Bulldogs to Cap Home Slate vs. Cowgirls and Rams
Fresno native Lauren Albertson and four other Bulldog seniors look ahead to their final home match Saturday vs. No. 10 CSU at 11 a.m. (and admission is free for all fans).
Fresno native Lauren Albertson and four other Bulldog seniors look ahead to their final home match Saturday vs. No. 10 CSU at 11 a.m. (and admission is free for all fans).

Nov. 20, 2013

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Season Week 13 / Mountain West Conference Week 9

Live Online Video Stream: http://bit.ly/MWNLive
MW Broadcasters: Stephen Trembley, Bree Cooksey, Donny Barnes
Radio Broadcasts (Thu.): ESPN 790 AM (Christian Lukens)
Opponent Websites: www.GoWyo.com / www.CSUrams.com

Thursday, Nov. 21 - Save Mart Center, Fresno, Calif.
7 p.m. - Fresno State (17-11, 11-5 (2nd)) vs. Wyoming (17-13, 7-9 (7th)) - ESPN Radio

Saturday, Nov. 23 - Save Mart Center, Fresno, Calif.
11 a.m. - Fresno State (17-11, 11-5 (2nd)) vs. Colorado State (25-0, 16-0 (1st))

* SATURDAY START TIME CHANGE Saturday's Senior Day match vs. CSU is now two hours earlier than originally scheduled and will start at 11 a.m.


Thursday, Nov. 21 - vs. Wyoming, 7 p.m. - Basketball Appreciation Night. Fans that bring a 2013-14 men's or women's basketball single-game or season ticket will get into the match for free.

Saturday, Nov. 23 - vs. No. 10 CSU, 11 a.m. - Senior Day. All fans will receive *FREE ADMISSION*, and an online videostream simulcast will be shown on the Bulldog Stadium football scoreboard starting at 11:30 a.m.

Returning home for its final action of the home slate, the Fresno State volleyball team (17-11, 11-5) is tied for second place in the Mountain West and welcomes Wyoming (17-13, 7-9) on Thursday night and No. 10 Colorado State (25-0, 16-0) on Saturday morning.

On Thursday, the `Dogs try for their 18th win of the season - a mark that would tie last year's total and the best mark under sixth-year head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell.

On Saturday, Fresno State holds a special Senior Day pre-match ceremony to honor one of its most talented senior classes. Outside hitter hitters Marissa Brand and Korrin Wild are former all-conference hitters, and the other three Central Valley products have combined for 109 starts - middle blocker Lauren Albertson, and right side hitters Megan Callahan and Holly Franks.

With only four regular season matches left to play, Fresno State is on a 10-3 run the last seven weeks and seeks its first top-three conference finish since 2003.

No. 10 Colorado State is one of two unbeaten teams left among the nation's 334 teams and ranks top 20 nationally this week in hitting (seventh, .294), blocks (eighth, 2.90 p/s), kills (12th, 14.58 p/s) and assists (18th, 13.36 p/s). Wyoming is on a three-match win streak, and last week swept New Mexico to help knock the Lobos out of a tie for second place in the MW. The Cowgirls' Erin Kirby stands second nationally in blocks (1.74 p/s), and team-wise Wyoming ranks 13th (2.82 p/s).

A month ago in Laramie, the `Dogs staked their ninth sweep of the season and first vs. Wyoming since 1996. The `Dogs also claimed their 11th +.300 total of the year (.300 to be exact). Two days before at Colorado State, the Rams were only the second team this year to hold the 'Dogs to a sub .100 hitting total (.093) even though Fresno State held advantages in kills (36-34) and aces (3-2).

Against the Rams & Cowgirls, senior outside hitter Korrin Wild topped the team in kills (14/15) and points (15/18) - among her 13 team highs in both categories this season. Those kill totals also ranked as the team's second- and third-best in 2013 in three-set matches.

Senior right side hitter Holly Franks' four aces at Fort Collins was the team's third-best mark among 12, three-set matches this year. The first-year Bulldog also posted a season-high .455 hitting mark vs. Wyoming and added 12 kills.

Senior outside hitter Marissa Brand ended with a .393 hitting mark vs. Wyoming and was just shy of a fourth .400 hitting mark of the year, and her 14 kills was one shy off Wild's team match high (15).

Junior setter Christina Lee topped the team in assists (31/36) at CSU and Wyoming, as did freshman libero Maggie Eppright in digs (9/13).

Last Thursday, Fresno State used a 7-1 finish in the fourth and final set at Boise State to win the match, 3-1 (and avoid an eighth straight five-set match in the series). Team-wise, the `Dogs hit a season-high .381 - their 11th +.300 total of '13 (and .05 better than their previous season best). The high-octane offense also featured four hitters with +10 kills and +.300 marks for the second straight match (and overall this season).

In Saturday's 3-0 loss at Logan, Fresno State suffered only its second MW loss via a sweep on the campaign. The Aggies held the conference team ace leader `Dogs without an ace for the second time this year, and Fresno State also hit a season-low .080.

