Akron -- The Akron volleyball team and fifth-year head coach Ron Arenz will head into SEC country this weekend to kick off the 2012 campaign at the South Carolina Gamecock Invitational. The Zips will play four matches in two days when they take on UNC Asheville, South Carolina, East Tennessee State and Temple. First serve for the season opener against UNC Asheville is set for 3:00 p.m. ET Friday afternoon. Zips middle blocker Tina Dimitrijevs is back for a fifth year in an Akron uniform after suffering a shortened season in 2011 due to injury. Her return to the court is an essential part of UA's blocking efforts and counter-attack offense. Before her time was cut short last year, Dimitrijevs was named MAC East Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 5 after leading the Zips to a sweep of their own Akron Invitational. Her award-winning performance during that stretch included 33 kills with just three errors in 56 attempts for a .536 hitting percentage, averaging 3.30 kills per set.
Ball State -- The Ball State women's volleyball team opens its 41st season of play Friday, when it hosts Gardner-Webb at 7 p.m. in the 2012 Ball State Active Ankle Challenge ... On Saturday, the Cardinals conclude the two-day event with matches versus VCU (11 a.m.) and Illinois State (7 p.m.). Ball State returns nine letterwinners, including three starters and the libero, from last season's team which posted a 25-8 (12-4 MAC) record and advanced to the first round of the NCAA tournament ... Highlighting BSU's list of returning student-athletes are a pair of All-MAC First Team honorees in senior outside hitter Kara Bates and junior defensive specialist Catie Fredrich. Kara Bates made a name for herself in her first season at Ball State, leading the team with a 3.20 kill-per-set average and tying for team-high honors with double-digit kills in 18 matches ... She posted a BSU career-high 20 kills at Western Michigan (Nov. 4), while also adding a career-best seven total blocks in the contest ... She scored five kill/dig double-double on the year, including three of the last six matches. Catie Fredrich enters Friday's match with 819 career digs and needs just 39 more to move into the top 20 in program history ... She collected 562 digs in 2011 which is the ninth-best single season dig total in program history ... Her 42 career matches with double-figure digs rank 16th in program history, while her nine career matches with 20-or-more digs is sixth.
Bowling Green -- The BGSU volleyball team opens the 2012 season this weekend at the Marquette Challenge. The Falcons will face two tough opponents, playing host Marquette, out of the BIG EAST Conference, Friday night at 7 p.m. (CST) before playing Northwestern, from the Big Ten, Saturday at 4 p.m. (CST). The contests will be the first under new head coach Danijela Tomic. Bowling Green has one of the most talented attacking duos in the Mid-American Conference in sophomores Paige Penrod and Danielle Tonyan. The pair was the only set of teammates in the MAC to both rank in the top 10 in the league in kills and points a year ago. Both have recorded more than 300 kills in each of their first two years. Only one player in program history, Corey Domek, reached 300 kills in all four years of a career. Ashley Dunn finished the 2011 season with 19 consecutive double-digit dig matches and reached that total in 26 of the last 27 overall. The 19 consecutive streak is the longest at BGSU since Chelsey Meek’s NCAA record 89 consecutive matches with double-digit digs from 2006-08. In fact, her 457 digs as a freshman rank as the eighth most in a single in school history and her 450 last year is the 10th most. She needs 267 more to break into the top 10 in career digs as a Falcon.
Buffalo -- University at Buffalo sophomore Liz Scott has been named to the Mid-American Conference East Division Preseason All-MAC team, the conference office announced on Wednesday morning. Scott is one of 12 players in the conference to receive this honor. Scott, who was named to the All-Freshman Team last season, finished her rookie season second on the team with 280 kills and led the team in hitting percentage at .252. She was also third on the squad with 176 digs and tied for third with 23 service aces. The Canadaigua, NY native finished with double figures in kills on 15 different occasions, including a career-high 20 early in the year against Colgate. She had double figures in kills in six of the last seven match of the year.
