Dec. 9, 2002

Complete Release in PDF Format
Download Free Acrobat Reader

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State (21-10 overall, 13-7 Big Ten, fourth) women’s volleyball team has advanced to the Pacific Regional of the NCAA Volleyball Championship, hosted by Stanford University. The four-team regional opens Thursday at 5 p.m. PT with Minnesota (32-5) facing Arizona (19-11). Ohio State faces host Stanford (29-4) 30 minutes after the completion of the first match. The winners return on Friday for an 8:59 p.m. PT match for a berth in the NCAA National Championship Semifinals. The regional championship match will be televised live on ESPN Regional Sports Networks.

Ohio State, an at-large participant in the NCAA Championship, was seeded 15th and hosted first and second round matches last weekend. The Buckeyes defeated Robert Morris 3-0 (30-22, 30-20, 30-16) in the first round while Louisville defeated Ball State 3-0 (30-24, 30-24, 30-25) in the other first round match. In second round action, Ohio State defeated Louisville 3-0 (30-26, 30-28, 30-24) to advance to the Pacific Regional semifinals hosted by Stanford.

The Buckeyes, coached by Jim Stone, are 21-10 overall. Stacey Gordon leads Ohio State with a 5.97 kills (716) and a 3.36 digs (403) per game average. Suzie Stiling ranks second in kills at 2.88 (345) and is the team leader in blocks per game at 1.06 (16 solos, 111 assists). Shelly Draeger is third in kills at 2.72 (326). Stephanie Higgins is second on the team in blocks with a .99 per game average (five solos, 113 assists). Katie Virtue is the team leader with a 13.69 assists (1,218) per game average. Jackie Schardt (Fr., Colorado Springs, Colo.) is second with a 6.94 (229) average. Gordon has a team-high 39 ace serves for a .32 per game average with Stiling second with 29 aces (.24) each. Ohio State averages 15.98 kills per game and is hitting .241. The Buckeyes average 1.35 aces, 13.90 digs and 2.28 blocks per game. OSU opponents average 12.96 kills per game and are hitting .183. Buckeye opponents average 1.18 aces, 11.80 digs and 2.91 blocks per game.

The Buckeyes have participated in 12 of the last 14 NCAA Championships and have a 17-11 (.607) record. OSU has now advanced to regional competition nine times. The Buckeyes advanced to the national semifinals in 1991 and 1994. Last year, Ohio State hosted first and second round matches and defeated Robert Morris 3-0 (30-17, 30-16, 30-13) in the first round and Cincinnati 3-1 (30-16, 22-30, 30-27, 30-20) in the second round. Ohio State lost to host Southern California 0-3 (25-30, 20-30, 27-30) in the regional semifinals.

The Big Ten Conference, by a vote of the league coaches, has named Ohio State’s Stacey Gordon (So., Oshawa, Ontario) the Big Ten Player of the Year. The 5-11, outside hitter averaged 5.87 kills per game to lead the Big Ten Conference. Gordon averaged 3.18 digs, .30 aces and .43 blocks per game. She had double-figure kills in all 20-conference matches and had 20 or more kills in 15 contests. Gordon recorded her career-high of 36 kills at Michigan State. She had 16 matches with double-figure digs in league play with a career-high of 21 at Illinois. Gordon was named the Big Ten Player of the Week four times this season with all four honors coming against league opponents. She was ranked third nationally last week in kills per game at 5.90. Gordon is the first Ohio State student-athlete to be named the Volleyball Player of the Year since Vanessa Wouters in 1996

Gordon was OSU’s only player to be named All-Big Ten but three student-athletes were named as honorable mention All-Big Ten. These included Shelly Draeger (Sr., Milwaukee, Wis.), Suzie Stiling (Sr., Glenview, Ill.) and Katie Virtue (Sr., St. Charles, Ill.). In addition, Stephanie Higgins (Fr., Biggsville, Ill.) was named to the six-player Big Ten All-Freshman Team.

Draeger, a 5-11, outside hitter, averaged 2.91 kills and 2.15 digs per game in conference play. She hit a team-high .303 in league action and averaged .20 aces and .61 blocks per game. Stiling, a 6-1, middle blocker, averaged 3.00 kills and 1.23 digs per game. She had a team-high 1.20 blocking average and a .20 aces per game mark. Virtue, a 5-9 setter, was the conference statistical champion in assists per game at 13.88 for conference matches. This despite missing the first four league contests with a fractured hand. She was second on the squad in digs per game at 2.35 and was third in blocks at .82. Higgins, a 6-0, middle blocker, was fourth on the team in kills per game at 1.85. She was second on the squad in blocking with a 1.05 blocks per game average in Big Ten matches.

