A Year of Improvement
Dec. 8, 2009
FRESNO, Calif. - In just her second year as head volleyball coach at Fresno State and with her first complete recruiting class on the court, head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell led the Bulldogs to a remarkable turn around which saw the `Dogs defeat many teams for the first time in years and set numerous records on the way to a regular season fourth place finish in the Western Athletic Conference.
With a 15-13 overall record, the best by a Bulldog team since 2004, the `Dogs also finished in a tie for fourth in the regular season and a tie for third at the WAC Tournament, their best finishes since 2004. With a WAC record of 7-9 it was the best since 2003.
Senior Kelly Leonardo and sophomore Brianna Clarke earned All-WAC second-team honors while freshman Marissa Brand was named to the All-WAC Freshman team. It was the first time again since 2004 that the `Dogs had three All-WAC Selections in one year. It was also the sixth-straight season with an All-WAC Freshman Team honoree.
Brianna Clarke posted one of the best blocking season's in school history, ranking in the top 30 in the NCAA all year in block per set. She finished the season with 135 block assts and 158 total blocks, to rank second and third in the Fresno State single-season lists. She also ranks fifth in blocks per set with a 1.30 average.
At the Save Mart Center in 2009, the `Dogs posted an impressive 7-4 record on their home court and their highest home attendance total ever with 18,529 fans. They averaged 1,684 fans per match, another school record, and ranked in the top 30 in the nation in average attendance.
Five seniors also left huge marks at Fresno State by ranking in the top 10 in 12 career categories. Lacey Gera, Lisa Gera, Leonardo, Allanah Munson and redshirt junior Lexi Watson made up the first senior class for the `Dogs in two years.
In 2009, these five earned two all-tournament team honors, an MVP honor and a second-team All-WAC selection. Lacey Gera was the 2006 WAC Freshman of the Year. Watson returned to the court this season after missing 2008 with a knee injury. Munson was the 2008 co-winner of the Fighting Spirit Award.
In their just two short years with the new coaching staff, these five were molded into exceptional volleyball players, student-athletes and people. They definitely left a mark on the underclassmen and for many classes to come while helping the volleyball team head back in the right direction.
"2009 was a special year," said Netherby-Sewell. "As a staff, our expectations kept rising, but with perspective, improving from eighth to fourth in the WAC is something to be proud of. This team's commitment to the process and letting go of needing the reward or knowing what the outcome would be was the most important part of our success. Our seniors came a long way and became stronger women. We will miss them."
With an opening day win in the Fresno State Invitational over Cal State Bakersfield, it was the first time since 1979 that they `Dogs had swept the Runners. With a win the next day over Green Bay, Fresno State started the season 2-0 for first time since 2004.
The `Dogs then won the Cowgirl Invitational in September in Laramie, Wyo., It was the first time since 2005 that the `Dogs had won three-straight matches and the first time since 2004 that they had won three-straight non-conference matches.
Jumping out to a 6-1 record was the best start by a Bulldog team since 2003 with a win over Alabama at the Hornet Invitational in Sacramento, Calif.
The next win at Cal State Northridge equaled the 2008 win total with their seventh win in 10 tries on the year.
In the annual exhibition match vs. cross-town rival Fresno Pacific, who won the NAIA National Championship for the third-straight season, the `Dogs took two sets off of FPU for the first time ever and pushed the match to five sets.
The opening WAC win for the `Dogs at Boise State was the first victory for Fresno State over the Broncos in two years. The `Dogs ended up taking the second match of the season between the two in Fresno later in the year, sweeping the season series for the first time since 2003.
A four-set victory vs. Utah State in October made it the first time the `Dogs had beaten the Aggies in less than five sets since 1991.
In the very next victory at home, the `Dogs picked up another huge win over Idaho, their first over the Vandals in 22 years with a five-set win.
Fresno State played its first-ever match on ESPNU when they hosted No. 3 Hawai'i on Oct. 29 at the Save Mart Center. It was the best match of the year for the `Dogs even though they fell in four sets.
The four-set win over San Jose State on Halloween was the first win for Fresno State over the Spartans since 2005 and the first four-set victory over the SJSU since Nov. 3, 2004. With a second victory at SJSU in the regular-season finale, the `Dogs swept the season series vs. the Spartans for the first time since 2004.
Perhaps the biggest win of the season for the `Dogs was in the quarterfinals on the WAC Tournament. At the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., the `Dogs rallied, down 2-1, to defeat Nevada in five sets. It was the first victory for the `Dogs over the Wolf Pack since 2005 and the first victory for Netherby-Sewell over her alma mater and former coach.
The second annual Fighting Spirit Award went to the team. Leonardo was the highest individual winner throughout the season. Munson and Baylee Platt won the first-ever Fresno State edition in 2008.
"We Are Your Team" - For ticket information log on to www.gobulldogs.com. Follow the volleyball team in the offseason by viewing the Fresno State volleyball blog.