Volleyball Travels to Illinois For Illini Classic

Sept. 7, 2004

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This Week

State Farm Illini Volleyball Classic - Champaign, Ill.
American • #16 Illinois • Miami (Ohio) • #1 USC

vs. American
Friday, Sept. 10, 5 p.m. CT

Consolation/Championship Match
Saturday, Sept. 11, 4:30/7 p.m. CT
Illinois Matches Live at www.fightingillini.com


The Facts
The No. 1-ranked USC women's volleyball team (4-0) -- the defending back-to-back NCAA and Pac-10 champion -- prepares for two-straight weeks of travel as it starts the road swing at the State Farm Illini Volleyball Classic this week in Champaign, Ill. The two-day tournament features four teams, two ranked in the top 25. In the opener, the Women of Troy face American on Friday, Sept. 10, at 5 p.m. CT, followed by a match-up between Miami (Ohio) and host No. 16 Illinois. A consolation match will take place on Saturday, Sept. 11, at 4:30 p.m. CT, followed by the championship match at 7 p.m. CT. All matches to be played at Illinois' Huff Hall. An audio broadcast will only be available if USC faces Illinois on Saturday. To listen go to www.fightingillini.com.The Women of Troy are coming off two victories that extended their win streak to 51 matches. USC defeated Georgia, 3-1, at home on Saturday, Sept. 4, then beat No. 9 Pepperdine in Malibu on Sunday, Sept. 5. USC's Pepperdine match was part of the Waves' Marriott Beach Classic. Emily Adams was named tournament MVP and Bibiana Candelas was named to the all-tournament team.The Rankings
USC remains at the top of the USA Today/CSTV AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll this week by pulling in 62 of the possible 65 first-place votes to out-distance No. 2 Nebraska. The Women of Troy were also picked No. 1 in the Volleyball magazine preseason poll.Sitting At The Top
USC has spent 23-straight weeks ranked No. 1 in the AVCA poll. The Trojans have spent 49 weeks ranked in the top 5 and 67 weeks ranked in the top 10 (dating back to the start of the 2000 season).Charting the Streaks
USC has won its last 51 consecutive matches** (dating back to 11/2/02 when they lost 3-2 to Stanford at home), 21 consecutive home matches and 47 consecutive road matches. The Trojans have not dropped a match on the road since the 2001 season (a 3-1 loss at Stanford, 11/10/01).**The 51 straight wins is an NCAA record, but not a USC record. The Women of Troy won 56 straight matches from Nov. 27, 1976, through Sept. 27, 1978, as a part of the AIAW.During The Streak
Not only have the Women of Troy won an impressive 51 consecutive matches, but during that time the team has collected a 153-14 single game record (winning 91.6 percent of its games).Team Co-Captains
This year's team co-captains, as voted on by the players, are seniors Emily Adams and Alicia Robinson. The is the first year Robinson has held the role and the second-consecutive year for Adams.Injury Report
Freshman outside hitter Jessica Gysin suffered a severe sprained left ankle in the first week of training camp. She will be sidelined for 4-6 weeks, hopefully by the start of conference play on Sept. 24.USC First To Repeat As NACWAA Champions
It was a quick start to the 2004 season for the Women of Troy, who faced two highly-ranked opponents in just the first week of play at the NACWAA Volleyball Classic in Fort Collins, Colo., Sept. 27-28. With four new starters in the lineup, the Trojans managed to get past No. 12 Georgia Tech, 3-0, and No. 4 Minnesota, 3-2, to capture their second-straight NACWAA Volleyball Championship - the first team to ever accomplish the feat. After sweeping the Yellow Jackets on Friday (Sept. 27), USC had to rally from a 2-1 game deficit against the Golden Gophers on Saturday (Sept. 28). The Women of Troy were out-dug, out-hit and out-blocked by Minnesota and its outstanding passing game, but in the end USC out lasted the Gophers for the five-game victory.The Women of Troy had not been pushed to five games since defeating California 3-2 on the road on Oct. 18, 2003. It was the only five-game match USC played last season.Junior opposite hitter Staci Venski and senior outside hitter Keao Burdine earned all-tournament honors, while junior middle blocker Bibiana Candelas was named tournament MVP. Candelas had a .423 attack percentage for the tournament, and added 3.12 kills and 0.88 blocks per game. Venski provided a steady 2.25 kills per game, including a career-high 12 kills in the final. Burdine, who averaged 3.88 kills in the two matches, led with a match-high 21 kills against Minnesota.Volleyball Live
Fox Sports West has announced that it will air two of USC's matches this season LIVE - Friday, Oct. 8, vs. Stanford and Thursday, Nov. 4, at California. The network has been airing its volleyball matches on a tape delay basis for the past three seasons. The two matches will also be shown tape delay on other Fox Sports Net affiliates. The Trojans' Nov. 26 match at Washington will only be shown tape delay.USC 'School Pass'