# Name, Pos., Yr., Ht., Hometown - Hitting, K/S, SA/S, D/S, B/S
1 - Korrin Wild, OH, Sr., 5-11, Sanger, Calif. - .216, 3.73 k/s, 0.30 sa/s, 2.60 d/s, 0.29 b/s
22 - Marissa Brand, OH, R-Sr., 6-1, Cypress, Calif. - .259, 3.17 k/s, 0.10 sa/s, 2.29 d/s, 0.36 b/s
5 - Christina Lee, S, Jr., 5-6, San Francisco, Calif. - .207 , 7.78 a/s, 0.15 sa/s, 2.94 d/s
21 - Holly Franks, RS, R-Sr., 6-2, Tollhouse, Calif. - .191, 2.80 k/s, 0.33 sa/s, 1.94 d/s, 0.78 b/s
16 - Maci Murdock, MB, Jr., 6-0, Turlock, Calif. - .390, 2.09 k/s, 0.00 sa/s, 0.17 d/s, 0.84 b/s
8 - Molly Pearson, MB, RSo., 6-0, San Jose, Calif. - .234, 0.63 k/s, 0.07 sa/s, 0.24 d/s, 0.73 b/s
23 - Maggie Eppright, L, Fr., 5-6, San Luis Obispo, Calif., - 0.17 sa/s, 3.50, d/s

• With the introduction of her first 6-2 offense with the `Dogs the last 14 matches, head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell has to be happy with the improved offensive output. With a 10-4 overall mark in that span, the team has averaged a .264 hitting mark (709-251E-1738) in those contests (compared with a .199 mark in the 14 matches prior (740K-342E-1999A)). The team is also averaging 14.18 kills (709 kills; 50 sets) - more than a full kill per set better that its prior season average (12.98, 740 kills; 57 sets).

For comparison's sake, No. 10 Colorado State leads the MW season-wise in both categories (.294; 14.58/p/s) this week, and in MW-only play, the Bulldogs rank second in kills and hitting (14.25 / .256) just behind the Rams (14.31 kills p/s / .276).

Before it logged no aces at Utah State last Saturday, the `Dogs had landed 69 aces in 43 sets the last five weeks, and had gone from eighth to first in the MW season service ace rankings with a 1.32 season average (and 0.08 better than second-place Boise State (1.24)). That average was boosted by the team's top three-set totals of 2013 by senior hitters Holly Franks (5 vs. SJSU), Korrin Wild (4 vs. Nevada, 3 at Nevada), junior middle blocker Katie Pearson (a career high 4 vs. Air Force, 3 at Wyoming), sophomore outside hitter Zana Bowens (3 at Nevada) and freshman libero Maggie Eppright (3 at Nevada).

Season-wise, the trio of Franks. Wild and Pearson rank 2-5-6 in the conference in MW-only play (0.36 / 0.32 / 0.29 p/s), and Wild and Franks stand second and fifth in the MW for all matches combined (0.33 / 0.30 p/s). For comparison's sake, Fresno State and Wild topped the conference at the end of last year in the team and individual categories (1.35 / 0.44 p/s).

Heading into this weekend, the `Dogs own a 10-11 all-time ledger vs. Wyoming and 8-7 all-time mark vs. Colorado State in the series that started in 1979 and 1983, respectively.

Last month, Fresno won 3-0 at Wyoming, and fell at Fort Collins, 3-0. Last year, the `Dogs split with both teams (3-2 win vs. CSU in Fresno; 3-1 loss in Fort Collins; (3-2 win vs Wyoming in Fresno; 3-0 loss in Laramie). Head Coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell and the `Dogs also topped Wyoming in 2009 (3-1) and hadn't faced CSU since 1997.

ON THE CHARTS - This Week's MW / NCAA Rankings (per set averages)

Fresno State MW/NCAA Team Rankings
Aces 1st/99th, 1.32
Kills 3rd/71st, 13.54
Assists 3rd/70th, 12.66
Hitting 4th/89th, .229
Opponent Hitting 6th/-, .203
Digs 6th/177th, 14.63
Blocks 8th/178th, 1.99

Fresno State Individual MW/NCAA Rankings
Holly Franks - Aces, 2nd/103rd, 0.33 p/s; Points, 7th/-, 3.55
Korrin Wild - Kills, 2nd/65th, 3.73 p/s; Points, 2nd/77th, 4.21 p/s; Aces, 3rd/139th, 0.32 p/s
Maci Murdock - Hitting, 2nd/30th, .390
Maggie Eppright - Digs, 8th/-, 3.39 p/s
Christina Lee - Assists, 8th/-, 7.78 p/s
Marissa Brand - Kills, 9th/-, 3.07 p/s

Wyoming MW/NCAA Team Rankings
Blocks 2nd/13th, 2.82
Digs 3rd/135th, 15.03
Opponent Hitting 4th/-, .189
Aces 5th/217th, 1.11
Hitting 5th/117th, .218 Kills 7th/141st,12.91
Assists 8th/137th, 12.07

