Northern Kentucky volleyball will make its first appearance in Regents Hall this season for the NKU Invitational on Friday-Saturday, Sept. 13-14. The Norse will face three tough opponents, starting with Ball State at 6 p.m. on Friday. Saturday starts off with a noon match against ACC opponent Notre Dame, and the tournament concludes with cross-river foe Cincinnati, which is receiving votes in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll, at 7:30 p.m.
Northern Kentucky (4-2) vs. Ball State (3-3), Notre Dame (4-1), Cincinnati (4-2)
Friday, Sept. 13 – 6 p.m. ET | Saturday, Sept. 14– 12 p.m. ET | Saturday, Sept. 14 – 7:30 p.m. ET
Highland Heights, Ky. – Regents Hall
GAMEDAY PROMOS: Saturday’s match against Notre Dame will be NKU’s Camper Reunion Day, in which campers 12-and-under who attended any of NKU’s volleyball camps will receive a discounted admission of $3 and their parents will be able to attend for the group ticket rate of $4. Later that night during the match against UC, free pizza will be provided for students and there will be a drawing for two tickets to the Miranda Lambert Concert at BB&T Arena on Sept. 21.
LAST TIME OUT: The Norse finished runner-up in their second tournament at the Bulldog Invitational. NKU dispatched the reigning America East champion, Stony Brook, in three sets, before downing host Georgetown in four sets. With just 90 minutes between matches, NKU fell in three sets to Marshall to close out the tournament. Sophomore Anna Brinkmann and redshirt-freshman Abby Kanakry were named to the all-tournament team.
NORSE VS. THE NATION: NKU ranks among the nation’s top-100 in several statistical categories through two weeks of competition. Most notably, the Norse are the No. 15 in the nation when it comes to opponent hitting percentage, as NKU has kept its opponents to a .155 clip. The Norse are also No. 56 in blocks per set (2.41), 65th in digs per set (15.73), 66th in aces per set (1.73), 75th in assists per set (12.27) and 89th in kills per set (13.14)
SCOUTING BALL STATE: The Cardinals sit at 3-3 with wins over UAB, Grand Canyon and Montana. Ball State and NKU have faced a common opponent this season, as the Cardinals lost a five-set exhibition match to Purdue Fort Wayne, a team that NKU swept on Aug. 31. Ball State’s roster features an experienced setter in Amber Seaman, the reigning Mid-American Conference Setter of the Year, as well as All-MAC First Team selection Sydnee VanBeek, but the Cardinals have been relying heavily on its freshman class this season. Ball State’s nine incoming freshmen earned Highest Honorable Mention for PrepVolleyball.com, and many of them are making an immediate impact. VanBeek is the only non-rookie in the team’s top-five attackers with 3.00 kills per set. Natalie Mitchem leads the team with 3.09 kps, while Allison Hamaker (2.62 kps), Natalie Risi (2.45 kps) and Marie Plitt (1.91 kps) round out the top-five. In the back row, the Cardinals have more senior experience with libero Kate Avila averaging 4.05 digs per set.
Northern Kentucky leads the all-time series with the Cardinals, 3-2. The two teams last met on Sept. 9, 2016, when the Norse claimed a four-set win.
SCOUTING NOTRE DAME: The Fighting Irish hold a 4-1 record, including a five-set upset over No. 18 Purdue. Notre Dame’s lone loss of the season came in five sets against Horizon League member Wright State on Aug. 31. The team graduated its All-American libero, but returns All-America honorable mention Charley Niego, who has been averaging 2.86 kills and 3.10 digs per set. The team’s kills leader thus far has been freshman Caroline Meuth, who is contributing 3.38 kills and 1.57 digs per set, followed closely by Sydney Bent’s 3.24 kills and 2.19 digs per set. Zoe Nunez has been running the offense out of a 5-1, averaging 11.00 assists per set to rank 27th nationally.
Notre Dame and NKU began their series just last season, when the Fighting Irish swept the Norse on Aug. 25, 25-17, 28-26, 25-14. The match was a defensive showcase on both ends, with 185 combined digs between the three sets.
SCOUTING CINCINNATI: Cincinnati currently holds a 4-2 record, including a sweep of No. 21 Tennessee. The headliner for the Bearcats is undoubtedly All-American Jordan Thompson, who recently helped the United States qualify for the 2020 Olympics and led the American team in points over the course of the tournament. Thompson is averaging 5.00 kills per set this season, but sophomore outside hitter Maria Mallon is not far off her mark at 4.33 kills per set. With Thompson and Mallon leading the team, Cincinnati ranks 40th in the nation with 13.85 kills per set, and the Bearcats are also 45th nationally with a .295 hitting percentage. Armania Heckenmuller runs the 5-1 offense and is dishing out 9.90 assists per set. Defensively, the Bearcats have multiple contributors as five players are averaging over 2.00 digs per et, led by Sheilah Purcell’s 4.50 dps.
Cincinnati holds a slight 7-6 advantage in the all-time series. The last meeting was on Aug. 29, 2015, which saw the Bearcats sweep the Norse in three close sets, 26-24, 25-23, 25-22.
Assistant Athletic Communications Director
Northern Kentucky University