By Geoff Thurner
FRESNO, Calif. - The Fresno State volleyball team successfully opened its home slate with a 3-1 win in its Alumnae Exhibition Match Saturday afternoon at the Save Mart Center.
The `Dogs won the four-set exhibition by a 25-21, 25-17, 24-26, 25-19 margin against a 13-member squad of former Bulldog players that have played in four different decades since the mid-70s.
"I like where we're at this early in the season, and today was a really beneficial match," seventh-year head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell said. "The alumni squad gets better every year so it was a good test to see where we were consistent and inconsistent. Our attacking was pretty solid, and I was really impressed with our ball control and our offense in transition - they both can suffer in a first match. It's good that we can pinpoint the issues that we need to work on in the upcoming final week of the preseason."
Leading the Bulldog offense, senior outside hitter Jamiee-Lee Morrow paced the team in kills (19) and ended with a .410 hitting mark after she made only two errors among her team-high 39 attempts.
Senior middle blocker Maci Murdock topped the team in hitting (.580), and landed 13 kills among her 19 attempts with only two errors.
Four other `Dogs added five or more kills, freshman outside hitter Carly Scarbrough (8), senior middle blocker Katie Pearson (7), redshirt junior right side hitter Molly Pearson (7) and freshman middle blocker Lauren Torres (5).
"Jamiee-Lee's experience really stood out," Netherby-Sewell said. "I've told her she's not the most physical player but she overcomes that by being smarter, hitting hard in transition and making an impact in other ways. She's versatile in her swings and can see the block well. Maci's a gamer and now we need to get her to improve in practice so she can be even more productive in matches. She connected really well with Jelena (Jovanovic)."
"Our setters are in a good race which is nice to see," Netherby-Sewell said. "Jelena is really experienced and was able to handle the less-than-perfect passes well. She also has a tough serve. Brooke can run a solid game, too, and already knows our strengths and weaknesses. When she's technically sound she can set a good match."
At the service line, the team combined for seven aces, including three by sophomore libero Maggie Eppright, two by senior libero Christina Lee and single aces by senior outside hitter Zana Bowens and freshman libero Jacqueline Hutcheson.
On defense, Netherby-Sewell rotated all three liberos as each started a set. "The stars of the match were the liberos ," Netherby-Sewell said. "They played their roles well and recovered from mistakes quickly. They picked up a lot of balls that people didn't think they would get to. Maggie and Jacqueline showed they have a mean serve, and all three will help us this year."
Utilizing 12 players from their 14-person roster, the 'Dogs hit .290 and held their counterparts to a .160 mark.
The alumnae roster was composed of 10 Bulldogs that have played for Netherby-Sewell since she assumed the head coaching helm in 2008, including four seniors who graduated last year - All-MW honoree Korrin Wild, MW Newcomer of the Year and right side hitter Holly Franks, middle blocker Lauren Albertson and right side hitter Megan Callahan.
A crowd of nearly 300 people got to cheer on six other alum with ties to the current program - Lexi Allison ('09), Allanah Colburn ('09), Kelly Mason (Cantu) ('10), Kacey Van Grouw ('10), Meghan Moss ('10) and Brianna Clarke (Hoag) ('11).
"It's amazing how much they like you when they graduate," Netherby-Sewell joked. "But seriously, it's special to see so many still playing a lot and coaching."
Also on hand was another key member of Bulldog history - former conference coach of the year Leilani Overstreet (1971-90) who directed the team to a fifth-place NCAA Tournament finish in 1984. Also playing Saturday were three players from prior teams - Michelle Beveridge (Stetkevich) ('75), Denise Fowler (Williams) ('88) and Lesli Lopes (Malady) ('89).
"It was wonderful to see Leilani here supporting us," Netherby-Sewell said. "She's a key part of our history and why Fresno State is such a special program. It was good to see her connect with our players, including two recent grads who are eager to start their European pro careers (Wild-France; Franks-Sweden)."
Looking ahead, Fresno State opens its season next weekend with the first of four road tournaments in the Adidas Rice Invitational in Houston. The `Dogs face Louisiana-Lafayette on Friday, Aug., 29 at 2 p.m. Pacific Time, and UC Davis and Rice on Saturday, Aug., 30 at 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. PT, respectively.
"We're at a good place for a very new team," Netherby-Sewell said, "especially as far as ball control and the way we communicate on the court. A lot of coaches counted us out in the preseason because of our youth, but our depth will help us replace some key losses to graduation from last year."
"Be Bold!" - Fresno State volleyball and football season tickets are on sale at the www.GoBulldogs.com website and at the Bulldog Ticket Office.
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