TIFFIN, Ohio—The No. 5 Heidelberg University volleyball team will open the 2011 Ohio Athletic Conference Volleyball Tournament on Tuesday, Nov. 1 by hosting Muskingum University at 7 p.m. at Seiberling Gymnasium in Tiffin, Ohio. After winning the conference regular season championship for the third consecutive season, the top-seeded ‘Berg is seeking its second straight tournament title.
Heidelberg (27-5, 9-0 OAC) is making its fifth straight appearance in the OAC tournament and 19th overall. No. 8 seed Muskingum (12-15, 2-7 OAC) is making its 26th appearance in the tournament, including 22nd consecutive.
Under the direction of 12th-year head coach Jason Miller, the Berg raced out to a 9-2 record to start the season before going on a 20-match win streak, which included its second straight perfect season in OAC play. The Berg’s second-ranked (OAC) offensive attack (.256) is sparked by four hitters who are at or nearing the 200-kill plateau for the season. Junior second-team All-OAC outside hitter Marian Bevington (Celina/Parkway) leads the attack with 2.74 kills per set and is fourth in the OAC with a .324 hitting percentage. Sophomore middle hitter Amber Welfle (Norwalk/St. Paul) (2.36 kps.) and senior two-time All-OAC outside hitter Venessa Haase (Miamisburg) (2.36 kps.) also rank in the top-10 in league hitting percentage. Haase also ranks eighth in the conference with 45 service aces.
The offense is set by junior setter Rachel Ferguson (Brighton, Mich./Brighton) and sophomore setter Alexa Frank (Tiffin/Calvert) with 6.09 and 3.95 assists per set, respectively. The pair has combined for 984 of the team’s 1,277 assists this season.
Freshman libero Tessa Benanzer (Fort Loramie) and Bevington guide the defense. Benanzer averages 4.81 digs per set to rank seventh in the OAC, while Bevington’s 112 total blocks top the league. Senior reigning OAC player of the year Jackie Reinhart (New Riegel), who tallies 2.24 kps. of her own, is second with a 4.02 dps. average.
The Fighting Muskies, guided by 19th-year head coach Elizabeth Zicha, in her second stint in New Concord, enter Tuesday’s match-up looking to advance beyond the quarterfinal round for the first time since 2008. The attack is led by the tandem of McKensie Smith (2.29 kps.) and Hanna Rose (2.22 kps.). Smith is also the team’s leading setter, with 4.77 aps., leading server with 32 aces and leading blocker with 0.48 bps. Six student-athletes have 200 or more digs to lead a defensive unit that tops the conference. Kim Seitter is fourth in the league with 5.24 dps.
The Berg has swept the Muskies in the tournament’s quarterfinal round in each of the last two seasons. Heidelberg also swept Muskingum (25-17, 25-21, 26-24) on Oct. 9 in New Concord.
The Berg is 12-18 all-time in the OAC tournament. Muskingum is 26-20.
The winner of tomorrow’s match will face the winner between No. 6 seed Capital University (20-11, 4-5 OAC) and No. 3 seed University of Mount Union (21-7, 5-2 OAC) in the semifinal round on Friday, Nov. 4. Following the quarterfinal round, the highest remaining seed will host the semifinal and final (Nov. 5) rounds. The 2011 OAC Volleyball Tournament champion receives the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.