Aug. 25, 1997

Texas Tech Ready for 1997 Campaign

Texas Tech begins its 1997 volleyball season as host of the first-ever Sheraton Shootout, August 29-30, in Lubbock Municipal Coliseum. The Red Raiders will host four teams including Texas-San Antonio, Portland, SMU and Ohio in the 10-match event.

The Sheraton Shootout should not be confused with the annual Red Raider Classic, which will also be sposored by Four-Points-Sheraton Hotel this year and will take place Sept. 12-13. Though the combined record of the four visiting teams of this year's Sheraton Shootout during the 1996 season was 50-74, it will be the first test for the new look Red Raiders, who return three starters including senior middle blocker, Brande Brown, junior setter Lisa Hilgers and junior outside hitter Kristen Holmes.

Head coach Jeff Nelson's Raiders will face 14 teams in four pre-Big XII Conference tournaments including the Sheraton Shootout, South Florida Tournament, Four-Points-Sheraton/Red Raider Classic and U.S. Air Force Tournament. Nelson believes his youthful Raiders have the ability to win all four invitationals.

"The first couple tournaments will show how far the team has come over the summer," said Nelson, whose summer regimen included a competition trip to Italy. "They are tournaments we can win if we play well. We'll play a couple of top programs in the first few weeks, but a lot of middle-of-the-road programs as well. It affords us the ability to have different looks."

The first major test of the season will come when Tech plays its first top-25 opponent, No. 22 South Florida in the South Florida Tournament on Sept. 5. The Bulls, who finished 27-5 and ended with a 13-1 Conference USA record last year, earned an NCAA Tournament berth. They return five veteran starters and will provide a difficult test for the Raiders. Head coach Perri Hankins is a 1979 graduate of Ball State University, which is also Nelson's alma mater.

Tech ranked 36th in coaches' poll

Texas Tech's 1997 volleyball team will begin the season ranked No. 36 in the USA Today/AVCA Volleyball Coaches poll released August 12, 1997.

Tech earned 19 points in the annual preseason poll conducted by the nation's coaches. The Red Raiders are one of six Big XII Conference schools to be ranked including Nebraska at No. 3, Texas (9th), Texas A&M (13th), Colorado (23rd) and Kansas State (31st). In addition to those five schools, Tech will also face No. 22 South Florida and No. 37 South Carolina.

Last season, Texas Tech (25-9, 12-8 Big XII) which finished with a No. 26 ranking, completed its second straight 20-win campaign and appeared in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year. (See chart for rundown on rankings).

Cristine Martin and the NCAA

Senior outside hitter Cristine Martin and the team are awaiting a decision from the NCAA which would allow her to compete with a fifth year of eligibility. Martin was redshirted as a freshman after injuring and reinjuring her knee. She underwent two arthroscopic surgeries during her redshirt season. As a freshman, Martin played in only seven matches and 16 games.

The Big XII Conference is supporting Martin 100 percent in her attempt at a fifth year. Martin, who currently holds Red Raider all-time records for season and career service aces, can build upon those records if granted an extra year of eligibility. She will practice with the team until a decision is made.

Red Raiders add eight newcomers to roster

Nelson welcomed eight new Red Raiders to campus for the beginning of preseason drills, August 6. Six are true freshman and two are transfer students. Junior outside hitter Natalie Rives (6-0) transferred from Samford University, where she was a starter and all-conference player. The left hander will compete for a starting position. The other transfer is lefthanded sophomore Elizabeth Hamilton (6-0) from South Carolina-Aiken.

The six true freshman could also factor in on playing time. Outside hitter Heather Hughes (5-10) has impressed the coaching staff enough to earn a starting position. Middle blockers Emily Brengman (5-11), Ashley Frogge' (6-0) and Kate Jury (6-0) all provide height, while outside hitter Jodi Jones (5-5) and setter Ebony Smith (5-8) may also factor in. Several of the newcomers may redshirt the season. Overall, the 1997 recruiting class is one of the tallest ever in Red Raider history as four Raiders tower above 6-feet.

Focus on the Shootout opponents

Texas-San Antonio has a young squad as only two of its players are seniors. The Roadrunners, who have three players 6-0 or taller, return five letterwinners and two starters from last year's 17-15 team. UTSA finished fourth in the Southland Conference last year with an 11-7 record. Head coach Katrinka Jo Crawford is in her second season at the school and will count on senior setter Tobi Irish (1,237 assists) and senior outside hitter Heather Turner (336 kills) for leadership.

Head coach Patty Jayne returns eight letterwinners and four starters from a youthful team which finished 10-21 last year. Portland, which finished seventh in the West Coast Conference with a 3-11 record, will count on All-West Coast honorable mention performer and senior outside hitter Gretchen Sanders and senior setter Rebecca Eldridge for production. The Pilots also boast seven players 6-feet or taller.

With five starters returning from last year's 7-24 team, second year SMU head coach Lisa Seifert has something to feel positive about. The future looks bright for the Mustangs as eight of 10 players are beginning their freshman or sophomore seasons. Look for sophomore middle blocker Jennie Amos, 6-2 senior middle blocker Tina Harting, sophomore setter Leslie Olson and sophomore outside hitter Erin Pryor to make significant contributions.

With eight players at the six-foot mark and no one on the team shorter 5-9, Ohio looks to be much more athletic and improved in 1997. The Bobcats lost four starters off a 16-14 team last year, but return nine letterwinners to fill the void. Head coach Ellen Dempsey returns two starters in all-conference candidate and senior outside hitter Laura Cressa and sophomore middle blocker Katie Mullen. The team also returns junior middle blocker Traci Nation, who sat out last year due to an injury in 1996.

Red Raiders in the Recordbooks

Junior setter Lisa Hilgers has made a significant mark on the Texas Tech recordbooks. Hilgers is ranked third in career assists and will top the 3,000-mark in the first match against UTSA. Hilgers, who set the all-time season assists mark in 1995 with 1,537, needs only 608 assists to set the record. Barring injury , she should easily set the record sometime during the middle of the season. Along with that, Hilgers will also make her mark in career digs this season as she already has totaled 764. Since she finished with 394 digs in 1995 and 370 in 1996, Hilgers has an opportunity to do some damage on the digs lists. She will also break into TTU's matches and games played lists this season.

Senior Cristine Martin is TTU's all-time leader in career aces with 150 and season aces with 55, set in 1996. If allowed to play in the 1997 campaign, Martin could build upon and improve those records. Martin is also is ranked eighth in career kill attempts (2,416), ninth in career digs (1,040), 14th in career matches played (104) and 14th in career games played (351).

Senior Brande Brown is ranked third on the all-time hitting percentage list at .232. Even though that statistic can go up or down from year-to-year, Brown has an opportunity to improve in that category. She is also listed on the career games played list with 83.


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