Sept. 10, 2009

By Amy Farnum
NCAA.com

POLAR EXPRESS:  Ohio Northern University is off to a fast start at 5-0, but the No. 4 Polar Bears will put their undefeated record on the line at the Washington (Mo.) National Invitational where they will face four Top 20 opponents on Sept. 11-12.

Senior Renee Berry has been a force for the Polar Bears early in the season, posting 3.17 kills and 5.42 digs per set as ONU swept through its own Invitational, including victories over No. 16 Calvin and No. 8 Southwestern (Texas). 

The native of Perrysville, Ohio, was voted MVP of the tournament, and also garnered Sports Imports/AVCA Division III National Player of the Week for her outstanding play.  Berry went on to lead ONU with 10 kills and a .500 hitting percentage in a sweep of Defiance on Sept. 8.

The Polar Bears will tangle with No. 18 Concordia (Minn.), No. 8 Washington (Mo.), No. 17 UW-Whitewater and No. 10 Pacific Lutheran this weekend.

COMETS SOAR: After knocking off a pair of nationally-ranked teams last weekend, the University of Texas at Dallas claimed its first-ever appearance in the AVCA Division III Top 25 at No. 19 this week.

The Comets went 4-0 at the Trinity University River City Classic, and topped then-No. 14 Cal Lutheran and then-No. 12 Trinity (Texas) to earn the historic milestone.  Last year, UTD won its first-ever American Southwest Conference title in program history.

Junior middle blocker Jessica Nassau was named tournament MVP at the Trinity River Classic after hitting .350 with 52 kills in the four victories.  Nassau, a native of Orlando, Fla., also added nine blocks, six digs and one service ace during the weekend.

NO. 1 VS. NO. 2:  Defending national champion and top-ranked Emory University will meet No. 2 Juniata at the Washington & Lee Tournament on Sept. 12 as both teams look to stay unbeaten on the year.

Emory, which won its first-ever national title in 2008, has not lost a set in its first five matches.  Juniata, a 2008 NCAA semifinalist, lost five seniors to graduation, including two-time AVCA Division III National Player of the Year Amber Thomas, but enters the match with a 5-0 record.

Juniata leads the series 8-2 against Emory, including a split in last season’s two meetings. 

GOING DUTCH:  Hope College vaulted 11 spots to No. 11 in the latest AVCA Division III Top 25 after opening the season with a four victories at the WU-Bears Classic, including an important win over then-No. 5 Washington (Mo.) last weekend.

The Flying Dutch then improved their record to 5-0 with a 3-1 victory over Alma as they began defense of their Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association title on Sept. 8.   Hope tops the MIAA with 13.22 kills per set, and leads the league with a .104 opponent hitting percentage.

Hope went 15-1 in conference action last season, and looks to continue their success against Olivet in a MIAA match on Sept. 12.

SPARKPLUG: Haverford College’s Rebecca Salvo shined during the first week of play as she sparked the Fords to a 4-0 mark at the 24th Annual Haverford College Invitational.

The senior averaged 4.06 kills per set while hitting .436 during a 5-0 week, and was named MVP of the tournament and Centennial Conference Player of the Week for her performance.

The undefeated week pushed the Fords into the AVCA Division III Top 25 at No. 22.  They travel to the Muhlenberg Buttermaker Tournament on Sept. 11-12.