Bears Take Fourth Seed to MVC Tournament in Cedar Falls

Bears Take Fourth Seed to MVC Tournament in Cedar Falls

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The Missouri State volleyball team closed out the regular season with a 21-8 overall record and a 12-6 mark in Missouri Valley Conference action to finish fourth in the league standings. The Bears now head to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where they take the No. 4 seed into the State Farm MVC Volleyball Championship and will open Thanksgiving Night at 8 p.m. against fifth-seeded Illinois State. The winner will play top seed and host UNI at 7 p.m. Friday. The other half of the bracket includes No. 2 Wichita State, No. 3 Creighton and No. 6 Drake.

Championship History
Missouri State has appeared in six of the last nine MVC Tournament finals. MSU is 26-20 in the tournament with titles coming in 1993, 2005 and 2008.
    The Bears won the 2005 title the last time the championship was in Cedar Falls, beating Illinois State in their first match before sweeping Wichita State in the finals. WSU had gone through the MVC season unbeaten that season.
    The last time Missouri State entered as a No. 4 seed was in 2008, when the Bears became the first team in championship history to win as a third seed or worse, beating Illinois State, Wichita State and UNI for the title.

Last Week
Missouri State split its final weekend by defeating Bradley in five sets and losing to 12th-ranked UNI in three at Hammons Student Center.
    Friday, Missouri State hit .357 as a team and Megan Bess had a career night with 24 kills on .488 hitting as the Bears beat Bradley by scores of 23-25, 25-11, 16-25, 25-15, 15-11.
    The next night, the Bears held four set points in the first period against UNI, but the Panthers came back to claim the 31-29 win before winning the next two sets by scores of 25-11 and 25-13. MSU hit its lowest percentage of the season, .094, while surrendering a season-high .322 percentage to the visitors.

Coach Melissa Stokes
Missouri State head coach Melissa Stokes (San Diego State, 1991) is 335-153 (.686) in her 15th season at Missouri State. A native of El Cajon, Calif., Stokes has guided Missouri State to an overall record of 258-95 (.731) and 153-44 (.777) in the Missouri Valley Conference since 2000. In 2003, the Bears were the MVC regular-season champions and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993. MSU made a return trip to the NCAAs in 2005 after winning the MVC Tournament, and advanced to the second round for the first time in program history in 2006, defeating Arkansas before falling to No. 13 Oklahoma in the second round, and made it four straight trips to the postseason with NCAA bids in 2007 and 2008.
     Stokes came to Missouri State from the University of Idaho, where she helped the Vandals to four straight NCAA Tournament berths. As a setter at San Diego State, Stokes played four seasons and helped the Aztecs to two NCAA appearances. She coached the 300th victory of her Missouri State career against Delaware, Sept. 11, 2009. Stokes ranked 36th among active Division I coaches in win percentage entering 2010.

Quick Hits
•     Missouri State is 4-5 this season against members of the 2009 NCAA Tournament field and 6-5 against teams that have made the tournament at least once in the last two seasons.

•     Head coach Melissa Stokes is climbing up the all-time MVC coaching lists in a number of categories. Listed below is the 15th-year coach’s ranking in those categories. Lists are compiled based on statistics at Valley schools only:
    • Third in total victories with 335
    • Second in MVC victories (193)
    • Fifth in win percentage overall (.686) and third among active MVC coaches
    • Seventh in win percentage in MVC matches only (.715)

•    Stokes picked up her 300th career victory with MSU’s 3-1 win over Delaware on Sept. 11, 2009, and is three league wins away from tying the MVC record for conference victories at 196 with UNI’s Iradge Ahrabi-Fard.

•     MSU’s 6-0 start this year was the best for a Bears’ volleyball squad in 33 years. Missouri State began the 1977 season 8-0.

•     Missouri State’s 3-1 league start marked the 20th time in 28 seasons in the Gateway/MVC that the Bears have won at least three of their first four matches. Of the previous 19 times, Missouri State has gone on to finish second or better in the final standings on 16 occasions.

•     The Bears reached the midway point of the conference season at 7-2, the 10th time in the 15 years of the MVC’s 18-match schedule that Missouri State has won at least seven matches in the first half.