Central Michigan -- With expectations high for 2012, the Central Michigan volleyball program kicks off its campaign this weekend when it travels to Green Bay, Wis., for the Green Bay/Country Inn & Suites Tournament. Despite returning five starters and its primary libero from last season's Mid-American Conference Tournament championship squad, CMU was picked to finish third in the MAC West in Tuesday's preseason coaches' poll. Western Michigan was picked to win the West, the overall regular season title and the MAC Tournament crown, while Ohio was picked to win the MAC East. The Chippewas return five of their six starters from its 2011 championship squad, as well as its primary libero junior Jenna Coates. Overall, CMU returns seven letter winners, 80 percent of its points scored and kills. Sophomore outside hitter Kaityn McIntyre was named to the preseason All-MAC West squad Wednesday afternoon. Kaitlyn McIntyre returns for her second season in the Maroon and Gold after earning Freshman All-MAC honors as a rookie and leading the Chippewas with 409 kills. Known by her teammates as "Mac," her 409 kills set a CMU freshman single-season record and ranked sixth all-time since the NCAA implemented rally scoring in 2000.
Eastern Michigan -- The Eastern Michigan University volleyball squad opens up its 2012 campaign at the Memphis Invitational held by the University of Memphis. EMU will take on four different opponents in two days this weekend. The Eagles first face Arkansas-Little Rock at 10 a.m. Friday morning and follow-up with Southern Illinois at 2 p.m., Aug. 24. The Eagles break until Saturday, Aug. 25, at 10 a.m. when they take on Austin Peay and finish up the invitational playing the host, Memphis, at 5 p.m. Saturday evening. Senior outside hitter Rachel Iaquaniello is looking to become one of the most storied players in Eastern Michigan volleyball history during the 2012 campaign. The two-time first team All-MAC selection is looking to become just the second three-time first team All-MAC performers. The only other EMU volleyballer to wear that crown is Roxanne Munch, who did so from 1987-1989. Iaquaniello earned her first team honors in both the 2010 and 2011 campaigns. In her first three seasons on the outside for Eastern, the Plymouth, Mich. native has recorded 1,395 kills, which ranks third all-time in EMU laurels. Iaquaniello has averaged 465 kills per season and looks to break Munch's record of 1,537 kills which was set 23 years ago in 1989. Iaquaniello also sits third all-time in the career record book with 4,089 attack attempts. She is averaging 1,363 attacks per season and needs just 367 to tie Jennifer Nighswander who had 4,456 in her career at Eastern.
Kent State -- The 2012 Golden Flashes are led by senior middle blocker Kathy Krupa (Burbank, Ill.). Krupa led the team in attack percentage (.304), total blocks (115; 27 solo, 88 assisted) and blocks per set (0.97) and ranked second on the team in kills (281), kills per set (2.36), points (353) and points per set (2.97) -- all of which were career bests. Her .304 attack percentage ranked ninth in the conference. She totaled five or more blocks a team-high 14 times and reached double digits in kills 11 times, the second-most on the team. Sophomore Liz Reikow (Holland, Mich.), who stands at 6'-6", and freshman Bridget Wilhelm (Euclid, Ohio) will compete for playing time in the middle. Junior setter Aleksandra Nowak (Damnica, Poland), who ranks fifth in school history with 8.91 set assists per set and sixth with 1,559 set assists, returns to direct the Kent State passing game. She led the squad with 962 set assists and 8.91 assists per set in 2011, ranking ninth in the MAC in the latter. Sophomore Jenny Buczek (Orland Park, Ill.) gained valuable experience at the setter spot last season and provides the Flashes with solid depth at the position.
