Red Wolves volleyball to compete in MSU Bulldog Invitational

SERVING IT UP: Arkansas State will travel to Starkville, Miss. Friday, Sept. 11 to compete in the Mississippi State University Bulldog Invitational.  ASU will face Mississippi State Friday before meeting Eastern Michigan and Northwestern State on the court Saturday, Sept. 12. 

MSU Bulldog Invitational Schedule
Friday, Sept. 11
NSU vs. EMU     4:30 p.m.
MSU vs. ASU     7:00 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 12
EMU vs. ASU      10:30 a.m.
MSU vs. NSU      12:30 p.m.
ASU vs. NSU      4:30 p.m.
MSU vs. EMU     7:00 p.m.

THE TEAMS:  Arkansas State enters the weekend on a six-match winning streak and an overall record of 6-1.  In midweek action, the Red Wolves swept UT-Martin 3-0 in Martin, Tenn.
    Mississippi State enters the tournament at 2-6 overall and off a 3-2 loss to Southern Mississippi Tuesday in Starkville.  The Lady Bulldogs have posted wins over Memphis and Jackson State this season.
    Eastern Michigan comes to Starkville off a Wednesday night loss to No. 7 Michigan.  The Eagles stand at 0-8 overall.
    The Lady Demons of Northwestern State enter this weekend's tournament at 0-4 suffering losses to Tulsa, UALR and Oral Roberts at the ORU Classic last weekend.

THE Mississippi State SERIES: The Red Wolves hold a 16-6 advantage in the all-time series against Mississippi State. 

THE EASTERN MICHIGAN SERIES: Arkansas State has only faced Eastern Michigan once since the program began in 1975.  ASU took a 3-2 win over the Eagles at the Sheraton Inn Classic in Lubbock, Texas in 1995.

THE NORTHWESTERN STATE SERIES: ASU stands at 6-0 all-time against Northwestern State.  The last meeting took place at the Missouri State Invitational during the 2006 season, when the Red Wolves swept NSU 3-0.

18 SETS AND COUNTING: After sweeping UT-Martin 3-0 Tuesday night, the Red Wolves have now won 18 consecutive sets since coming back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Evansville 3-2 Aug. 29 in the Memphis Invitational.

ALL-TOURNAMENT HONORS: Sophomore middle blocker Cayla Fielder pounded out 12 kills and added four blocks to lead the Red Wolves to a 3-0 victory over the Huskies of Houston Baptist Saturday afternoon in the championship game of the ASU Classic.  Fielder won tournament MVP honors after hitting a team-high .550 to notch 23 kills and six blocks over the three-game tournament.
    Freshman Brittany Hoag also earned all-tournament honors after leading the team with 26 kills on the weekend, and senior libero Heather Bowman earned all-tournament honors as well after leading the Red Wolves with 61 digs.

PUTTING UP "W's": ASU chalked up its sixth consecutive win Tuesday, topping UT-Martin 3-0 on the road. 
    The last time Arkansas State won six or more consecutive matches was a seven-match win streak during the 2004 season.  A-State recorded consecutive wins over Memphis, Missouri-Kansas City, North Dakota State, Ole Miss, Florida International, UT-Martin and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, only giving up three sets along the way.

MAKING A DEBUT:  Freshman outside hitter Brittany Hoag was named to the all-tournament team at the Memphis Invitational Aug. 28-29 after leading the Red Wolves to a 2-1 record at the tournament.  Hoag finished the weekend with 35 kills, including a high of 14 against Evansville to help rally the Red Wolves from a two-set deficit and earn the five-set victory.  Hoag averaged a team-high 2.92 kills per game and also led the Red Wolves with 44 digs and added 10 blocks.
    Freshman Kelsie Hodges played in all 12 sets of her first weekend in the Red Wolves' lineup.  She posted 25 kills, a team-high .303 hitting percentage and 18 blocks over the three matches.

NEW CAREER-HIGHS:  Junior setter Laura Bennett posted a career-high five blocks to go along with 42 assists and 11 digs in ASU's season opener against SEMO at the Memphis Invitational.  Bennett broke her own record the next day against Evansville, finishing the match with seven blocks, then added six more in just three sets in ASU's victory over Memphis to close out the tournament. 
    Sophomore middle blocker Cayla Fielder surpassed her previous career-high of eight blocks twice at the Memphis Invitational, opening the season with a 10-block effort against SEMO before adding nine blocks in ASU's second match against Evansville.  Fielder notched five more blocks in just three sets of action against Memphis.   Fielder was responsible for more than 50 percent of ASU's 46 blocks on the weekend and also averaged 2.83 kills per set.
    Senior Heather Bowman notched a career-high 30 digs in ASU's 3-0 win over Houston Baptist at the ASU Classic.  Bowman's previous high was 21 digs against New Orleans Sept. 25, 2008.