Audio broadcasts of all USC home volleyball matches are now available on the internet with the USC 'School Pass.' Subscriptions are $4.95 per month and can be ordered online at either www.usctrojans.com or sports.yahoo.com. The package includes all radio broadcasts of Trojan football, men's and women's basketball, women's and men's volleyball and baseball contests.If you don't have a School Pass, then you can follow all home Women of Troy matches with Live Stats now available on www.usctrojans.com.Team News N' Notes
• USC became the first-ever team to win a second-straight NACWAA Volleyball Championship with wins over Georgia Tech and Minnesota on Sept. 27 and 28.Player News N' Notes
• For the first time in her USC career, Keao Burdine exhibited her powerful jump serve against Pepperdine on Sept. 5. She collected three aces for the match.
• Emily Adams was named MVP of the Marriott Beach Class - Pepperdine's three-day tournament, in which the USC match was included. Junior Bibiana Candelas earned all-tournament honors.
• Bibiana Candelas earned her first MVP honor as a Trojan at the NACWAA Classic. Staci Venski collected her first all-tournament honor at the event and Keao Burdine was also honored to the team.
• Debora Seilhamer set a NACWAA Tournament record with a career-high 19 digs in a three-game match against Georgia Tech (Aug. 27).Chasing History
After capturing back-to-back national titles in 2002 and 2003, this year's USC women's volleyball squad is looking to do what no other team has done - win a third straight. There have been seven repeat champions in the history of collegiate women's volleyball (USC 1976-77, USC 1980-81, Hawai'i 1982-83, Pacific 1985-86, UCLA 1990-91, Stanford 1996-97, USC 2002-03), but no one has claimed the three-peat.The Advantage of Height
The 2004 squad boasts one of the tallest lineups of hitters and blockers across the country, but they fall a half inch shorter than the 2002 and 2003 USC team average. The Trojans' hitters and blockers average 6-foot-2-and-a-half. As a team USC stands just over 6-0.Twin Towers Return
Two of the most dominating players in Division I volleyball are back for another season. At 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-5, senior middle blocker Emily Adams (Phoenix, Ariz.) and junior middle blocker Bibiana Candelas (Torreón, Mexico) return to the net for the Women of Troy. These two players, the tallest duo at the net in Division I, each earned AVCA All-American first team accolades in 2003. Adams and Candelas led the nation with .431 and .434 attack percentages, respectively, in addition to ranking among the nation's top five with 1.39 and 1.24 blocks apiece. Adams contributed 3.36 kills per game, while Candelas added an average of 3.05.Burdine Deserves A Closer Look
Every coach across the country knows her name, but she has never been named to a All-America first team. She has been the driving force behind USC's last two championship efforts, but she only has one all-region first team selection to her name. This is senior outside hitter Keao Burdine (Pico Rivera, Calif.) - the only player to ever be named the sole NCAA Championship MVP twice. She has been one player on a team of all-stars, but you'll never hear her complain. After all, she has two NCAA championships to her name.A Tale Of Five Setters
Thanks to the addition of two transfer players, USC will not lack depth at the setting position this season. In addition to sophomore Kimi Freeburg, redshirt freshman Alex Dunphy and walk-on freshman setter/opposite hitter Kathleen Gilmour (who may likely redshirt this season), the Women of Troy welcome 5-foot-10 Nena Siljegovic of Simi Valley, Calif., and 5-foot-7 Alli Dillon of Long Beach, Calif. Siljegovic is a junior transfer from Moorpark (Calif.) Community College, while Dillon enters her sophomore year after spending the 2003 season at San Jose State. What would be a problem for most teams is not for the Trojans, whose 6-2 offense allows the team to utilize the talent of at least two setters.A Story Worth Reading About
Junior transfer Nena Siljegovic's background is unlike many collegiate student-athletes. Though she spent the last two years playing at Moorpark Community College (where she was named the AVCA's 2003 Two-Year College Player of the Year) and the previous two years at Royal High in Simi Valley, Calif., that's where the similarities end. Siljegovic is a native of the former Yugoslavia (Serbia). She and her family were forced to leave their country in 1998 due to the ever-present danger and collapse of the economy during the breakup of Yugoslavia. The family fled to Austria for one year before moving to the U.S.Siljegovic's volleyball career took a strange turn as a result of the move. She never wanted to play the position of setter, but it was the only position her prep coach at Royal High understood in her self-admitted broken English. So he immediately cast her in the role.Flashback to 2000
The freshmen of 2004 have drawn many comparisons to the freshmen of 2000 (April Ross, Katie Olsovsky, Toni Anderson, Nicole Davis), who completed their USC careers last season. Even though the Women of Troy may have lost one of the best classes in program history, the coaching staff did a pretty good job in finding comparable replacements. Considered by most as the No. 1 recruiting class in the country (USC's third in the last five years), this set of newcomers includes four Volleyball magazine Fab 50 selections, including 6-foot-2 middle blocker Katelyn Bishop (Terre Haute, Ind.), 6-foot-2 middle blocker/opposite hitter Diane Copenhagen (Mountain View, Calif.) and a pair of 6-foot-1 outside hitters Sarah Florian (Toledo, Ohio) and Jessica Gysin (Mountain View, Calif.).A True Trojan Family
