Volleyball to Open the Season vs. No. 9 BYU

  • By Ashley Bailey
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  • August 28, 2014 05:25 PM
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Friday's match vs. No. 9 BYU will mark the first of six matches the Mountaineers will place against ranked opponents.
Photo by WVU Photography
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University volleyball team is set for the 2014 season, which they will open Friday when they host No. 9-ranked BYU in a 7 p.m. match at the WVU Coliseum as part of the Gold & Blue Player’s Challenge.
In addition to the Cougars, the Mountaineers will play host to the Toledo Rockets at 2 p.m. on Saturday before closing the tournament with a 7 p.m. tilt vs. the IUPUI Jaguars Saturday evening.
Friday marks the first ever-meeting between the Mountaineers and the Cougars, who went 24-7 overall last season and 15-3 in the West Coast Conference. IUPUI (19-14, 11-3 Summit) will also be a new opponent for WVU, who owns a 5-1 record against Toledo (19-12, 12-4 MAC). The Mountaineers defeated the Rockets, 3-0, last season in Ohio.
Building on Success
After the tremendous turnaround season last year, Kramer has put together an exciting and challenging schedule for 2014. The Mountaineers’ slate includes five matches against teams that have advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16. National finalist and 2012 National Champion Texas (September 24, November 12) appears on the slate twice as a fellow Big 12 member, as does Kansas (October 15, November 26), who fell to Washington in last season’s Elite Eight. Fellow Elite Eight member BYU (August 29) will participate in WVU’s Gold & Blue Players Challenge to start the season off. Coach Kramer’s squad will play seven more matches vs. 2013 NCAA tournament teams, starting with Duke as part of the ACC-Big 12 Challenge in Durham, N.C., on September 19, and continuing with North Carolina on September 20. The Mountaineers will play a home-and-home series with both Oklahoma (October 18, November 1) and Iowa State (October 5, November 8) in league action, and will host IUPUI as part of their opening tournament (August 30). Seven of WVU’s2014 foes finished the 2013 season ranked inside the top 30: Texas (1), Kansas (12), Duke (14), Oklahoma (19), North Carolina (24), BYU (25) and Iowa State (27).
Evyn McCoy will be the squad’s lone senior in 2014, but will not be the only source of veteran leadership. Seven of the team’s returners played in 90 or more sets, and the team returns last season’s leaders in kills, assists, digs, blocks and aces. McCoy and Jordan Anderson each finished in the top 10 in the Big 12 in a pair of categories, while Brittany Sample ranked fourth in assists with 10.34 per set and Anna Panagiotakopoulos, Sample, McCoy and Panagiotakopoulos all set single-season individual records in 2013, and will look to best themselves this season. Sample, who also appears in WVU’s career record books, had the fifth-best season in program history with 1,189 total assists and finished 10th in assists per set. McCoy posted 117 total blocks to finish fifth in school history, while Panagiotakopoulos ranks eighth in digs (469) and digs per set (4.08).
Big Expectations for Anderson
After such a stellar rookie campaign, one would expect big things out of Jordan Anderson as she enters her sophomore year. Anderson led the Mountaineers in kills (394) and kills per set (3.94), and finished third on the team in digs (256) and digs per set (2.56). In addition to ranking second in the Big 12 in kills and third in points, the freshman outside hitter was named to the All-Big 12 Freshman Team as well as All-Big 12 Honorable Mention. Anderson also earned AVCA All-Region Honorable Mention and earned a spot on the Preseason Big 12 team to start her sophomore year.
ESPNU Returns to the Coliseum
For the second consecutive season, WVU’s Big 12 match against 2012 National Champion Texas will be broadcast on ESPNU. The event, which will take place on Sept. 24 this year, has proven to be a great success in the past. Last year’s televised game, the first ever for the Mountaineers, drew over 1,800 fans. The 2012 match-up between the two squads set a Coliseum record for volleyball attendance with 3,112 fans.
Home Sweet Home
The squad will play 14 games in front of the home crown this season, including a pair of home tournaments to start the year. But even when the Mountaineers hit the road, they still run into familiar faces, particularly      when they hit the southern portion of their Big 12 slate. After opening the road schedule in Nikki Attea’s home state of New York, Jordan Anderson, Brittany Sample and Caleah Wells will play in front of a hometown crowd when WVU travels to TCU on October 29. All three hail from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, with Anderson coming from Flower Mound, Sample a native of Lewisville and Wells hailing from Red Oak. The trio will be 90 minutes from family when the team plays at Baylor (October 22). Coach Kramer, a graduate of TCU and a native of San Antonio, will return to her old stomping grounds and also get a chance to catch up with her family, who will be about an hour away when the team plays at Texas on November 12. Even international players, like Lamprini Konstantinidou and Anna Panagiotakopoulos (who was born in Greece), will return home when the Mountaineers embark on their foreign tour this spring.
USA Volleyball
Coach Kramer has been associated with USA Volleyball for nearly a decade, including a stint in 2011 as an assistant coach for the Women’s Junior National Team. In the spring of 2014, some of her players joined the mix as five Mountaineers participated in the US National Team tryouts last winter. Brittany Sample, Anna Panagiotakopoulos, Nikki Attea, Caleah Wells and Jordan Anderson traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in February for the three-day tryout.
Mountaineers on the International Scene
A pair of newcomers were also representing their respective home country this summer, as Lamprini Konstantinidou competed for Greece in the 2014 U19/20 European Volleyball Championship and Paoulina Jeliazkova repped her native Bulgaria. Both also donned their country’s colors for the 2013 CEV Youth tournament. Konstantinidou has been the setter for the Greek National Team at both the junior and senior level in addition to the World Championship team. Jeliazkova also boasts plenty of big-time experience and was also a member of the 2013 Bulgarian Youth National team.
The Newcomers
Six new faces will join the Mountaineers for the 2014 season, and all are expected to make immediate contributions to the bright future of the squad. A pair of east coast players, defensive specialist Melvina Brown of Warrenton, Virginia, and middle blocker Alexa Oblak of Sunrise, Florida will join west coasters and libero/defensive specialist Gianna Gotterba of Stockton, California and outside hitter Morgan Montogomery of Centennial, Colorado. The group will be completed by a European duo in setter Lamprini Konstantindou of Thessaloniki, Greece, and opposite Paoulina Jeliazkova of Sofia, Bulgaria.

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