The Cardinal, coached by John Dunning, have a 29-4 overall record. Stanford, an at-large selection, was the No. 2 seed in the championship. They defeated Sacramento State 3-0 (30-22, 30-8, 30-17) in the first round and Pacific 3-1 (30-26, 29-31, 30-14, 30-21) in the second round. The defending national champion, Stanford has participated in all 22 NCAA Championships and has a 65-17 record in tournament matches.

Stanford has won all three matches with Ohio State. In 1980 at Stanford, the Cardinal won 3-0 (15-3, 15-6, 15-7). Stanford won 3-1 (15-13, 15-12, 7-15, 15-12) in 1993 at the Michigan Volleyball Classic. The last meeting came in the 1994 NCAA National Championship Semifinal played at Texas. The Cardinal won 3-0 (15-11, 15-9, 15-7).

The Wildcats, coached by David Rubio, have a 19-11 overall record. Arizona, an at-large selection, was the No. 10 seed in the championship. They defeated Texas-Arlington 3-0 (30-22, 30-26, 30-20) in the first round and Texas 3-2 (30-25, 25-30, 18-30, 30-22, 15-9) in the second round. The Wildcats are playing in its 18th NCAA Championship and has a 21-17 record in tournament matches.

Arizona won the only meeting with Ohio State in 1995. The Wildcats, at the Buckeye Classic, won 3-2 (5-15, 15-5, 7-15, 15-12, 15-11).

The Golden Gophers, coached by Mike Hebert, have a 32-5 overall record. Minnesota received an automatic berth into the NCAA Championship by winning the Big Ten Championship. The Gophers, seeded seventh, defeated New Hampshire 3-1 (30-18, 28-30, 30-17, 30-21) in the first round and Georgia Tech 3-1 (30-28, 31-29, 26-30, 30-28) in the second round. Minnesota is making its eighth appearance in the NCAA Championship and has a 12-7 record in tournament matches.

Ohio State leads the series with Minnesota, 26-21. Ohio State is 14-6 in Columbus, 10-10 at Minnesota and 2-5 on neutral courts. In Big Ten Conference play, Minnesota defeated Ohio State 3-2 (24-30, 30-22, 28-30, 30-24, 15-6) in Columbus while Ohio State defeated Minnesota 3-0 (30-2, 30-28, 30-25) in Minneapolis.

After a 0-5 start in the Big Ten Conference standings, Ohio State has won 13 of the last 15 matches and finished in fourth place in the league standings. One of the biggest differences for the Buckeyes was the return of several student-athletes from earlier injuries. Ohio State has an eight-match winning streak that includes a home win over No. 13 Penn State and a road victory over No. 6 Minnesota.

Following a 3-0 win over Robert Morris and Louisville in the NCAA Championship, Ohio State has moved to 13th in the USA TODAY/American Volleyball Coaches Association Poll. The Buckeyes were 19th last week and have made the Top-25 the last four weeks after a five-week absence from the poll. The Buckeyes began the season ranked ninth in the poll prior to a series of injuries.

With her 66 assists against the Purdue in the final regular season match, Katie Virtue became Ohio State’s all-time career leader in assists with 5,546. She moved past Laura Davis (1991-94) who finished her career with 5,483. Virtue currently has 5,648 career assists. She has been OSU’s career assist per game leader at 13.88. She was the conference statistical champion for league contests with a 13.88 per game average.

Stacey Gordon continues to lead the Big Ten in kills per game, overall at 5.91 and in conference matches at 5.87. In overall statistics at the end of the regular season, Gordon ranks fourth in digs at 3.39 and 10th in aces at .32 per game. She is seventh in aces at .30 per game in conference statistics and seventh in digs at 3.18.

Stacey Gordon continued her consecutive streak of double-figure kill matches with 13 kills against Robert Morris and 29 against Louisville. She now has recorded double-figure kills in her last 47 matches. For her career, Gordon has double-figure kills in 60 of 62 matches and has 30 matches with 20 or more kills. Defensively, Gordon has 23 double-figure dig matches this season and 42 in her career. She has had 23 double-doubles (kills-digs) this season and 40 in her career.