ASU IN SEASON OPENERS: The Red Wolves are 22-12 all-time in season openers.  Arkansas State fell to SEMO 3-1 in the 2009 season opener at the Memphis Invitational.  The Red Wolves topped Mississippi Valley State in the 2008 season opener at the Texas Southern Season Opening Tournament.  Following that win, ASU won its next three matches to get off to the best start since it went 5-0 to start the 2004 season.

FIELDER NAMED 2009 PRESEASON ALL-SUN BELT CONFERENCE: Arkansas State sophomore middle blocker Cayla Fielder has been named to the 2009 All-Sun Belt Conference Preseason Volleyball Team, the league announced Aug. 25.  Fielder was the only sophomore selected for the team as voted on by all 13 head coaches from across the Sun Belt Conference.
    Florida International outside hitter Yarimar Rosa was named the league's Preseason Player of the Year, while Denver libero Kacie Wikierak was named Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
    Fielder earned All-SBC second-team honors and was named SBC Freshman of the Year following the 2008 season after seeing action in all 33 matches as a true freshman.  She led the Red Wolves with 103 blocks on the year and was second on the team with 291 kills, averaging 2.47 kills per set.  She also posted a hitting percentage of .363 at the end of regular season play to rank fourth in the Sun Belt and 36th nationally.  Fielder ended the season with a .356 hitting percentage that ranks sixth in the ASU record book, and she was named to the Texas Southern and UMKC Kangaroo Klassic All-Tournament teams during the season as well.
    "I think Cayla earning preseason all-conference is a great reward," said ASU head coach Justin Ingram.  "She has proven to be one of the best players in the conference, and hopefully we can use this as momentum for our team going into this first weekend."

SENIORS READY FOR FINAL CAMPAIGN: "There are four seniors this year.  Two of them are defensive specialist/libero candidates," said Ingram.  "I think whoever can serve-receive best will be utilized in the libero position.  That is the first thing I will look at, and then how they defend and how they serve.  Those three things will make up that position.  Both Heather Bowman and Erin Neeley have had playing experience last year.  They both played significant amounts and contributed for the team last year, and I see both of them contributing again this year."
    Senior defensive specialist Erin Neeley (5'5" Jonesboro, Ark.) led the Arkansas State squad for the third consecutive season with 441 digs and enters the 2009 season ranked fourth on the ASU career digs chart with 1,323 digs.  She was named Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week October 20 after leading ASU to a 3-0 week against New Orleans, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe.
    Senior defensive specialist Heather Bowman (5'8" Forth Smith, Ark.) posted 338 digs to rank second on the team in 2008.  She added 15 service aces, 30 assists and nine kills on the season.
    Senior outside hitter Mandy DeWalt (5'8" Houston, Texas) finished the 2008 season with 185 kills.  She recorded a career high 17 kills twice in the same day, setting the mark September 13 against Southern Illinois and again later in the day against Western Illinois.  DeWalt also posted 175 digs, 21 blocks, 21 service aces and 17 assists  on the year.
    "Mandy is a big contributor," Ingram added.  "She's a passing left-side hitter.  She plays all the way around and will have the ability to play for us a significant amount of time, because she can do more than one thing pretty well.  She can pass well.  She can attack at a pretty high level, and she can also do some of the little things that end up to be big things on the court.  She has experience within the Sun Belt Conference."
    Senior outside hitter Konae Purcell (5'11" Aiea, Hawaii) led the Red Wolves with 296 kills despite missing eight matches in 2008 due to injury, averaging 3.89 kills per set.  Her average ranked her third in the Sun Belt.  She added 35 blocks to finish third on the team and was named to the all-tournment team at the Southern Illinois-Hampton Inn Saluki Invitational.  Purcell was named MVP of both the Texas Southern Season-Opening Tournament and the Western Carolina Catamount Clash.
    "Konae is coming back from an ACL surgery.  She had that done in December and is currently on track to begin her jumping.  Hopefully, we can get her full-out match play soon.  She has been participating in our practices, but I think her role will change throughout the course of the season.  I think we'll count on her more as the season progresses.  She's still in the beginning stages of coming back.  It's a bit of a process," ASU head coach Justin Ingram explained.

