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<b>RELIVE THE CUP</b>: Lions Make Third Straight Trip to NCAAs

June 27, 2006

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Los Angeles, Calif. - Lion fans can relive the 2005-06 West Coast Conference Commissioner's Cup all summer on www.LMULions.com as we look back on cup-clinching moments every Tuesday. In this third installment, we look at another LMU fall program that turned heads this season: Lion volleyball. Loyola Marymount made its third consecutive trip to the NCAA Volleyball Championship after receiving an at-large invitation to the 64-team field. The Lions earned the invitation after receiving votes in the national top-25 polls for much of the season.

First Round Frenzy...
The postseason bid marked the 10th NCAA appearance for LMU volleyball and the seventh trip in the last nine seasons. First round opponent Utah earned its spot in the tournament by winning the Mountain West Conference's automatic bid. The Utes swept Wyoming and Colorado State to get to the championship match, where they defeated then-21st-ranked BYU in four games to win its third title. Though LMU and Utah did not meet head-to-head this season, the two programs have had common opponents in Santa Clara, San Diego State, and Idaho. LMU went 2-2 against those teams, while Utah posted a 3-0 record. LMU and Utah were in the same first/second round foursome at last year's NCAA tournament, with the Lions falling to UCLA and the Utes losing to Long Beach State in 2004 first round action. Utah State (21-13) and the overall fourth-seed and eventual Elite Eight team Arizona (25-6) joined Utah and LMU to complete the four teams at the first and second round site.

The NCAA Match-Up...
LMU: The Lions entered their 10th NCAA tournament via an at-large invitation for the third straight season. Despite tallying six straight wins in September, LMU dropped four of its last five matches. As a team, the Lions ranked nationally in digs, kills, and assists and out-hit their opponents .237 to .201 this season. All-WCC first-team selection Heather Hughes led the Lions averaging 3.27 kills, 4.18 assists, and 2.42 digs per game.

UTAH: The Utes entered their eighth-straight NCAA Tournament having won 11 of its last 13 regular season matches. Utah was led by senior outside hitter Shelly Sommerfeldt, who averaged 3.58 kills, 2.94 digs, and 0.91 blocks per game. As a team, Utah out-hit opponents .233 to .151 and ranked fourth nationally in blocks per game (3.59).

WCC Sends Five to NCAA Tournament...
Led by 16th-year Head Coach Steve Stratos, the Lions were one of five West Coast Conference programs to make the postseason in 2005, as LMU joined Santa Clara, San Diego, Pepperdine, and Saint Mary's in the NCAA tournament. For the second time in three seasons, the WCC led all conferences in percentage of teams to qualify for the tournament, sending 62.5 percent of its programs to the postseason. The Big 12 Conference leads all leagues in number of participating teams, with seven teams selected. The WCC finished the 2005 season ranked fourth in the final volleyball conference RPI rankings.

Trio of Lions Among All-WCC Selections...
Three Lions were among those honored by the West Coast Conference for their performance during the conference season. Heather Hughes was a first-team selection, while senior Dina DeBernardi received her third career honorable mention recognition. Emily Day was selected to the conference's All-Freshman team.

"We Get No Respect"...
The CSTV/AVCA Facts on File named LMU one of three "Rodney Dangerfield" teams this season. Along with Tennessee and Colorado, the publication discusses LMU as one of the nation's most dangerous teams that hasn't received a lot of respect in the poll this season. It notes LMU's successes over ninth-ranked Hawaii and 20th-ranked San Diego and adds that the Lions pushed Santa Clara to four games twice.

Senior Leaders...
LMU's seniors will graduate leaving their mark in the LMU record book. Senior Dina DeBernardi will finish in the top-10 in 12 different statistical categories, including ranking second in career block assists, career total blocks, and games played. Libero Michelle Look holds the eighth-best season dig mark with 368 digs in 2004 and ranks fifth on the all-time career dig average list. Middle blocker Krista Houseman now ranks fourth all-time at LMU in single-season attack percentage after hitting .360 in her senior campaign.