Stacey Gordon, with a 5.90 kills per game average as of Nov. 24, was ranked third nationally in the national statistics release by the NCAA. Gordon has been in the top-5 in the country for most of the season. Ranked first is Aline Pereira of George Mason at 6.54 with Kim Willoughby of Hawaii second at 6.33. Including NCAA matches from last week, Pereira is averaging 6.58, Willoughby 6.25 and Gordon 5.97.

With eight kills against Michigan, Stacey Gordon became the first Ohio State sophomore to ever reach 1,000 kills. Six players reached 1,000 kills as juniors and seven as senior. The only exception to this is Vanessa Wouters (1996-97), a transfer from Southwest Missouri State who played her final two years at Ohio State. She reached 1,000 kills in her 46th match for OSU, but as a senior. Gordon, as a sophomore, reached 1,000 kills in her 53rd match. With 15 kills against Illinois and 34 against Purdue, Gordon now has 1,229 career kills and ranks 10th on the OSU career kills list.

Outside hitter Stacey Gordon has been honored four times this season as the Big Ten Player of the Week. She received back-to-back honors in early October, first in losses to Michigan State (2-3) and Michigan (0-3) on the road and then was Co-Player of the Week in a loss to Wisconsin (1-3) and in the win against Northwestern (3-0) in home matches. In November, she was honored for wins over Michigan (3-1) and Michigan State (3-1) and for road wins at Iowa (3-1) and at sixth-ranked Minnesota (3-0). In her freshman season, Gordon was named Big Ten Player of the Week three times.

The Ohio State Buckeyes began the 2002 season with three seniors and a sophomore forming the core of a squad that was picked as the preseason Big Ten favorite. With seven incoming freshman, the season depended upon the health of the team. OSU opened in Hawaii, losing to the host Wahine, defeating Colorado and losing to UCLA. A fair start, but OSU lost freshman Maria Pongonis to a stress fracture in her foot.

The Buckeyes went 5-1 during the rest of the pre-Big Ten season but the injuries began to overtake the squad. Senior Katie Virtue fractured her hand at Illinois-Chicago and would miss the next seven matches. A week later her replacement, freshman Jackie Schardt, suffered a concussion and missed the next three matches. Junior Heather Whalen, a former setter who was playing libero and defensive specialist, ran the offense for the next three matches. Freshman Katherine Grant was lost for the season after dislocating her elbow during the Miami (Ohio) match. Freshman Anna Andersson followed with a knee sprain in practice and would miss the next eight matches. All have returned to action with the exception of Grant.

Shorthanded, Ohio State lost the first five Big Ten matches of the season. Virtue returned to the lineup for the fifth loss, but then helped the Buckeyes to 15 wins in the last 17 matches to date.

The Buckeyes, who started the season in last place in the conference, finished fourth in the final Big Ten standings.

During this improving time, injuries continued to hit Ohio State. Freshman Brie Hagerty suffered a knee injury and has not played since. Whalen, now playing libero, suffered a concussion and missed two matches.

Three Buckeyes have played despite their injuries this season. Senior Shelly Draeger strained her knee against Penn State in mid-November and now wears a brace. Freshman Amanda Miller suffered a lower leg stress fracture, as did sophomore Stacey Gordon. Both continue to play with leg braces.

In all, 10 of the current 13 players have had some type of injury this season.

The strength of the team has to be a never-say-die attitude that has kept the Buckeyes fighting in every match. In the middle of the five-match losing streak in the Big Ten, Ohio State lost two five-game decisions to nationally ranked Penn State and Michigan State in road matches. After a close loss to Wisconsin, the Buckeyes snapped the losing streak with wins over Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois.

OSU dropped another five-game decision to Minnesota before winning matches against Iowa and Northwestern. The Buckeyes then lost to Wisconsin for the second time this season before beginning the current 10-match winning streak.

After wins at home against Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana, Ohio State upset Penn State 3-0 to offset the earlier losses to these schools. After a road win at Iowa, OSU faced newly crowned 2002 Big Ten Champion Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Buckeyes came away with a 3-0 victory over the Gophers. Ohio State closed out the regular season with wins over Illinois and Purdue.

Selected as an at-large participant to the NCAA Championship, Ohio State played host to Robert Morris in the first round, a 3-0 win. The Buckeyes then defeated Louisville 3-0 in the second round to advance to the Pacific Regional Semifinals.