Miami -- The Miami University volleyball team gets the 2012 season underway when it travels to Huntington, W.Va. this weekend to participate in the Thunder Invitational. The RedHawks open against IUPUI on Friday at 4:30 p.m. Miami will then face Wright State on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and the host Marshall that evening at 7:30 p.m. Senior outside hitter Lisa Treadway (Dayton, Ohio) enters the 2012 season with 979 career digs. With 21 more digs, she'll become the 10th person in school history to reach the 1,000-dig career mark without being a primary libero. Counting the two liberos who have also reached the mark, she can become the 12th player overall to record 1,000 digs at Miami.
Northern Illinois -- The Northern Illinois women's volleyball team begins its 2012 season this weekend by hosting the annual NIU Invitational. The three-day event will feature six matches between four teams, three of which participated in the 2011 NCAA Tournament: New Mexico State, North Dakota State (NCAA), Wichita State (NCAA), and host NIU (NCAA). Who's Back - Three starters - middle blockers Sarah Angelos (Jr.) and Mary Kurisch (Sr.) and defensive specialist Justine Schepler (Jr.) - and libero Amber Walker (Sr.). Angelos and Kurisch were both All-MAC selections in 2011. Also returning are defensive specialist Sue Hayes (Sr.), middle blockers Sam Grams (Sr.) and Emily Paschke (So.), outside hitters Tori Halbur (Jr.), MacKenzie Roddy (So.) and Meghan Romo (Sr.), and setter Kayla Zeno (Jr.). Overall, the Huskies have 71 percent of their blocks, 51 percent of their digs and 43 percent of their kills back.
Ohio -- Ohio travels to Dayton to participate in the Flyer Classic. The Bobcats will take on No. 11 Pepperdine, No. 7 Illinois and Dayton on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Ohio's Lexie Hartnett, Chelsea Bilger and Kelly Lamberti were all selected to the Mid-America Conference's Preseason All-East Division Team. The All-MAC Teams, voted on by the league's head coaches, featured 12 players with Ohio having the most honorees. Lamberti finished her first season, second in the league in point scoring behind MAC Player of the Year Lauren Wicinski. The freshman also ranked second in kills, fifth in service aces and led Ohio in double-doubles with 19.Hartnett received All-MAC honors for a second time last season after helping Ohio rank 19th in the nation in blocks per set. She ranked third in the MAC in blocks per set and placed second with 117.0 total blocks. Bilger was named to the All-MAC Freshman team last season after recording 13 double-doubles for the Bobcats, eight in conference play. She ranked second on the team in kills and third in points and digs.
Toledo -- Toledo commences its 2012 campaign this weekend with a trip to Columbus, OH to participate in Ohio State's Sports Imports D.C. Koehl Classic. UT will open the tournament on Friday, Aug. 24 against Houston and No. 20 Oregon before facing the No. 24 Buckeyes on Saturday, Aug. 25. The Rockets return a veteran group of attackers in 2012 - senior Sondra Parys and juniors Dakota Harkins, Jordan Kielty, Lauren Rafdal and Becca Reidy - who have seen extensive action since arriving on campus as freshman. That experience will be necessary to ease the transition to a new setter following the graduation of three-time All-MAC Second Team honoree Kassie Kadera. Junior Adria Pryor has the inside track at the position and will compete for the job with freshman Alex Hines. Pryor has played in just two matches in a Rocket uniform, one each as a freshman and sophomore.
Western Michigan -- The Broncos will return to the court for the 2012 season this weekend when they travel to the Nike Oklahoma Invitational in Norman. The Broncos are coming off their second NCAA Tournament appearance in seven seasons under Colleen Munson. In a release earlier this week, it was announced that the Broncos were named the preseason favorites in the MAC West division, drawing 10 first-place votes in the preseason coaches' poll. It was also announced that WMU was named the preseason favorite to win both the MAC regular season and tournament championships. Jessica Brown currently ranks 14th in Western Michigan history with 1,141 career kills, one of only 19 players in the program's annals to top 1,000 kills. Should Brown reach her three-year average of 380 kills in 2012, she'll finish her career with 1,521 career kills; that number would rank second in program history, behind just Michelle Moore's 1,919 kills recorded between 2006-09.