Golden Diggers...
One of the stories of the season has been LMU's ability to prolong plays with some of the best defense in the nation. The Lions remain in the nation's top-20 in digs, averaging 18.5 per game. LMU ranked as high as second in the nation in its digs per game average this season. Led by sophomores Christianna Reneau and Heather Hughes, and senior Michelle Look, the Lions led the conference in the overall statistics. The Lions are led by sophomore Christianna Reneau's 443 digs this season. Reneau ranks fifth on LMU's all-time single-season leaders' list. Senior libero Michelle Look already holds the ninth spot on that list from her 368 season dig mark in 2004.

A Back Row Wizard...
Head Coach Steve Stratos was called upon to share his knowledge of defensive strategies with volleyball fans everywhere. The Lions' coach penned Volleyball Magazine's January 2006 "Chalk Talk" feature about the libero position.

Lions Win 3-2 Battle With #20 San Diego...
For the second time this season, LMU pushed 20th-ranked San Diego to five games in WCC action. This time, on the road at the Jenny Craig Pavilion, the Lions came out on top with the 3-2 win over the Toreros. With the win, LMU snapped USD's 16-match home winning streak, as the Toreros had not fallen on their home court in over a year. Senior Dina DeBernardi tallied 13 kills and six blocks, while hitting .357 for the Lions. Freshman Emily Day set a new high of 15 kills.

Hughes Named Enterprise Rent-A-Car/LMU Female Athlete of September...
LMU's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee announced that Heather Hughes was selected as the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Student-Athlete of the Month. Hughes helped LMU volleyball equal its program-best 11-2 start after tallying 211 kills, 69 assists, 18 service aces, 146 digs, and 22 blocks in 54 games playing opposite the setter for the Lions. The sophomore finished the month ranking fifth in the WCC in kills per game (3.91) and eighth in service aces per game (0.33). She also averaged 1.28 assists, 2.70 digs, and 0.41 blocks per game.

LMU Earns Top-20 Ranking...
After becoming the first unranked team to beat ninth-ranked Hawaii since 1997, LMU earned a ranking of 20th in the nation, Volleyball Magazine announced on September 27. LMU's effort against Hawaii led to its first national ranking this season. The Lions are currently earning votes in the AVCA poll.

LMU Tops #9 Hawaii...
Though local flood warnings kept the NCAA-leading attendance slightly lower than usual, over 6,500 fans were on hand at the Stan Sheriff Center for the five-game, nearly three-hour thriller between LMU and ninth-ranked Hawaii. Four Lions tallied double-digit kills, including Heather Hughes' career-best 29 to lead LMU to the 3-2 (30-26, 26-30, 31-39, 23-30, 15-13) win. Hughes' combination of 29 kills and 16 digs made her one of three Lions to post double-doubles. The Lions became the first unranked team in eight years to defeat UH. Hawaii had not lost to an unranked team since Pepperdine in 1997. Since that loss, the Rainbow Wahine had won 206 straight matches against unranked opponents.

11-2 Start Equals Program Best...
LMU's 11-2 start to the 2005 season equals the program's best start, as both the 1996 and 2003 squads also began with 11-2 records. The 1996 team went on to a perfect 14-0 WCC season and an NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance, while the 2003 squad advanced to the NCAA's second round.

The Stats on Strat...
Head Coach Steve Stratos led the Lions to a third-straight NCAA postseason in his 16th campaign at the helm of the program with a 16th straight winning season. In his time at LMU, Stratos has led the Lions to nine 20-win seasons and 11 postseason appearances. Stratos has tallied a career record of 324-153, the most victories in LMU volleyball history and second among current WCC coaches. In league action, he owns a mark of 157-67, good for a .701 winning percentage. Posting 157 career conference victories, Stratos again ranks second among current WCC coaches. Last season, Stratos reached the 300-win milestone with a 3-0 win over the University of Portland in Gersten Pavilion.

-GO LIONS-