Gordon earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors four times during conference play this season. At the end of the conference season, Gordon was named the Big Ten Player of the Year. Seniors Draeger, Stiling and Virtue were all named honorable mention All-Big Ten and freshman Stephanie Higgins was honored as a member of the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.

In Big Ten Conference statistics, Gordon finished first in kills per game at 5.87. She was seventh in aces per game at .30 and seventh in digs per game at 3.18. Setter Virtue was first in assists per game at 13.88. Shelly Draeger finished 10th in hitting percentage at .303 with Suzie Stiling 14th (.282) and Higgins 17th (.270). Stiling was ranked 10th in blocks per game at 1.20 with Higgins 14th (1.05).

Stiling and, despite their injuries, Gordon and Draeger have started all 31 matches this season. All three have over 1,000 career kills with Gordon reaching that number as a sophomore.

Stiling is OSU’s second all-time blocker in assists and total blocks. Draeger is now fifth all-time in career aces while Gordon is the career leader in digs per game and ranks second in career kills per game. Virtue is OSU’s career leader in assists and assists per game.

As a freshman walk-on, Rebecca Kastein was not expected to see much action as a freshman. The Buckeye injures changed that. Kastein has played in 23 matches and has played the libero position in the last 18. She has had double-figure digs in her last seven matches and 13 overall.

Because of the five early season injuries for the Buckeyes, Ohio State has tried to find the right starting combination with the available players. In 31 matches, the Buckeyes have used 12 different starting combinations and at one point used a different lineup in 10 consecutive matches. Each of the 14 student-athletes has now started at least one match this season.

Ohio State defeated Robert Morris 3-0 (30-22, 30-20, 30-16) in a first round match in the NCAA Championship at St. John Arena. OSU’s Stacey Gordon scored a match-high 13 kills with Stephanie Higgins adding 12. Suzie Stiling and Shelly Draeger contributed 11 kills each. Rachel Leitch and Megan Bell had a team-high four kills each for the Colonials. Ohio State hit .377 to -.023 for Robert Morris and had a 54-15 kill margin. The Buckeyes had a 5-3 advantage in ace serve but gave up 23 service errors to 12 for Robert Morris. Defensively, Ohio State had a 46-33 advantage in digs with OSU’s Rebecca Kastein recording a match-high 12. At the net, the Buckeyes enjoyed a 6-4 edge in blocks with OSU’s Katie Virtue and Higgins recording a match-high four assist blocks each. Buckeye setter Virtue had 46 assists in the match to 10 for RMU’s Darcey Miller. The win advanced Ohio State to a second round match against Louisville.

With a 3-0 (30-26, 30-28, 30-24) win over Louisville in the second round of the NCAA championship, Ohio State has advanced to the Pacific region to face Stanford in the regional semifinals. Stacey Gordon scored a match-high 29 kills (.521) for OSU with Shelly Draeger adding 11 (.625). Louisville’s Bing Sun had a team-high 19 kills with Lena Ustymenko adding eight. The Buckeyes won three close games in the match. Game one was tied at 23 before OSU opened a lead to win 30-26. Game two saw OSU hold a slim one or two point lead the entire game. Gordon scored OSU’s last four points to win 30-28. She had 11 kills in 14 attempts (.786) in the game. OSU trailed early and took an 11-10 lead in game three. Gordon scored six kills in OSU’s last seven points, including the match winner at 30-26. Ohio State hit .440 for the match to .307 for Louisville. The Buckeyes had a 62-50 margin in kills and had a 5-3 advantage in ace serves. The Buckeyes gave up 12 service errors to eight for the Cardinals. OSU had a 42-31 margin in digs with Buckeye Draeger recording a match-high 11 and OSU’s Rebecca Kastein adding 10. Louisville had a 7-6 advantage in blocks with OSU’s Suzie Stiling (1 solo, 3 assists) and Louisville’s Benny Flynn (4 assists) sharing match-high honors.

Jim Stone is in his 21st season at Ohio State. He has a 430-239 record with the Buckeyes and is 249-138 in Big Ten play. His squads have won Big Ten Championships in 1989, 1991 and 1994 and in the last 13 years have finished in the Top 3 in the league 10 times. In the championship years, he was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year and was the 1991 Volleyball Monthly National Coach of the Year. Under Stone, Ohio State has participated in the NCAA championship in 11 of the last 13 years, advancing to the national semifinals in 1991 and 1994. Stone’s coaching career record includes three years at Wyoming (1979-1981). His 23-year career record is 480-281.