Volleyball Kicks Off 2003 Campaign This Weekend
Aug. 25, 2003
Chicago, Ill. - Most would be hard pressed to find a tougher 1-2 punch among the volleyball ranks in the Horizon League than University of Illinois at Chicago senior outside hitters Teaha Shepperd and Lindsey Filkins.
The duo, after all, has accumulated over 2,100 kills in their three seasons together and helped the Flames to a record of 20-14 in 2002, finishing the campaign ranked eighth in the Midwest Region.
Both figure to play a prominent role in UIC's run for a Horizon League title in 2003.
"It can be one of the most potent 1-2 combinations that we've (ever) had between our right and left side attacking," UIC Head Coach Don August said. "They both had real strong spring performances and have played at a high efficiency.
"Based on what we know what they can do, we're certainly expecting a lot out of them and expecting them to carry the brunt of our offensive load," August continued. "Between two senior outside hitters, they'll both get opportunities to swing at the ball."
Shepperd, a 2002 All-Horizon League selection, led UIC in kills (441) and was second on the squad in digs (368) last season. She is currently sixth in school history with 1,184 kills, seventh in block assists (226) and 10th in digs (1,024).
"Teaha is one of our main offensive threats," August said. "She had a real good junior year and really stepped up in a big way.
"We expect Teaha to be the dominant right side hitter in the league this year."
Filkins was also impressive in 2002, as the Downers Grove, Ill., native picked up 363 kills along with 324 digs. She needs 13 more kills to reach 1,000 for her career.
"(Lindsey) has the ability to explode the ball and intimidate the other team on a day in and day out basis," August said. "This is her senior year and I think she's very determined to have a good season.
"She's worked very hard to get herself in the best physical condition and we're expecting a big year from her."
"We have a lot of experience," August said. "We've got a group of people that have been here for quite awhile.
"Chemistry is real big," August continued. "The fact that we know each other so well and spend so much time together, everyone realizes how important it is to work together for a common goal."
Keck, the 2002 Co-Newcomer of the Year, made quite an impact on the Flames last year after transferring from Auburn University. The senior setter dished out 1,212 assists, which was good for eighth in UIC history for a single season and ninth in career history.
Keck also set a school-record for hitting percentage in a match with a .900 performance against Birmingham Southern (9 kills, 0 errors, 10 attacks) on August 31st.
"Last year (Meghan) came in and assumed a strong leadership role on the team as a junior transfer," August said. "She's an incredibly competitive and dynamic player and I expect a lot out of her this year."
Keck will have a more than capable backup in freshman Katie Kozak. Kozak used 2002 as her redshirt campaign.
"(Katie) got a lot of experience in spring ball and we expect that to carry over into the fall," August said. "Her and Meghan (Keck) are so similar in what they do.
"They're both lefties, both about the same size, both serve well, both run a great offense and both connect well with their hitters."
August can also count on junior Dawn Strahanoski in an emergency situation to come in and set for the Flames. Strahanoski, who played setter over the past two seasons, will move to right-side hitter for the 2003 campaign.
Strahanoski will play a vital role in the Flames' success this season as she has the ability to play a multitude of positions.
"During the spring, (Dawn) took over right side hitting duties for us and as well as being a secondary setter and that's the role that we expect her to fulfill in the fall," August said. "It's nice to have someone with that kind of versatility around because we know we can use her in both the setting and hitting positions.
"She brings great blocking and hitting skills, strong serving, passing and defense to our team."
Junior Jordan Studzinski, who saw a majority of playing time last season at libero, will primarily see action at left-side hitter for the Flames in 2003. Studzinski tallied 44 kills and 321 digs last season.
"Jordan is one of the fastest athletes on the team," August said. "She's a big jumper and a great competitor.
"We expect (Jordan) to be one of our top offensive performers," August continued. "She's one of our top servers, passers and defenders.
"I think she's ready, she thinks she's ready and I expect her to step up and be a solid performer for us all year."