Wyoming Individual MW/NCAA Rankings
Erin Kirby - Blocks, 1st/2nd, 1.74 p/s; Hitting, 7th/79th, .345
Becky Stewart - Digs, 1st/22nd, 5.19 p/s
Nicole Walker - Aces, 1st/-, 0.36 p/s
Reese Plante - Aces, 6th/-, 0.29 p/s

Colorado State MW/NCAA Team Rankings
Kills 1st/12th, 14.58
Assists 1st/18th, 13.36
Hitting 1st/7th, .294
Opponent Hitting 1st/-, .154
Blocks 1st/8th, 2.90
Aces 4th/174th, 1.19
Digs 8th/217th, 14.18

Colorado State Individual MW/NCAA Rankings
Deedra Foss - Assists, 1st/7th, 11.89 p/s; Aces - 6th/-, 0.29 p/s
Samantha Peters - Blocks, 2nd/8th, 1.52; Hitting, 1st/20th, .408
Kelsey Snider - Hitting, 2nd/87th, .343
Kaitlind Bestgen - Aces, 8th/-, 0.28 p/s
Adrianna Culbert - Hitting, 159th, .316
Marlee Reynolds - Kills, 10th/-, 3.06 p/s
Jaime Colaizzi - Digs, 5th/-, 4.00 p/s

SCOUTING THE COWGIRLS (17-13, MW 7-9 (7th)) - www.GoWyo.com
After the Bulldogs' sweep in Laramie started a four-match losing streak, the Cowgirls have rebounded with three straight home wins the last two weekends vs. Nevada (3-0), Air Force (3-1) and New Mexico (3-0). Two returnees were All-MW picks last year - senior libero Becky Stewart and junior middle blocker Erin Kirby. This week, Kirby stood second in the nation in blocks (1.74 per set average) and 79th in hitting (.345), and Stewart ranked 22nd in digs (5.19 p/s). Wyoming returns five starters and eight letterwinners from last year's team that went 21-11 overall and placed fifth in the MW (8-8). First-year head coach Chad Callihan spent the past five seasons at Georgia Southern and posted three 20-win seasons in his five years there. He also logged +20 win totals in three of his four years at Appalachian State (2003-06) and one of his two years at Radford (2001-02).

SCOUTING THE RAMS (25-0, MW 16-0 (1st)) - www.CSUrams.com
One of only two unbeaten teams in NCAA Division I (with Missouri) this week, CSU has been pushed to five sets twice this year at UNLV and Utah State, and its four wins over NCAA Tournament returnees also include sweeps of Texas A&M and Northern Colorado. Junior setter Deedra Foss was a 2012 All-MW pick and preseason choice in 2013 and ranked seventh nationally in assists this week (11.89 per set average). Two other Rams rank top 100 - senior middle blocker Samantha Peters (blocks, eighth, 1.52 p/s; hitting, 20th, .408) and junior middle blocker Kelsey Snider (hitting, 87th, .343). CSU returns three starters but also graduated three All-MW picks from last year's team that went 21-8 and were MW co-champions (13-3). Head Coach Tom Hilbert has directed the Rams to five Regional bids among their 16 NCAA trips, and is the winningest coach in any sport in CSU history. The Rams have won the last four MW regular season titles among their 10 the past 14 years (along with five of nine conference tourney titles). Including his prior stint as the head coach at Idaho (1989-96), he has led teams to 21 straight 20-win seasons with the first five with the Vandals.

• One of the MW's most dynamic players, senior outside hitter Korrin Wild (Kingsburg, Calif.) continues to pace the team in kills and points (3.73 / 4.21 per set) and ranks second in the conference and 65th and 77th nationally in the two categories. Likewise, the returning All-MW pick ranked fifth in the MW rankings this week in aces (0.30 p/s) after she topped the MW last year and stood 12th nationally. In MW-only matches, she stood fifth in the league this week in aces (0.32 p/s), and also stood third in points (4.48 p/s) and kills (3.76 p/s). Defensively, she ranked second on the team in digs (2.60 p/s), and is one of its most called-upon in serve receive. On the team's all-time lists, her place among the team's greatest players is confirmed by her top-10 status career-wise in aces (third, 132), aces per set (third, 0.31 p/s), digs (fifth, 1,167) and kills (eighth, 1,196).

