`Dogs Make Strides Toward 2012 Goals

Oct. 17, 2012

By Theresa Kurtz

FRESNO, Calif. - The Fresno State volleyball team had a couple goals in mind entering the 2012 season. Those were to win the Mountain West championship and discover who the Bulldogs are as a team.

Halfway through the season, the 'Dogs are tied with UNLV at the top of the MW leaderboard and battle the Rebels for first place on Friday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Save Mart Center.

"This is going to be a fun match," said head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell. "Our matches have been exciting up until the end! Like most teams in the MW we're evenly matched. Our team has worked at a much higher level than they did last year. Our on-court leadership is stronger and our volleyball knowledge is really high."

The Rebels have an overall record of 13-7 and are 5-2 in Mountain West action. UNLV is 3-1 in conference matches on the road.

"The band is a strength in our arena and we rely on them," Netherby-Sewell said. "I want the Save Mart Center to be a tough place to play on Friday. We want UNLV sent packing not knowing what hit them. We need a big, feisty crowd to help that happen."

The Bulldogs are coming off a huge week after beating Colorado State and Wyoming, who are two of the top volleyball programs in conference. The wins catapulted the `Dogs into a tie with UNLV for first place and 5-2 MW mark.

Another major stride for Bulldog volleyball is their RPI of 60, which was released this week by the NCAA. This year's unofficial score is the best RPI for the volleyball program since 2004, when the Bulldogs had an RPI of 93.

"Though the RPI isn't a perfect determiner of a team's strength it's a good judge of character," Netherby-Sewell said. "We have a lot of strong players this year who are better developed than when they first arrived. That number is a reflection of that progress."

When Netherby-Sewell took over the program in 2008, the Bulldogs had an RPI of 275 and over the last five seasons the number has continually gotten better. In 2009, the RPI dropped it 217 followed by 150 in 2010. Last season, the Bulldogs RPI again improved to 138.

"I'm proud that we keep moving in a positive direction," added Netherby-Sewell. "It's a testament to those who came before this group, my staffs, this department and especially the 12 stars who are competing now."

Fresno State returned 11 Bulldogs from last year's squad and added one freshman to the roster. Among those returners were Korrin Wild and Barbara Alcantara, who are ranked 23rd in the nation in aces per set and assists per set, respectively.

Wild is coming off her best performance of the season, which earned her the program's first Mountain West Player of the Week honor. The junior outside hitter averaged 5.4 kills, 3.4 digs and 0.5 aces per set last week.

Against Colorado State, she tied her career-high hitting .458 with 23 kills and 23 digs. Wild followed that performance with a career-high 31 kills against Wyoming.

"I've been exercising patience with Korrin's offense because she provides so much for us in the way of serving, passing and defense," explained Netherby-Sewell. "Now that her confidence is back on the offensive side, I feel really good about where we're at on the pins."

Alcantara, one of two captains on the 2012 squad, leads the conference with 11.3 assists per set. Against Wyoming, she set a career-high with 65 assists.

"When Barbara is in charge - she's in charge," said Netherby-Sewell. "I love her fight this year and belief in this team and program. She's dishing the ball well and becoming a good offensive strength."

Other Bulldogs that are making an impact this season are sophomore Maci Murdock, who leads the conference with a .340 hitting percentage. Outside hitter Marissa Brand is second in the MW with 3.8 kills per set, while Christina Lee is fourth with 4.3 digs per set.

"This is a deep team," added Netherby-Sewell. "I could talk all day about each player, what they're contributing and what they're capable of at their best."

Fresno State is 3-0 in conference play at the Save Mart Center with each of the last two matches being decided in the fifth set.

"Every match in conference has been fun to the end," Netherby-Sewell said. "Don't miss this one!"

The Bulldogs begin the second half of the Mountain West season on Oct. 27 at New Mexico.

"As the second half of the season begins, we need to keep the passion to continue the work that got us here," said Netherby-Sewell. "The first half has given us confidence in our ability to beat anyone. But we must keep a sense of urgency through the second as we know all teams pose a challenge."

"Discover Fresno State Athletics!" -- Bulldog volleyball continues their homestand on Oct. 18 to face CSU Bakersfield in a nonconference match up at 6 p.m. Tune into the home of Fresno State volleyball, ESPN 790, for game day action.