Sophomore outside hitter Catherine Roy, who came on late in the season for UIC, has a year under her belt and feels comfortable in the system, according to August.
"We expect a lot out of Catherine this year," August said. "She's a great defensive player, strong server, strong passer and we started getting an idea of her offensive ability (late last year)."
Sophomore Sarah Lang, who is coming off knee surgery, will join Strahanoski and Shepperd on the right side after being used as a serving specialist in 2002.
"I would expect Sarah to step up and contribute as a right side, front row player, which means she has to play the position at a level similar to what Dawn and Teaha are doing and we think that she can do that," August said.
Joining the team this season will be freshman walk-on Katie Riehman. Riehman, a 6-1 outside hitter out of Palatine, Ill., intrigues August.
"She's a very raw talent with many exciting possibilities," August said of Riehman. "We think she has a lot of potential down the road, but it's going to take time.
"She's quick, strong, very athletic with a big jump along with a great, live arm swing," August continued. "She just needs experience."
Herrington rounds out the returning starters for the Flames in 2003. Last season, Herrington led UIC with 109 total blocks (20 solo) along with 267 kills on the campaign.
August believes that Herrington has the ability to dominate the Horizon League in 2003.
"Kristi could be the most gifted middle we have in the league," August said. "Physically, there is nobody better that her in the league.
"She jumps higher, she's quicker and she hits the ball harder," August continued. "She's a major part of our offense and we need her to continue to be a major part of our offense and defense."
Also patrolling the middle for UIC will be six-foot, junior Megan Hoffman. Last season, Hoffman recorded 74 kills along with 58 blocks.
"We expect Megan Hoffmann to be one of our starting middles," August said. "She really stepped up her game in the second half of the spring season and showed she's ready to take over.
"She's got a great arm swing, hits the ball hard, is a good blocker and is great on the court," August continued. "The girls love playing with her.
"Her personality on the court, enthusiasm and positivity is very infectious."
Graf saw limited action last season, but August believes that she can be thrown into the mix in 2003.
"(Tisha's) game has come an incredible way in a very short time," August said. "She's improving physically, getting stronger, faster and quicker.
"I would expect her to see a substantial amount of playing time come fall."
Colins, a 6-footer out of Homewood-Flossmoor, recorded 179 kills and 112 blocks last season as the Vikings captured a regional championship.
"Megan is an incredible athletic talent," August said. "She's in great shape and has an unbelievable attitude.
"I love her work ethic, her enthusiasm and excitement for everything about the game."
August signed Springer late in the recruiting period and believes that he has come away with a gem.
"She's lightning quick, has a big jump and a great arm swing," August said of Springer. "She's a little bit of an undersized middle, but with her quickness and her jumping ability we don't think that will hurt us."
August has put together a difficult schedule for the Flames in 2003, as they will open the first four weeks with non-conference tournaments at Central Michigan, Northern Illinois and Clemson, along with hosting the UIC Invitational.
"The non-conference schedule is tougher than it has been in recent years," August said. "We need a consistent challenge on the floor so we can be focused and ready for every match, so that we can play at a high level."
August has also scheduled IUPUI along with in-state rivals, Bradley, Chicago State and Eastern Illinois to round out the Flames' non-conference slate helping prepare UIC for the ensuing Horizon League campaign.
"Going into (Horizon League play), we have to make sure that we are ready to step up our game," August said. "Every conference game is going to be so critical this year. "Every year, I think the league gets closer and closer," August continued. "I'd be surprised if one team ran away with it, like Loyola and UW-Milwaukee seemed to have done the last couple of years."
That being said, August believes that his squad can finish 2003 atop the Horizon League, but there are certain things that need to happen in order for the Flames to be successful.
"I think we're mature enough to handle the rigors of a long season, and we know exactly what it's going to take to do that," August said. "We need to stay together as a team, practice and play at a high level on a consistent basis."