Freshman setter/opposite hitter Kathleen Gilmour (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) comes from a long line of Trojans - a list that far exceeds that of just former Trojan athletes. The Gilmours, including brothers J.T., who plays on the USC men's volleyball team, and Marcus, who was on the USC team, keep a detailed list of their own Trojan family history that includes 40 family members who have all attended USC. The lists dates back to Kathleen's great-great grandfather, Andrew Morrow ('23), and the first USC relative, her great-great uncle, Charles Morrow ('21).2003 Recap
It was a perfect ending to a perfect season as the 2003 Women of Troy captured their second-consecutive title (sixth overall) with an undefeated 35-0 record. USC became the first team to ever repeat without defeat and, en route, set an NCAA record by winning 47 consecutive matches dating back to Nov. 2, 2002. Led by five seniors, the Women of Troy went 18-0 in Pac-10 play for their third conference title in the last four years. The Trojans were pushed past three games a mere six times during the season, and only once were they pushed to a fifth (at Cal on Oct. 18). USC's efforts were led by April Ross (Honda Award Winner, All-America, Pac-10 Player of the Year), Emily Adams (All-America, All-Pac-10), Bibiana Candelas (All-America, All-Pac-10) and Keao Burdine (All-America, All-Pac-10). Burdine was named NCAA Championship MVP for the second-straight year.Opponent NotesAmerican -- The Eagles enter this week with a 2-1 record after falling to Michigan, 3-1, in the final of the Manhattan College Invitational. The team beat Manhattan College, 3-0, and Maryland-Eastern Shore in the first two rounds. Behind 16th-year head coach Barry Goldberg, American returned six starters from last season's squad which posted a 22-10 overall record. The Eagles advanced to the first round of the NCAAs last season and won the Patriot League with a 14-0 record. Top returners include outside hitter Natacha Cornaz and middle blocker Cutrina Biddulph.USC-American Series Record -- USC and American have never faced each other.USC-American Common Connections
• American senior middle blocker Cathy Fluegeman hails from Muncie, Ind., not far from USC setter Kimi Freeburg's hometown of New Castle, Ind.
• American has two players who hail from California - Cutrina Biddulph (Reseda) and Courtney Mulford (San Diego).Miami (Ohio) -- Miami (Ohio)'s season surprisingly started on its home court after its previously-schedule tournament at Florida was cancelled thanks to Hurricane Frances. The staff pulled together teams that had been shutout from the Florida tournament and Miami (Fla.) tournament to hosd a two-day tourney where the RedHawks beat TCU, 3-1, but fell to Illinois, 3-0. Under 21st-year head coach Carolyn Condit, Miami (Ohio) returned eight letterwinners and all seven starters from the 2003 squad which went 11-22 overall and 4-12 in the Mid-American Conference for a sixth-place finish. The team is so far led by hitters Lauren Slusser, Angie Zent and Tara Buroker, who are all averaging more that 3.0 kills per game.USC-Miami (Ohio) Series Record -- USC and Miami (Ohio) have never faced each other.USC-Miami (Ohio) Common Connections
• Freshman libero Sydney Antonio and sophomore libero Rachel Yauss were both prep teammates of USC freshman Sarah Florian at St. Ursula Academy in Toledo, Ohio.
• Miami (Ohio) assistant coach Lisa Dankovich was born and raised in New Castle, Ind. - Kimi Freeburg's hometown.No. 16 Illinois -- The Fighting Illini enter this week at No. 16 thanks to a 3-0 start to their season. The team defeated Illinois State, 3-0, TCU, 3-1, and Miami (Ohio), 3-0, last week. Under ninth-year head coach Don Hardin, the team returns 10 letterwinners, including four starters, from last year's squad. The Fighting Illini collected a 26-7 overall record in 2003, advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinal and finished the year at No. 15. The team also finished tied for second place with a 15-5 record in the Big Ten Conference. So far, Illinois is being led by junior outside hitter Rachel VanMeter, who is averaging 6.30 kills per game and a .374 attack percentage.USC-Illinois Series Record -- USC owns a 2-1 all-time record against Illinois. All three meetings have taken place at neutral sites. The Trojans won the first meeting 3-0 at the NCAA Mideast Regional held in Lincoln, Neb., on Dec. 13, 1985. Illinois won the second 3-0 at the Mid-American Classic in Chicago, Ill., on Sept. 13, 1987. The Women of Troy beat the Illini in the most recent outing at the UNM/Volleyball Monthly Tournament in Albuquerque, N.M., on Sept. 4, 1993, by a 3-1 score.USC-Illinois Common Connections
• Freshman middle blocker Vicki Brown hails from Sarah Florian's hometown of Toledo, Ohio.
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