On the season she has eight +.300 totals and 21 double-digit kill totals among her 25 matches. She logged a season-high .438 hitting mark vs. SDSU in early November, and her 16 kills was the team's three-set season best and gave her the team's top honors in kills and points 13 times in 2013. Likewise, she has led the squad in aces a team-best nine times, and in similar #s of matches in digs (5) and hitting (4). She has logged three 20-kill efforts this year in five-setters at home vs. New Mexico (20, .273, 14 digs), Boise State (20, 15 digs) and Santa Clara (21, .278). In early September, she picked up all-tournament team honors in the Fresno State Classic after she led the Bulldogs in kills and points in all three matches. She hit a then-season high (.391, 13 kills in her two sets) in the tourney finale vs. returning national runner-up and No. 20 Oregon. The night before, the preseason All-MW pick registered a team-season best in digs (21) for non-liberos vs. Belmont, and her 19 kills was two shy of her team season high. The following week she added Portland Nike Invitational all-tourney honors after her double-double vs. Portland (10 kills, .333, 13 digs). Other double-doubles among her 10 this year and 38 career-wise came in three sets vs. SDSU (16 kills, 10 digs), four sets vs. UNLV (16 kills, 10 digs), Utah State (16 kills, 14 digs) and Air Force (16 kills, 14 digs), and in five sets vs. CS Northridge (14 kills, 11 digs) and San Jose State (15 kills, 19 digs).

• With starts the last 19 matches of the season, former All-Western Athletic Conference honoree and redshirt senior outside hitter Marissa Brand (Cypress, Calif.) has reignited the team's offense and back-row digging. This week she ranked eighth in the MW kill rankings (3.17 p/s) and ninth in points (3.47 p/s), and top three in MW-only matches in kills (third, 3.93 p/s) and points (second, 4.33 p/s). In 2013, Brand has led the team in kills in eight matches; six times in points; four times in hitting; and twice in aces and digs. She has three, 20-kill matches vs. San Jose State (22, .255, 8 digs), American (21, .288, 11 digs) and Air Force (20, .353, 14 digs) and another near effort vs. New Mexico (19, .226, 8 digs) among her 16 double-digit kill efforts the last 18 matches (including six double-doubles). In early October, her season-best .478 hitting mark vs. Nevada is one of three +.400 totals with her total at UNLV (.444, 14 kills) and vs. Boise State (.471, 17 kills), and 11 +.300 totals. In late September, she set a career high in blocks vs. Utah State (6) and a season high in digs (19). Career-wise, she improved her Bulldog career top-10 rankings last week in attempts (third, 3,747), kills (fifth, 1,262), sets played (sixth, 426), matches played (ninth, 119) and digs (10th, 955).

• In her first season for the `Dogs, senior right side hitter Holly Franks (Tollhouse, Calif.) has boosted the offense with team match highs in points in seven matches, and likewise in a similar # of matches in blocks (7), aces (7), kills (6) and hitting (4). Overall this week, the Fresno-area native ranked second in the MW in aces (0.33 p/s) and 103rd nationally. She also ranked seventh in the MW in points (seventh, 3.53 p/s), and top-three for the team this year in aces (second, 0.33 p/s), points (second, 3.55 p/s), blocks (second, 0.78 p/s) and kills (third, 2.80 p/s). In late September, she logged her season high in kills and points vs. Utah State (20/24) - both team bests for a non-five-set match in `2013 - and also topped the team in points that same weekend vs. Boise State (22). Her eight blocks vs. Utah State was her season high and one off the team season high, and her three aces tied the team's fourth-best total in 2013. In mid-September, she was tabbed the UC Irvine Tournament MVP after she posted then-season highs in kills (18) and points (21.5) vs. the Anteaters. The weekend before, her seven aces vs. Wichita State set a new school record and helped her earn Portland Nike Invitational all-tourney honors. She posted the team's second-best aces mark of `13 vs. SJSU (5) in three sets in October. Among her seven double-doubles this year, others came vs. New Mexico (11 kills, 10 digs), Boise State (18 kills, 14 digs), Cal State Northridge (14 kills, 10 digs), Wichita State (12 kills, 11 digs, .333), Belmont (14 digs, 13 digs) and CSU Bakersfield (10 kills, 10 digs, .320), and she was just shy of another in the three-setter vs. No. 20 Oregon (8 kills, 8 digs). She claimed Fresno State Invitational all-tourney honors opening weekend after she hit a season high vs. CS Northridge (.400) - one of six +.300 totals in 2013, including a season-high .455 at Wyoming three weeks ago and .333 vs. SDSU two weeks ago.

• The MW's hottest hitter the past six weeks, junior middle blocker Maci Murdock (Turlock, Calif.) had a five-match, 60-attempt error-less string end three weeks ago. This week, she ranked 30th nationally and second in the MW in hitting (.390), and her hitting average in MW-only matches (.417) leads the league by .005. Team-wise this year, she leads Fresno State in hitting (.390) and blocks (0.84 p/s), and stands fourth for the `Dogs in kills (2.09 p/s). Last week, she logged a season high 14 kills vs. Boise State (.571) and was one kill shy of her career high, and her 10th double-digit kill total of the season. In early October, she picked up her first MW Player of the Week honor after she logged her first .700 totals of the year vs. Nevada (.750, 6 kills) and SJSU (.727, 8 kills) and her three-set season high in blocks (6) vs. the Spartans. Altogether this year, she has posted eight +.600 totals with others at Nevada (.692, 10 kills), vs. Rice (.667, 10 kills), UNLV (.636, 7 kills), New Mexico (.632, 6 blocks), Santa Clara (.600, 10 kills), and CSU Bakersfield (.600, 6 kills) among her 16 +.300 marks. In early September, she received Fresno State Classic all-tourney honors for her play vs. Belmont (11 kills, 6 blocks, .375), CSUB (.600, 6 kills) and No. 20 Oregon (.429, 8 kills). One of two players to start all 28 matches this year (with Christina Lee), she has led the team in blocks in a team-best 14 matches. She posted her season blocks high (8) in five sets vs. Boise State, and added seven in four sets vs. UC Irvine and Utah State and five sets vs. Rice. All-time for the `Dogs, she leads the career hitting list (.340) and ranks eighth in blocks assists (245). This year's .390 mark is .050 better than Brianna Clarke's season school record (.365, 2010), and she also stands top 10 season-wise in hitting (sixth, .337, 2012) and block assists (10th, 102, 2012).