•     Missouri State’s defense has allowed only eight opponents to hit better than .226 in 29 matches and has held 18 opponents to a .189 or lower attack efficiency.

•      Missouri State has defeated a ranked opponent in each of the last three seasons. The Bears beat No. 20 Wichita State in 2009, the ninth-ranked Shockers in 2008, and No. 25 Middle Tennessee in 2007.

•    Kelley Michnowicz passed Linette White’s single-season school record of .392 hitting Oct. 8 against Creighton and held on until dropping below the record Oct. 29 at Wichita State. She currently sits in second place at .378.

•    Freshman Christine McCartney’s 3.37 kills per set average ranks second all-time among freshmen, trailing only Vanessa Wouters’ average of 3.89 in 1994.
    McCartney’s 320 total kills this year rank fifth in school history among freshmen, and her 21 kills Oct. 9 at Drake was the highest freshman total since Erin Murphy in 2000 and has not been exceeded since Wouters had 26 in 1994.

•    Missouri State is 17-10 in five-set matches since the beginning of the 2007 season.

•    Missouri State has finished in the top four of the MVC standings 12 years in a row. Only UNI can match that streak among league schools.

•     MSU is 98-12 the last five seasons when winning set two.

•    Missouri State has won at least 20 matches in 12 consecutive seasons, a streak that is currently longer than all but six others nationally.

Senior Cara Hackmann has truly been a do-it-all player in her Missouri State career. She currently holds six school records, including hitting percentage in a match (.882, 15-0-17) in a 2008 contest, digs in a match (46, Oct. 10, 2009 vs. Evansville), total digs and dig average in a season (671 and 5.74 in 2009), career digs (1,879) and career double-figure dig matches (99).
    Hackmann is also MSU’s career leader in dig average at 3.94 per set and ranks third with 477 sets played.

Six is the Magic Number
The number six has been a milestone number the last 10 years in terms of winning streaks, as the Bears have strung together at least six consecutive wins a total of 16 times since the beginning of the 1999 season.
    Missouri State started 6-0 in 2010 to knock out the streak early this season.

Missouri State has been dominant at home since 2000, compiling a home record of 136-25 for an .845 winning percentage at Hammons Student Center.
    The Bears went 12-4 in 2010 and have completed 11 consecutive seasons with four or fewer home losses.

Players of the Week
Christine McCartney was Missouri State’s first weekly award winner as the MVC Freshman of the Week on Sept. 13. McCartney averaged 3.27 kills per set and had 17 kills and 15 digs against Utah and 16 kills versus Oklahoma.
    McCartney won the award again Oct. 4, putting up 4.12 kills in wins over SIUE and Wichita State. She had 14 kills at SIUE and 19 against the Shockers, hitting .209 against the league’s top defense.
    Kelley Michnowicz was the league’s player of the week Oct. 11 after she averaged 3.00 kills and hit .414 at Creighton and Drake. Michnowicz had a season-high 17 kills and hit .536 at CU, then had 13 kills in the win at Drake.
    McCartney won her third Freshman of the Week award Oct. 18 after averaging 5.00 kills and 3.33 digs in wins over Evansville and SIU. She hit .338 for the week, including .500 with 18 kills against the Purple Aces.
    Abby Padlock was MSU’s first Defensive Player of the Week honoree Oct. 18 after she averaged 6.33 digs per set, was a perfect 45-for-45 in service receptions and directed a Bears’ defense that held the opposition to .095 hitting in two matches.
    Carly Thomas won Freshman of the Week honors Nov. 1 after dishing out 49 assists to go with 14 digs, four kills on .400 hitting and three blocks at Wichita State.
    Michnowicz won a second player of the week award Nov. 15 after hitting .463 with 22 kills in 3-0 wins at Southern Illinois and Evansville.
    Thomas was the freshman of the week Nov. 15 as she led the Bears to a .314 hitting percentage with 12.67 assists, 1.67 kills, 1.67 digs and 1.17 blocks while hitting .714.

Cara Hackmann and Melissa Gmur repeated as MVC Scholar-Athletes this season. Hackmann made the first team for a third consecutive season and carries a 3.82 cumulative grade point average in finance.
    Gmur followed last season’s first team nod with a spot on the honorable mention squad, and has a 3.86 GPA in elementary education.
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