Northern Kentucky faces what should turn out to be its toughest weekend of the 2017 slate, traveling to Gainesville, Fla., for the Gator Invitational on Sept. 15-16. NKU will kick off the tournament against former Atlantic Sun foe Lipscomb at 10 a.m. ET on Fridaybefore taking on the host No. 3 Florida Gators at 7 p.m. The tournament concludes on Saturday at 5 p.m. when the Norse square off with Florida A&M. Friday’s match against Florida will be broadcast on SEC Network+ and is available for streaming on computers, tablets and smart phones through WatchESPN and the ESPN App.
Northern Kentucky (4-2) vs. Lipscomb (4-5), No. 3 Florida (4-0) and Florida A&M (1-6)
Friday, Sept. 15 – 10 a.m. ET | Friday, Sept. 15 – 7 p.m. ET | Saturday, Sept. 16 – 5 p.m. ET
Highland Heights, Ky. – Regents Hall
Live Stats (All Matches)
Video Stream (Florida Match Only)
LAST TIME OUT: NKU did not have the showing it had hoped for at the NKU Invitational, going 1-2 with a win over Seattle and setbacks to Sacramento State and Bowling Green. The Norse came out strong against the Redhawks, hitting .315 as a team led by a tremendous performance from junior outside hitter Haley Libs. Libs connected at a .463 clip from the left pin as she put away 24 kills and coupled that with 19 digs to barely miss out on the second 20-and-20 match of her career. Saturday was not so kind to the Norse, which featured a 3-1 setback to Sacramento State before a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Bowling Green, which saw NKU battle back and push a fifth set after trailing 2-0 at the intermission. NKU received solid stat lines from its sophomore class, as Shelby Olsen and Laura Crawford recorded double-doubles in each of the three contests.
DOUBLE THE DOUBLE-DOUBLE TROUBLE: Both Laura Crawford and Haley Libs are averaging double-doubles on the young season, with 15.50 kills/14.67 digs and 13.17 kills/16.00 digs per match, respectively. The duo recorded back-to-back double-doubles in the first two matches of the season against Robert Morris and Duquesne, and again versus Seattle and Sacramento State.
The Robert Morris match marked a feat that had not been accomplished in nearly a decade. Two players with a double-double in a sweep is a feat in and of itself, but the rarity is even more so when the two players are both attackers. The last time a pair of Norse attackers registered double-doubles in a sweep was on Oct. 21, 2007 against Mount St. Joseph, when current head coach Liz Hart (née Holmes) had 16 kills and 10 digs in the three-set victory while Tristen Dye added 15 kills and 14 digs. The last time two attackers had double-doubles in a victory of any kind was on Nov. 14, 2015 against Cleveland State, courtesy of Libs (17 kills, 13 digs) and Jayden Julian (10 kills, 17 digs).
AND SETTER MAKES THREE: Shelby Olsen has also entered the fold as a double-double machine, averaging 41.17 assists and 11.00 digs per match. Olsen recorded the first double-double of her career against Seattle and has gone off for three-straight double-doubles, culminating in career bests of 53 assists and 17 digs against Bowling Green.
BACK LINE OF DEFENSE: Northern Kentucky’s defense has become a mainstay of its success, and the Norse are keeping up with the trend of being one of the top defensive teams in the Horizon League. NKU is not only leading the Horizon League in digs per set (18.57) and opponent hitting percentage (.162), but the team ranks sixth and 56th nationally in the respective categories. Ashton Terrill and Haley Libs are doing their fair share of keeping opponents’ offense at bay from the back row, as both are averaging at least 4.15 digs per set to rank among the League’s top defenders.
SCOUTING LIPSCOMB: The reigning Atlantic Sun champions have been prepping for another postseason appearance early in the year, as the Bisons have not shied away from some of the nation’s top competition in their first nine matches. Lipscomb has played three teams ranked in the AVCA Top-25, along with three teams receiving votes in the latest poll, en route to a 4-5 record heading into the weekend. Of particular note, the Bisons knocked off then-No. 24 Arizona on Aug. 26 in their season-opening home tournament.
Lipscomb’s attack is led by the 2016 A-Sun Player of the Year and AVCA All-America honorable mention Carlyle Nusbaum, who is taking the bulk of the swings and putting down 4.82 kills per set to rank 12th nationally in the statistic. The squad has been running a 6-2 offense with Morgan Elmore and Marcella Emmanuelli both averaging over five assists per set. The team focus seems to be offensive-driven, as the Bisons are averaging just 12.94 digs per set, paced by Brittany Thomas with 3.39 digs a game. At the net, Lipscomb’s most potent threat has been Ca’Layci Coffey, who averaged 1.19 blocks per set for her primary contributions, as the junior averages less than a kill per set.
SCOUTING NO. 3 FLORIDA: The Gators are another team whose schedule has been cut short due to inclement tropical weather, but Florida has not disappointed in its four outings this season. With one of the winningest coaches in the NCAA at the helm and four returning AVCA All-Americans, the Gators still managed to surprise the collegiate volleyball world early in the season. After hosting the reigning national champion Texas and then-No. 5 Nebraska in the Vert Challenge to open up the season and taking down both, Florida rocketed from No. 12 in the preseason rankings to among the nation’s top-three programs. The Gators continued to roll over Atlantic Coast foes North Carolina State and No. 16 North Carolina, sweeping both, before Florida’s second home tournament was cancelled in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.
Florida’s block should prove to be one of the most formidable challenges for the Norse, as the Gators rank 24th with 2.80 blocks per set thanks to the sizable middle blocker tandem of 6-4 Rhamat Alhassan and 6-8 Rachael Kramer. Kramer has also risen to the ranks of the nation’s most efficient hitters, ranking fifth nationally behind a .494 clip. Behind the block is an equally impressive defensive team, which averages 17.67 digs per set, led by Caroline Knop’s 4.73 scoops while outside hitter and top attacker Carli Snyder is averaging 4.20 digs a game.
SCOUTING FLORIDA A&M: The Rattlers will play their first matches in their home state after tournaments at Ole Miss and North Dakota State and most recently taking a weekend off. Florida A&M sits at 1-6 this season, with the lone win coming off a sweep of San Francisco on Sept. 1.  Its roster brings international flavor to the tournament, as Florida A&M has just one American player juxtaposed with athletes from Peru, the Dominican Republic, Bulgaria, Turkey, Argentina and Colombia.
The Rattlers’ offense is run primarily through its outside hitters, with Nicole Abreau averaging 4.00 kills per set while Maria Yvette Garcia adds 3.36 terminations a game. Abreu has also been a contributor defensively with 3.79 digs per set, bested only by libero Valentina Carrasco with 4.89 digs a game.
Chloe Smith
Assistant Athletic Communications Director
Northern Kentucky University


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