• The past eight weeks, junior Christina Lee (San Francisco, Calif.) made her first starts at setter since 2011 and has helped the team to a 15-7 mark. In that span, she is averaging 9.89 assists per set (811 assists / 82 sets), and directed the team to all 11 of its +.300 marks this year vs. Boise State (.381), Nevada (.376, .302), San Diego State (.358), UNLV (.356), Air Force (.325), SJSU (.317), Boise State (.301), Wyoming (.300), CSUB (.300) and Xavier (.300). A starter in all 28 matches this year, she logged a season-high 57 assists in five sets vs. both Belmont and Boise State, and her +50 assists vs. the Anteaters (51) and Aggies (50) are the team's best in a non-five-set match. Her 41 assists vs. SDSU two weekends ago was the Bulldogs' three-set season best even though she split time setting in the team's 6-2 offense. Among her six starts at libero the first two weeks, she logged the team's second- and fourth-best dig totals of 2013 vs. Santa Clara (27) and Rice (24). Her total vs. Santa Clara (27) is the Mountain West's eighth-best mark of the year and one of five team match leaders in 2013. She has a team-high nine double-doubles this year and 11 in her career.

• Senior middle blocker and three-year starter Lauren Albertson (Fresno, Calif.) got the opening call the first 10 matches of the fall and twice again three weeks ago. The opening weekend of the season, she was one off her career high for blocks vs. Santa Clara (7) and added six vs. CS Northridge. Offensively, she racked up a season-high 11 kills vs. Rice and hit .350, and added +6 kills vs. SCU (8), CS Northridge (7) and at Nevada (6). She ranks third on the team this week in blocks average season-wise (0.68 p/s) behind Maci Murdock (0.84 p/s) and Holly Franks (0.78 p/s).

• Freshman libero Maggie Eppright (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) has smoothly settled into the starting libero role the past 23 matches and is one of the team's top serve-receivers. She racked up a team season high in digs in four sets vs. both Utah State (28) and UC Irvine (27) - the sixth- and eighth-best marks overall in the conference in 2013 and the former is the second-best in non-five-set matches. She has logged 12 other double-digit dig figures vs. UNLV (20, 4 sets), New Mexico (19, 5 sets), Boise State (19, 4s; 17, 5s), UNLV (16, 3s), San Diego State (16, 4s), Utah State (16, 4s), American (16, 5s), SJSU (16, 5s), Belmont (15, 5s), Air Force (14, 4s), Wichita State (14, 4s), Xavier (14, 3s), Wyoming (13, 3s) and SDSU (10, 3s). She ranks sixth in the MW in digs in conference play (4.00 p/s) and tops among freshmen. Altogether, she has paced the squad in digs in 12 of the last 19 contests and 14 times overall in 2013. She has connected on multiple aces in five matches, including a season high (3) in a sweep vs. CSU Bakersfield and at Nevada - the team's third-best, three-set mark of 2013 and among five match highs for the `Dogs. Her 384 digs this season is the third-best mark in FS history among freshmen, and she's is 11 shy of the second-best mark (Yuko Mori, 365, 2004).

• Freshman setter Brooke Legaux (Mission Viejo, Calif.) made her collegiate debut in early October as the team unveiled a 6-2 offense with junior setter Christina Lee. Legaux has racked up +10 assists in seven matches, including a season-high 18 assists vs. San Jose State, 15 against UNLV, and 14 in five matches vs. the Broncos, Rebels, Spartans, Wolf Pack and Lobos. In MW-only play, the duo have the `Dogs ranked second in the league team rankings for kills (14.31 per set), hitting (.256) and assists (13.34 p/s).

