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2006 Volleyball Outlook

Senior Amy Meyer is one of four Golden Hurricane seniors returning for the 2006 season.
Senior Amy Meyer is one of four Golden Hurricane seniors returning for the 2006 season.
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The University of Tulsa volleyball team posted one of its best seasons in over 20 years in 2005 with 23 victories, the most since 1980. The Golden Hurricane also had one AVCA All-American Honorable Mention to go along with three all-Conference USA selections.

"There is a strong nucleus returning this season, which will help us build on last season's success," said first-year Head Coach Ed Allen. "The desire to finish among the top three teams in Conference USA is certainly here. Losing two experienced middle hitters and the only libero in school history will hurt. However, the desire to compete combined with the depth of the squad will be a big asset."

Outside Hitter
The outside hitter position will be the most competitive positions on the floor for the Hurricane, with five players vying for playing time. Junior Kassiana Urnau led the team with 374 kills, while senior Germana Hilario also posted over 300 kills on the season. Senior Brie Penaluna and junior Amy Meyer have both seen starting assignments in the past.

Not only was Urnau one of the offensive stars for the Golden Hurricane last year, but she was a defensive gem for TU as well. She was one of three TU players to post over 300 digs for the year.

Hilario provided a needed third offensive option by recording 302 kills for a 2.93 per game average. She led the Hurricane in kills on seven occasions, while posting 15 double-digit kill performances.

Penaluna played in 71 games, including 26 matches last year. She tied a career-high with seven blocks against Grambling State. Meyer started 26 matches last season and recorded 253 kills. The Buda, Texas native finished the 2005 campaign third on the team in total attacks (756) and fourth on the team in kills (253).

Senior Ivana Krejcirova came off the bench for the Hurricane last season after her 2004 campaign was cut short by a knee injury. The Malacky, Slovakia native saw most of her playing time in the back row, in 66 games last year and recorded 99 digs. In 2004, she was hitting .400 with 10 kills in five matches before her injury.

Middle Hitter
A quartet of towers standing better than 6-0 will compete for the starting middle position. Sophomore Renee Brooks is the most experienced middle on the roster, after leading the team in hitting percentage last season, at .408. Junior Fabiola Nepomuceno will also return for her second season in a TU uniform, however, she will slide to the middle after handling some outside hitting duties last season.

The 6-2 Brazilian played in 44 games, including 21 matches last season. She posted a season-high 11 kills against ORU and UTEP, while coming off the bench.

Two freshmen, Hunter Howell and Samantha Schulz, will also compete for playing time in 2006. Howell led her Pine Tree High School team to three consecutive undefeated seasons in district play. She averaged 17 kills and nine blocks per match as a senior for the Pirates.

Schulz comes from a three-time conference champion, Wisconsin Lutheran High School. The first-team all-conference selection helped lead her team to a 39-11 overall record and 11-1 league mark in 2005.

Setters
Junior Julia Silva posted 1,339 assists last season, including three triple-doubles and 17 double-doubles. Her 312 digs were second on the team while her 2.86 digs per game was third on the squad. The second-team All-C-USA selection and AVCA All-American Honorable Mention also earned C-USA Setter of the Week honors four times during the 2005 season.

The Rio De Janeiro native was named MVP of the Crowne Plaza Invitational, along with being named to the Hurricane Invitational and Hilton Las Cruces Invitational all-tournament teams.

Defensive Specialist/Libero
The Hurricane has been fortunate to have a returning letterwinner at this position since its inception. Unfortunately, that player graduated in 2005, leaving TU with a big hole to fill. Not all hope is lost for Tulsa, however, as sophomores Malorey Grove and Kelsey Wood hope to fill the void.

Grove transfers to TU from Presbyterian College, where she played for Coach Allen in 2005. Last season, she helped lead the Blue Hose to a 32-5 record and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Grove led PC with 499 digs for a 3.84 dig per game average and posted 51 service aces.

Wood played in 76 games for the Hurricane last year, including 27 matches with two starts. She recorded 121 digs on the season, including a season-best 18 against Texas-Pan American. Wood also posted 10 digs against Utah State, playing mostly in the back row.

"The quality of returning experience we have at key positions puts the squad in a position to be competitive in every match we'll play this season," said Allen. "The biggest key to our success this season will be understanding where our weaknesses are, then improving on them."

Schedule
The Golden Hurricane will face 10 teams for the first time in program history in 2006. Non-conference opponents North Florida, Florida A&M, Troy, Southern, Jackson State, Duquesne, St. Peter's, Maine, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Fordham will all dot the TU schedule for the first time.

Two of the four tournaments on Tulsa's agenda will feature seven of these first-time non-conference opponents. Florida A&M and Marshall participated in the NCAA Tournament last season, while four more schools also won over 20 matches in 2005. A total of 13 of the 26 schools on TU's schedulde finished last season with more wins than losses.