HEAD COACH JUSTIN INGRAM:          Arkansas State University Director of Athletics Dr. Dean Lee announced Friday, April 17 that Justin Ingram was named head coach of the Red Wolves volleyball team.
    "We are very excited to name Justin Ingram as our new women's volleyball coach," said Lee.  "Justin has obviously been associated with some outstanding programs at Kansas State and Houston.  He comes with a tremendous reputation as a great trainer and as a great recruiter.  He started as one of our top candidates and remained there until the end."
    Ingram becomes the sixth head coach in ASU volleyball history after serving eight years as an assistant coach at Kansas State.              During his time at Kansas State, he served as the recruiting coordinator and offensive coordinator for the Wildcats who posted a 171-79 record and made seven NCAA tournament appearances during his time with the program.
    While at Kansas State, the Wildcats earned American Volleyball Coaches Association top-25 final rankings six different seasons including a No. 11 final ranking in 2003.  The Wildcats also had seven 20-win seasons in his time there, including a 30-win season and a first-place finish in the Big 12 in 2003.  Kansas State's final RPI ranked in the top-30 nationally during seven of Ingram's eight seasons with the Wildcats.
    Ingram served the previous two years as an assistant coach at the University of Houston.  He served as a junior college recruiting coordinator, travel coordinator and assistant director of camps.  The Cougars posted a 42-24 record and made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances and posted consecutive 20-win seasons in 1998 and 1999.  The Cougars were the Conference USA National Division Runners-up in 1998 and C-USA National Division Champions in 1999.
    During his career, Ingram has helped lead teams to nine NCAA Tournament appearances including a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in 2003.   He has coached eight All-America selections, 22 All-Big 12 selections, 55 Academic All-Big 12 players, six All-Conference USA selections, four Big 12 Libero of the Year winners, a Big 12 Player of the Year, a Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and a C-USA Player of the Year.
    Ingram earned his bachelor's degree in Community and Regional Planning from Iowa State University in 1995 and a master's degree in City and Regional Planning from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1998.
    "Arkansas State is a tremendous university with an excellent volleyball program and I'm thrilled to be here," said Ingram.  "I think the program is heading in a very positive direction and I'm excited to be part of its future.  Not only does ASU have a strong volleyball program, it's in a strong conference and has great support from the community.  So, this is a great situation and opportunity and I look forward to the challenges ahead."

ASSISTANT COACH JULIE ALLEN:  Julie Allen joined the Arkansas State volleyball staff as an assistant coach on April 1, 2008, after two seasons at Georgetown.
    Allen joined the Georgetown program in August 2006 after spending nearly two years at California State University at Chico as the assistant women's volleyball coach and head men's club coach.
    "I am truly excited that Julie agreed to come to Arkansas State and our volleyball program," ASU Head Coach Craig Cummings said. "She brings with her a wealth of experience from the Big East Conference, training the setters and coordinating the offense at Georgetown University during the last couple of seasons. With some very talented candidates in the pool, Julie stood out as the best, allowing our program to take advantage of her experience and expertise and help us climb back to the top of the Sun Belt Conference."
    After graduating from the University of Portland in 2002, Allen was the head volleyball coach at Tualatin High School in Tualatin, Ore. until 2003. She was a lead coach for the Empire Volleyball Club in Santa Rosa, Calif. from 2000-2004.
    Allen is also a graduate of the NCAA Women's Coaches Academy, which is designed for women coaches who are ready and willing to increase their individual effectiveness through learning advanced skills and strategies that directly affect their personal and team success.
    A four-year setter at Portland, Allen stands at fifth on the Pilots' all-time career assists list with 2,042.
    "Julie is a bright young lady with a lot of energy and has an outside-the-box mentality towards developing new ways to train the team," Cummings said. "She will coordinate our recruiting efforts as well as handle the video systems throughout the year."

