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Lions Take Show on the Road to Miami Hurricane Invite

Sept. 14, 2006

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BRIEFLY...
The weather won't be the only hot thing this weekend in Miami. Loyola Marymount volleyball heads cross-coast to play in the Miami Hurricane Invitational, and the Lions are hot, bringing a six-match winning streak along with them. Fresh off their LMU Four Points Sheraton-LAX Classic title, the Lions (8-2) will battle Jacksonville (4-5), Florida A&M (1-5), and the host Hurricanes (2-4).

THE MIAMI HURRICANE INVITATIONAL...
For the fourth straight weekend, LMU hits the court for tournament action, this time in Miami. The Hurricane Invitational starts play Friday, with the Lions facing Jacksonville in the early match (1:00 p.m. PST). Saturday morning the Lions again have the early match, this time against Florida A&M at 7:00 a.m. PST. LMU will then take on the host Hurricanes at 4:30 p.m. PST. The Lions have not dropped a neutral match since 2004.

THE MIAMI HURRICANE INVITATIONAL MATCH-UPS...
LMU: The Lions have won six straight home matches, but now hit the road for the first time this month. LMU is coming off a title win at the LMU Four Points Sheraton-LAX Classic, and Heather Hughes was named West Coast Conference Player of the Week for her MVP efforts. The Lions have never faced Jacksonville or Florida A&M in volleyball action, and own just a 1-0 all-time series record advantage over Miami.

MIAMI: The Hurricanes open the tournament 2-4, and have not seen competition since September 2, when they were swept on the road by Michigan State at the Spartan Invitational. UM senior Jill Robinson earned an all-tournament selection after leading the offense all weekend and recording a triple-double against Villanova. The Hurricanes and the Lions last met at the 2004 LMU Furama Hotel Invitational, with the Lions sweeping Miami 3-0. This weekend's match on Saturday will be just the second meeting between the two programs.

FLORIDA A&M: The Rattlers enter tournament play this weekend coming off their first win of the season against Central Florida last weekend. Now 1-5, Florida A&M has yet to play at home in Tallahassee. Marrita Crocket leads the Rattlers with 4.32 kills per game, while Rosa Rojas averages 6.27 digs per game. LMU and Florida A&M will battle for the first time Saturday morning.

JACKSONVILLE: The Dolphins are 4-5 after dropping three last weekend at the South Florida Tournament. All nine of the Dolphins' matches have come in tournament play. Melissa Merchant leads the Dolphins in blocking, averaging 1.50 a game, while Sara Bendorf's 3.03 digs per game mark is also tops for JU. Friday's match-up between the Dolphins and the Lions will be the programs' first meeting.

LMU IN THE NATIONAL STATS...
The Lions have four top-25 rankings in this week's NCAA stat categories. As a team, LMU ranks sixth in kills (17.03/game), eighth in digs (19.59/game), and 24th in assists (14.94/game). Junior Heather Hughes ranks 19th in service aces, averaging 0.74 a game.

NOT SO NEUTRAL...
Dating back to 2005, the Lions have accumulated a 6-0 record on neutral courts. This weekend will bring the Lions two neutral matches against Jacksonville and Florida A&M.

THE REIGNING WCC PLAYER OF THE WEEK...
LMU's Heather Hughes was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Week, the conference announced Monday. Hughes led the Lions to a 4-0 week and the 2006 LMU Four Points Sheraton-LAX Classic title. The Lions' junior took home the Classic's MVP award after her all-around play led LMU to the championship. The Lions defeated all three opponents (UC Irvine, SMU, and Nevada) in tournament play, dropping only one game all weekend. LMU also swept Cal State Fullerton Tuesday night in Gersten Pavilion. On the week, Hughes finished with 61 kills (4.69 per game) and 50 digs (3.85 per game), while hitting .343. Even more impressive was her tough serving, as Hughes tallied 12 aces in the Lions' four matches (13 games). The Fallbrook, Calif. native becomes the first Lion of the 2006 season to earn the weekly WCC selection.

AMONG THE NATION'S BEST...
The Lions opened the 2006 season among the nation's best, earning votes in the AVCA preseason top-25 poll. Eight of the Lions' 2006 opponents also appeared in the poll, either ranking in the top-25 or earning votes.

WCC SENDS FIVE TO 2005 NCAA TOURNAMENT...
Led by 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.

GREAT SCHEDULING...
The Lions have once again compiled a challenging schedule for the 2006 season. LMU will play seven matches against teams ranked in the 2006 AVCA preseason top-25 poll. The WCC coaches picked the Lions to finish fifth in conference action.

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 entered the 2006 season with 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. During the 2004, Stratos reached the 300-win milestone with a 3-0 win over the University of Portland in Gersten Pavilion. Among Division I active coaches, Stratos began 2006 ranking 37th by winning percentage (.679) and 58th by victories (324).

-GO LIONS-