PANTHER CHALLENGE | PITTSBURGH, PA.
vs. Eastern Kentucky | Friday, September 15 | 4:30 p.m.
vs. UC Santa Barbara | Saturday, September 16 | 12:00 p.m.
The Cleveland State volleyball team will close out its non-league slate this weekend, taking part in the Panther Challenge on Friday, September 15 and Saturday, September 16. The Vikings will open the two-day tournament against Eastern Kentucky on Friday, before facing UC Santa Barbara and the host, Pittsburgh on Saturday. Cleveland State enters the weekend with a 5-3 record during non-league play this season.
PANTHER CHALLENGE FIELD
Eastern Kentucky | The Colonels enter the weekend with a 2-9 overall record, and are currently on a nine-match losing skid. EKU's only two victories on the season came in the first two matches of the year, as they picked up wins against San Diego State and Califorinia State at the Aztec Invitational.
UC Santa Barbara | The Gauchos enter the weekend looking for their first win of the 2017 season, as they currently stand at 0-9 on the year. UCSB has had a challenging schedule though, as three of their losses came against teams that were ranked in the top-25 or receiving votes.
Pittsburgh | The host Panthers enter the weekend with an even 4-4 record on the year, and have won three out of their last four matches. Pittsburgh also had a tough start to the season, facing a pair of top-10 opponents during opening weekend.
VIKINGS TABBED HORIZON LEAGUE PRESEASON FAVORITES
Earlier this season the Vikings were selected to repeat as Horizon League Champions, as they were tabbed the Horizon League Preseason favorite, picking up 81 points and four first place votes in the league's preseason poll. The Vikings are two-time defending Horizon League Champions, and were named the preseason favorite for the second straight season.
POSTSEASON HONOREES RETURN
The 2017 Vikings will be led by seniors Gina Kilner and Alexis Middlebrooks, and sophomore Sara Skeens - a trio that earned postseason honors from the Horizon League last year. Kilner, who was named the Horizon League Setter of the Year, finished the season averaging 10.61 assists per set, and helped the team to a .250 hitting percentage on the year. Middlebrooks, who earned a spot on the All-League First Team for the second straight season, finished the year ranked second on the team averaging 2.75 kills per set on a .321 hitting percentage. Skeens was named the Horizon League Co-Freshman of the Year after finishing her rookie campaign averaging 2.51 kills per set to rank third on the team.
During the 2017 season the Vikings will play their entire non-league slate away from home, and will play their first 13 matches - including two league contests - on the road. During this stretch the Vikings will travel to six different states and will cover over 3,400 miles. Over the last three seasons, Cleveland State has had success playing away from the friendly confines of Woodling Gymnasium, owning a 34-12 record in true road and neutral site matches.
KILNER NAMED #HLVB OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
After leading the Vikings to a perfect weekend at the Chippewa Challenge last time out, senior setter Gina Kilner was named the Horizon League Offensive Player of the Week. Kilner averaged 11.67 assists per set in Cleveland State's two matches last weekend, while she helped the Vikings to a .374 hitting percentage. With 70 total assists during the Chippewa Challenge, Kilner became just the fifth Viking all-time to record 3,500 career assists and currently ranks fifth in the CSU Career Record Book.
GREGA NAMED CHIPPEWA CHALLENGE MVP
For the first time this season the Vikings picked up a Tournament MVP honor last weekend, as senior libero Shannon Grega was named the Chippewa Challenge MVP. For the weekend, Grega averaged 4.67 digs per set, leading a Viking defense that held their opponents to a .196 hitting percentage. Grega recorded 28 total digs on the weekend and has now tallied double-digit digs in all eight matches this season.
…CLOSING IN ON CSU CAREER RECORD BOOK TOP-10
With her 28 digs last weekend, Shannon Grega is closing in on earning a spot in the top-10 in the CSU Career Record Book, entering the Panther Challenge with 1,080 career digs. Grega is just 22 digs shy of cracking the top-10, and is just 27 digs shy of moving into ninth place on the list. Grega, who became the 18th Viking all-time to record 1,000 career digs earlier this season, is averaging 4.39 digs per set as Cleveland State's libero and ranks fifth among Horizon League players.