• In mid-September at UC Irvine, sophomore outside hitter Zana Bowens (Long Beach, Calif.) logged a season high in aces (3) and her second- and third-highest totals of her career in kills and points (17 / 20.5). In late August, she opened the year with her first +20-kill career totals vs. Rice (team season high 21, .280) and Santa Clara (20, .341) after she entered the season with a prior best of five kills last year vs. Northern Arizona. A starter in the first 12 matches this year (and 13 overall), she enjoyed her first career double-double thanks to her 12 digs vs. Santa Clara opening weekend. She added another double-double at UC Irvine (17 kills, 15 digs) and was just shy of similar honors earlier that day vs. American (9 kills, 11 digs). She kicked off the Irvine tourney with 10 kills and a .333 hitting mark in the sweep of Xavier - her first match leader in hitting this year - and she also logged team match highs in kills vs. Rice (21) and Xavier (10). Her 24 points vs. Rice is also the team season high; her five blocks in three sets vs. CSUB was a career high by one over her tally against CSN (4); and her three aces vs. UC Irvine is tied for fifth-best for the `Dogs in 2013. Among MW match bests of the season, she ranked eighth in kills (21) and ninth in points (24).

• With starts in five straight matches in September and October and once in November, redshirt sophomore middle blocker Molly Pearson (San Jose, Calif.) has been rewarded with several career bests. In late September, she logged a career high and team season high in blocks (9) in four sets vs. Utah State and has led the team in the category in three matches. The weekend before in the UC Irvine Tournament, her six blocks against American was one shy of the then-team season high, and she had an ace vs. the Eagles and Anteaters. In the tourney opener, she racked up six kills and a season-high hitting mark (.857) vs. Xavier with no errors among her seven attempts. Her season high in kills (7) came vs. Belmont, and she hit .700 with no errors on her 10 attempts.

• Making her first career starts in 10 of the last 13 matches, junior middle blocker Katie Pearson (San Jose, Calif.) logged career highs in sweeps vs. SJSU (5 kills, .500), Nevada (5 blocks) and in four sets vs. New Mexico (5 blocks) and Air Force (5 kills, 4 aces, 5 digs, 9 points). She has led the team in aces in four matches, and her four aces vs. Air Force and three at Wyoming and SJSU are the team's third- and fifth-best marks of the year. She has topped .300 in three matches in which she's had at least +8 attempts - Air Force (5 kills, .500), San Jose State (.500, 5 kills) and UNLV (.333, 4 kills). On defense, she is one of four Bulldogs with multiple matches with +5 blocks, and paced the team in blocks and aces four times this year. With a 0.29 aces per set average in MW play, she stands sixth in the MW this week.

• Junior outside hitter Jaimee-Lee Morrow (Mooroolbark, Australia) has been one of the team's most called upon serving specialists and has appeared in 16 of the team's last 23 matches. She connected on two aces vs. NCAA tournament returnees Wichita State and No. 20 Oregon and also posted one in wins vs. Portland, UC Irvine and SJSU. She logged a season-high two kills at Nevada, and her digs season high (2) came vs. UP and Boise State.

• Senior right side hitter Megan Callahan (Atwater, Calif.) has played eight matches in a 12-match series for the `Dogs in October and November, and hit .500 against both San Jose State (2K-0E-4A) and Nevada (3K-0E-6A). Among her five straight matches with a kill, she posted a season-high five kills and two blocks vs. Air Force and hit .273 three weekends ago.

With 12 of the team's 13 players from California, it's common to spot a large cheering section of family and friends at `Dog matches this year, especially with five players hailing from the surrounding Central Valley.

Senior middle blocker Lauren Albertson attended Clovis West High School in Fresno, then helped Fresno Pacific win an NAIA national title her freshman season in 2009.

Four other current or recent starters are from the area and within a 90-minute drive - senior outside hitter Korrin Wild (Kingsburg, 22 miles), senior right side hitters Holly Franks (Tollhouse, 34 miles) and Megan Callahan (Atwater, 65 miles) and junior middle blocker Maci Murdock (Turlock, 88 miles).

Seven other players are within a five-hour trip to campus (if traffic cooperates) - freshman libero Maggie Eppright (San Luis Obispo, 138 miles), junior Katie Pearson & redshirt sophomore Molly Pearson (San Jose, 152), junior setter Christina Lee (San Francisco, 188), sophomore outside hitter Zana Bowens (Long Beach, 242), senior outside hitter Marissa Brand (Cypress, 243) and freshman setter Brooke Legaux (Mission Viejo, 266).

The team's 13th member - junior outside hitter Jaimee-Lee Morrow - ruins the team average, however, with her home in Mooroolbark, Australia (pron. MERL-bark, and located near Melbourne) approximately 7,968 miles away.

Bulldog fans and foes are again seeing double this season with the squad sporting a pair of strikingly similar faces in the front row. Identical twins and middle blockers Molly and Katie Pearson matriculated from Presentation High School in San Jose, and each has boosted the team in 13 matches this season.

A redshirt sophomore and starter in six matches this year, Molly posted a team season high in blocks vs. Utah State (9), and career highs in kills (7) vs. Belmont and hitting vs. Xavier (.857). Katie, a junior, has posted career highs in 10 starts the last 1 1/2 months vs. Air Force (.500, 5 kills, 4 aces, 9 points, 5 digs), New Mexico (5 blocks), SJSU (5 kills, .500) and Nevada (5 blocks).

As preps, the duo helped their Presentation team to a fifth-place MaxPreps.com national finish and a spot in the NorCal Division II finals.

