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August 23, 2005

Defending champs ready for season debut,
Eagles tabbed for third-place finish in preseason poll

EVANSVILLE, Ind.—The University of Southern Indiana volleyball team will begin its quest for a second straight Great Lakes Valley Conference title Friday when it takes on No. 21 Augustana College at 9 a.m. in the Missouri Southern Invitational in Joplin, Missouri.

USI, which has been picked to finish third in the GLVC in a vote done by the league’s coaches, returns four starters and its libero from a squad that was 24-7 overall, 15-1 in the GLVC, and that captured the conference title for the second time in three years. The Screaming Eagles, who picked up one first-place vote, trailed Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and new GLVC member Rockhurst University in the voting.

Under the direction of new Head Coach Leah Mercer, the Eagles will face two nationally ranked teams in their opening weekend. The Eagles play Pittsburg State University Friday at 5 p.m. as well as Emporia State University Saturday at 9 a.m. USI finishes its opening weekend with No. 18 Washburn University Saturday at 3 p.m.

Leading the Eagles into the 2005 season is returning AVCA honorable mention All-American middle blocker Laura Ellerbusch (Newburgh, Indiana) and first-team All-Region setter Stephanie Wilson (Terre Haute, Indiana).

Ellerbusch, who is the lone senior on this year’s team, led the Eagles in 2004 with 3.34 kills per game and a .343 attacking percentage, while Wilson set a school freshman record with 1,471 assists. Both were named to the All-GLVC first team as well as NCAA II Great Lakes Region All-Tournament team.

Outside threats such as junior outside hitters Chelse Doubler (Griffin, Indiana) and Emily Ryan (Batesville, Indiana) give the Eagles a well balanced attack. The two combined for six kills per game in 2004 and figure to be one of the top outside hitter combinations in the GLVC in 2005.

Defensively, the Eagles were sparked in 2004 by the emergence of junior libero Mandy Probst (Wheeler, Illinois). Probst set school records for digs in a season (475) and a single match (32) in 2004. Her efforts propelled her to second-team All-GLVC honors last season.

The Eagles will play in three invitational style tournaments before starting GLVC play September 16 at Drury University.

Dan McDonnell,
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