Tara Hooser and Katy Prokof continue to lead the Mean Green offensively, with 304 and 303 kills respectively. Ashley Bass has continued to shine since returning to the lineup, averaging 11.60 assists a game in her last seven matches.
Brooke Engel continues to lead the nation in aces (0.90 sapg) having already posted the highest total by a Sun Belt player (87) since 1991.
Arkansas State (17-11, 8-4) is one of the teams tied with NT for the division lead and has won six of its last seven matches. The Lady Indians will be looking for their fourth consecutive win over the Mean Green after taking a win in Jonesboro in September.
In the first matchup the Mean Green never could get going at the Convocation Center as they hit .024 in the first game before falling in three. Radilyne Volkmer and Jessalyn Payne each had 15 kills, and ASU hit over .325 in two of the three games.
Payne finished with a double-double in that win as she added 11 digs and four aces beside her kill total. Since then she has continued to find her stroke from the service line with 26 aces since beginning conference play, ranking fourth in the SBC.
Beth Jones and Erin Neeley pace the defensive effort for Craig Cummings’ squad. Jones is eighth in the SBC with 1.05 blocks per game and Neeley ranks in the top 10 with 3.29 digs per game.
Van Compton, the SBC’s longest-tenured coach, will bring her UALR Trojans (12-17, 5-7) west having lost four of their last seven matches. They will take on Denver on Friday before taking on NT on Sunday.
The Trojans will have a significant height advantage on the Mean Green as they will bring in five players listed at 6-2 or taller, including 6-6 Ivanka Davidova. Davidova ranks fifth in the Sun Belt with 1.17 blocks per game.
Amila Barakovic ranks in the top 10 in the SBC in both kills (4.10 kpg) and digs (3.34 dgp), and. She also put up a team-high 10 kills against the Mean Green in the first match between the teams.
In the first meeting the Mean Green was able to find holes in the Trojan defense to the tune of 54 kills, the most the Mean Green has put up in a three-game match this season.
Tara Hooser, Katy Prokof and Catherine Coffey each hit double-figure kills with only a combined seven errors on 76 attempts. Coffey also contributed with six blocks.
Each of the Trojan’s losses had come via sweep before they won game three in the loss versus Arkansas State on Tuesday.
The Mean Green has already equaled its SBC-win total from last season and a win would be the sixth time in seven seasons that NT has increased its conference-win total from the year before.
Matches are set for Friday at 7 p.m. against Arkansas State, and 1 p.m. Sunday versus UALR from the North Texas Volleyball Center.