Head Coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell introduced the Fighting Spirit Award to Fresno State in 2008 and continued the tradition she inherited at Hofstra from Hall of Fame coach Fran Kalafer. Netherby-Sewell presents the award to an individual or the team on a weekly basis for the best display of a fighting spirit through adversity and challenges.

At the end of the season, the individual or team who earns the most awards during the season receives the year-end Fighting Spirit Award. Past year-end recipients have included Allanah Munson and Baylee Platt (2008), the entire team (2009), Kelly Mason (2010) and Korrin Wild (2012), and this year's honorees follow: • 2013 Weekly Winners: 9/2 - Team; 9/9 - Holly Franks, Marissa Brand; 9/16 - Maci Murdock, Korrin Wild, Christina Lee, Molly Pearson; 9/23 - Team; 9/30 - Team, Marissa Brand; 10/7 - Katie Pearson, Korrin Wild; 10/14 - Team; 10/21 - Team; 10/28 - Team; 11/5 - Team.

The eighth NCAA RPI ratings of the season was released this week, and Fresno State stood 81st and fourth in the league. The remaining MW teams' rankings follow: Colorado State (18), New Mexico (68), Utah State (71), San Diego State (115), UNLV (130), Boise State (141), Wyoming (154), Air Force (210), San José State (235) and Nevada (276).

This week's RPI rating is again ahead of last year's year-end position (90) - the team's best since 2004, and a full current listing is available here ( http://bit.ly/nPekF9 ).

Before the arrival of sixth-year head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell, the `Dogs stood in the lower half of the 332 Division 1 programs for four years. The program's resurgence has featured a three-year streak in the nation's upper half - 2012 (90), 2011 (138) and 2010 (150) - and a complete listing of rankings the last 11 years follows: 2012: 90; 2011: 138; 2010: 150; 2009: 217; 2008: 275; 2007: 261; 2006: 223; 2005: 180; 2004: 93; 2003: 45; 2002: 46

The `Dogs face a challenging regular season slate in 2013 with nine of their 29 regular season matches vs. NCAA Tournament qualifiers from last year's 64-team field. That list includes last year's national runner-up Oregon, two more NCAA Regional advancers (BYU, Wichita State) and four more Round of 64 qualifiers (Belmont, Colorado State, San Diego State, Santa Clara).

In mid-August's AVCA preseason poll, three Fresno State foes stood top 25 - No. 8 Oregon, No. 13 BYU and No. 24 Wichita State - while CSU and SDSU received votes. Since then Colorado State has joined the top 10, and No. 21 Cal State Northridge has ranked top 25 the past three weeks.

Among various conference coach polls, six Bulldog opponents were tabbed their preseason favorites - Colorado State and San Diego State (Mountain West co-favorites), Belmont (Ohio Valley), BYU (West Coast), Rice (Conference USA) and Wichita State (Missouri Valley). Four other non-conference foes sported legitimate postseason hopes based on their preseason conference predictions - Oregon (Pac-12, fourth), Cal State Northridge (Big West, third), Xavier (Big East, third) and Santa Clara (WCC, sixth).

Senior right side hitter Holly Franks wasted little time in making her presence known this year after transferring from Cal Poly. The product from nearby Tollhouse, Calif., was named to the Fresno State Invitational and Portland Nike Invitational all-tournament teams the opening two weeks, then was honored as the UC Irvine Tournament MVP to cap the opening month.

The first-year Bulldog is one of four players with all-tournament accolades this fall with senior outside hitters Marissa Brand (UC Irvine Tournament) and Korrin Wild (Fresno State Classic, Portland Nike) and junior middle blocker Maci Murdock (Fresno State Classic). In prior years, Murdock won a pair of honors in 2012 at Colorado and UTEP; Lee was a San Diego All-Tournament selection in `12; and Wild received similar honors at UTEP in `12 and in the Fresno State Classic in `11.

Coming off an 18-13 overall record in 2012, Fresno State ranked #90 among the 330 teams nationally in last year's NCAA RPI ratings - respective program bests since 2004 and `03. The `Dogs are in their second season in the Mountain West and placed fourth in `12 (9-7).

Sixth-year head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell welcomes back a veteran Bulldog squad that features six of seven starters from 2012, and 10 letterwinners. Two senior outside hitters - Marissa Brand and Korrin Wild - are former all-conference choices, and junior middle blocker Maci Murdock was an all-freshman team choice in 2011.

All three of the squad's three newcomers have played key roles this year. Senior right side hitter Holly Franks (Cal Poly) (Tollhouse, Calif.) led the Mustangs in kills and points last season (2.94 k/s; 3.22 p/s). Freshman libero Maggie Eppright (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) was a Pac-7 and County Player of the Year and two-time all-league and all-county choice. Freshman setter Brooke Legaux (Mission Viejo, Calif.) was an All-CIF South Section First Team choice and league MVP.