DeGEORGE CONTINUES STRONG COLLEGIATE DEBUT
Freshman Emily DeGeorge continued her excellent collegiate debut for the Vikings last weekend, earning a spot on the Chippewa Challenge All-Tournament Team. DeGeorge, who started both matches for the Vikings, averaged 2.17 digs and 2.33 kills per set while also recording a .343 hitting percentage. For the season, DeGeorge has played in all 31 sets, and ranks second on the team averaging 2.42 digs per set. DeGeorge has also spent time in the front row for the Vikings, averaging 1.65 kills per set after the first three weeks.
VIKINGS FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS
Entering the Panther Challenge the Cleveland State offense leads the Horizon League in all three major statistical categories; hitting percentage (.282), kills (13.90/set) and assists (13.32/set). Individually, four Vikings rank in the top-10 in the league in hitting percentage, including Mariah Carrero-Johnson who is tops with a .429 clip (35-8-63) so far this season. Last time out, Cleveland State tallied a season-best .381 hitting percentage against Indiana State, while the Vikings have recorded a .250 clip or better on five occassions this season (vs. Indiana State, at Central Michigan, at Marist, at Fordham, vs. Oral Roberts).
…MIDDLEBROOKS LEADING THE VIKING OFFENSE
Through the first three weeks of the season, senior middle hitter Alexis Middlebrooks has been leading the Viking offense, ranking eighth among league players averaging 3.39 kills per set. Middlebrooks, who has notched double-digit kills in five of the first eight matches, tied her career-high with a 20-kill performance against Alabama in the season opener and has added another pair of 15+ kill efforts since then. Middlebrooks is also one of the most efficient offensive threats for the Vikings, as she currently ranks fourth in the CSU Career Record Book with a .321 career hitting percentage (877-266-1903).
GREGA SOLID FROM THE SERVICE LINE
Entering the final week of non-league play, senior Shannon Grega has been solid from the service line, as she leads the Horizon League and ranks 41st nationally averaging 0.48 aces per set. Grega, who has 15 total service aces on the year, has notched at least one ace in all eight matches so far this season, including a career-high tying four against Binghamton. For her career, Grega has 78 total aces, a mark that leads all current Vikings.
VIKING BLOCK PARTY
Not only have the Vikings been successful offensively at the net through the first eight matches of the season, but they have also had a strong blocking effort, ranking second in the Horizon League averaging 2.26 blocks per set as a team. Individually, three Vikings rank in the top-10 averaging at least 1.00 blocks per set, including Hannah Greene (1.08), Mariah Carrero-Johnson (1.05) and Alexis Middlebrooks (1.00). As a team, Cleveland State has tallied double-digit blocks three times this year, including a season-high 17.0 total blocks against Binghamton.
HEAD COACH CHUCK VOSS
Chuck Voss is in his 18th season at the helm of the Vikings, and owns a 320-198 (.617) overall record at CSU. Under Voss the Vikings have recorded 14 winning seasons, including eight straight entering the 2017 season. Cleveland State has eclipsed the 20-win mark seven times since Voss took over the program, and has captured Horizon League Tournament titles four times (2007, 2012, 2015 & 2016) under his guidance. Last season Voss became the all-time winningest coach in program history while also eclipsing the 300-win mark for his Cleveland State career - becoming the only active Horizon League coach to achieve the feat at their current school.
A LOOK BACK AT 2016
Last season Cleveland State captured its fourth Horizon League Regular Season and Tournament title, finishing the year with a 25-6 overall record. Cleveland State's 25 wins marked the program's 16th 20-win season, while it also marked the third time under Voss that the Vikings have reached the 25-win plateau. After claiming the Horizon League Tournament title, the Vikings earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time over the last nine seasons, earning a neutral site match against Arizona in the opening round.
The Vikings will begin their 16-match Horizon League schedule next weekend, traveling to Milwaukee (Friday, September 22) and UIC (Saturday, September 23). Cleveland State will enter Horizon League play as the two-time defending Regular Season Champion.