2008- A SEASON OF CHANGE FOR ARKANSAS STATE: The 2008-2009 season proved to be one of many up's and down's for the Arkansas State volleyball program.  A new mascot, 21 wins and honors along the way highlighted the 2008 season.
    In finishing the regular season at 21-11 and 10-8 in league play, Arkansas State posted its highest winning percentage (.656) since the 2004 season, when ASU finished 25-7 (.781) and tied for first place in the Sun Belt East Division. 
    Following regular season play, freshman Cayla Fielder was named to the All-Sun Belt Conference second team and selected as the SBC Freshman of the Year.  After just one season, Fielder has etched her named in the ASU record book with the sixth best single-season hitting percentage.
    Junior Libero Erin Neeley staked her claim on the ASU career digs chart, ranking fourth with 1,323 digs with a season to play still ahead.
    Junior Laura Bennett also moved into the record rankings, posting 1,224 assists on the year and earning the seventh spot on the single season chart.
    ASU entered the Sun Belt Conference Tournament as the No. 7 seed, taking on second-seeded Middle Tennessee.  The Blue Raiders ended ASU's postseason play, topping the Red Wolves 3-0.
    Over the season, the team posted four win streaks of four wins or more.  
    With its 4-0 start, ASU got off to its best start since the 2004 season when it started 5-0.  The team posted wins over Mississippi Valley State, Texas Southern and The Citadel in the Texas Southern Season-Opening Tournament followed by a win over UT-Martin at the Convocation Center September 2.  The Red Wolves did not lose a set in their first four matches.  Junior Konae Purcell was named MVP of the tournament and Neeley was named the tournament's outstanding defensive specialist, while Fielder was selected to the all-tournament team.
    The second streak began in the last game of the Hampton Inn Saluki Invitational September 13 when Arkansas State defeated Western Illinois 3-1.  The Red Wolves then won three straight matches at the Western Carolina Catamount Clash over Presbyterian, Western Carolina and Norfolk State.  Purcell was also named MVP of the Catamount Clash, while now-departed senior Mafo Joelle earned all-tournament honors.
    Back-to-back home wins over Louisiana-Lafayette September 26 and Louisiana-Monroe September 28 started the third win streak, followed by road wins over South Alabama and Troy.  The Red Wolves also topped Memphis 3-1 at home October 7, before losing to Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky.
    The last win streak started with a road-swing through the state of Louisiana beginning October 16.  ASU defeated New Orleans 3-0, Louisiana-Lafayette 3-1 and Louisiana-Monroe 3-0 over the weekend.  Neeley was named SBC Defensive Player of the Week following the weekend sweep.  The Red Wolves returned home to top Florida Atlantic October 24 before falling to Florida International the next day.
    Arkansas State won its last two matches on the road, winning at UALR 3-2 and North Texas 3-0.
    The end of the 2008 season also marked the end of head coach Craig Cummings' time at Arkansas State.  Cummings announced his resignation in February 2009 after 13 years at ASU, and Justin Ingram was named head coach in April.

RED WOLVES SWEEP UT-MARTIN FOR SIXTH STRAIGHT WIN: MARTIN, TENN. (9/8/09) - Arkansas State extended its winning streak to six matches Tuesday night as the Red Wolves (6-1) rolled to a 3-0 sweep over the Skyhawks of Tennessee-Martin (5-3) in non-conference volleyball action at Skyhawk Fieldhouse.
    Sophomore outside hitter Charlyn Ursell hammered out 13 kills while sophomore middle blocker Cayla Fielder added 11 kills and four blocks to lead ASU.  Ursell hit a team-high .478 on the night, with Fielder adding a .400 hitting percentage to the Red Wolves' effort.
    The Red Wolves defeated UT-Martin 25-22 in the opening set then got stronger as the night went on, downing the Skyhawks 25-18 in the second set and 25-17 in the third to wrap up the match.  With the 3-0 victory, the Red Wolves have now won five straight matches without dropping a set, and have won 18 consecutive sets after being down 0-2 against Evansville in a 3-2 ASU victory August 29.
    "We prepared for this match with a plan in mind," said ASU head coach Justin Ingram.  "We understood what they were good at, and our goal going in was to be able to stop a couple of their hitters.  It was important for us to serve aggressively, and we came out doing that.  Offensively, we got some great looks.  Cayla and Char played tremendously, both hitting over .400 for the match.  It was a nice night, starting strong and finishing strong."
    Down 15-10 in the opening set, the Red Wolves used four kills from Fielder along with a kill and a service ace from freshman outside hitter Taylor Coughlin to knot the score at 17-17.  The teams traded points until ASU took a 22-21 lead on a kill from Ursell before Fielder and Ursell combined for a block to give the Red Wolves a 23-21 advantage.  From there, Arkansas State took advantage of two UTM errors to take the set.
    In the second set, Arkansas State reeled off five straight points to break a 14-14 tie and won going away to grab a 2-0 advantage in the match.  Fielder and Ursell combined for seven kills in the set and junior Christin Baker added a pair of kills on .667 hitting to lead ASU.
    The Red Wolves jumped out to an 8-0 advantage in the third and Tennessee-Martin never got within six points the rest of the way.  Arkansas State hit .447 in the final set, including a .778 hitting percentage from Ursell that included seven kills, two blocks and three service aces.  Coughlin added four kills, a block and an ace to help power the Red Wolves in the final set.
    Defensively, ASU got 20 digs from senior libero Heather Bowman and 13 digs from Coughlin.  Junior setter Laura Bennett added 37 assists to go along with 12 digs and a pair of blocks.
    The Red Wolves will return to action Friday when they take on Mississippi State in the MSU Bulldog Invitational in Starkville, Miss.