In 2012-13, the `Dogs received the American Volleyball Coaches (AVCA) Academic Team Award for the fourth straight season for their combined +3.40 grade point average for the academic year. Fresno State was one of five Division 1 programs from the state of California (with Pacific, Stanford, San Francisco and St. Mary's) and 130 nationally.

Individually, senior outside hitter Marissa Brand has received Capital One Academic All-District 8 honors the past three seasons, and sports a 3.92 grade point average. She won her first honor in 2011 with teammate Cecilia Agraz - the first two-time honoree in the program history (2011, 1st Team; 2010, 2nd Team) and the Bulldogs' first Academic All-American ( 2011).

Senior middle blocker Lauren Albertson is a former two-time conference all-academic choice (2011, `12), and Brand (2009, `10) and Korrin Wild (2010, `11), and Zana Bowens (2011) have received similar honors.

In the 2013 Mountain West Preseason Coaches Poll, the Bulldogs received 65 votes and were within five votes of the three teams just ahead - UNLV (third, 70), Utah State (fourth, 68) and New Mexico (fifth, 66). Last year's conference regular season co-champions San Diego State (first, 99) and Colorado State (second, 90) led the 11-team poll, while the Aztecs received nine of the 11 first-place votes, and the Rams picked up the other two. Other conference teams included Boise State (seventh, 51), Wyoming (eighth, 37), San José State (ninth, 27), Air Force (10th, 17) and Nevada (11th, 15).

Senior outside hitter Korrin Wild was a preseason 2013 All-Mountain West choice in August, and one of three hitters chosen by league head coaches to the seven-person team. The Kingsburg, Calif., native was also a second-team all-league pick as a sophomore in 2011 -- the same season middle blocker Maci Murdock was an All-WAC Freshman Team choice. In 2010, current senior Marissa Brand was an All-WAC Second Team honoree in 2011 and All-Freshman Team choice in `09.

Earlier in head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell's Bulldog tenure, other all-league nods went to Brianna Clarke (1st Team-2011; 2nd Team-2009, `10) and Kelly Leonardo (2nd Team-2009), while Clarke and Baylee Platt were All-Freshman Team choices in 2008.

Last year, senior outside hitter Korrin Wild was the highest Bulldog individual on the year-end NCAA stat charts after she ranked 12th nationally in aces per set (0.44 avg.). The all-conference hitter also paced the Mountain West in the category and stood fourth in points (3.99 per set) and sixth in kills (3.39 p/s). Other returnees ranked top 10 individually in the MW in `12 include junior middle blocker Maci Murdock (hitting, third, .332), senior outside hitter Marissa Brand (seventh, kills, 3.18 p/s) and junior libero Christina Lee (digs, eighth, 3.94 p/s).

In 2012, the Bulldogs paced the conference team categories for aces (1.35 per set) and digs (15.23 p/s). Its other rankings in the then-nine-team league follow: assists (fourth, 12.43 p/s), kills (fourth, 13.46 p/s), hitting (sixth, .199), opponent hitting (sixth, .209) and blocks (ninth, 1.79 p/s).

NCAA-wise, the team ranked top 100 in three categories - aces (67th), kills (70th, 13.57 p/s) and assists (83rd), and its other rankings among the 330 Division 1 teams follow: win-loss percentage (118th, .581), digs (140th), hitting (163rd), and blocks (230th).

The California State University Board of Trustees named Dr. Joseph I. Castro, former vice chancellor of student academic affairs of the University of California, San Francisco, as the eighth president of Fresno State, beginning Aug. 1, 2013.

Castro joined Fresno State after holding several leadership positions at UC campuses, most recently serving as vice chancellor for student academic affairs at UC San Francisco since 2010. Prior to that, he served as vice provost (2008-10), associate vice chancellor for student academic affairs (2006-08) and interim graduate dean at UCSF from October 2011 to March 2012.

Overall during his 23-year career, Castro served in leadership positions within the UC system at the Berkeley, Davis, Merced and Santa Barbara campuses and at the Office of the President. Castro earned a bachelor's degree in political science and master's degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley and a doctorate in higher education policy and leadership from Stanford University.

A native of Hanford, Calif., in the San Joaquin Valley, Castro is the first member of his family to attend college. He and his wife Mary, who is also a Valley native, have three children including a daughter who is a student at Humboldt State University.

The recent completion of the $6 million capital project symbolizes the Bulldogs' strong commitment to create and continually enhance the best possible "student-athlete experience" at Fresno State. The unique and essential facility developed for preventative medicine, nutritional counseling, physician examination, injury treatment, on-site x-ray and rehabilitation services. The center will serve as a cornerstone of Fresno State's "Student-Athlete Village" and is designed to centralize several student-athlete support functions, including sports medicine, academic counseling, strength and conditioning, nutrition education, and equipment services within a single convenient location.

The Bulldog Foundation supports student-athletes as they strive for excellence in the classroom, in competition and in life "Beyond the Game." This mission is accomplished through the cultivation of individual and business relationships throughout the San Joaquin Valley and the Red Wave. Philanthropic donations can be made by calling 559-278-7160.

- www.GoBulldogs.com -



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