Oct. 20, 2010

By Amy Farnum

Juniata College claimed the No. 1 spot in the AVCA Division III Top 25 for the first time this season after previously top-ranked Washington University-St. Louis fell twice on Oct. 17 at the University Athletic Association round robin tournament last weekend.

The Eagles finished off their Landmark Conference schedule with three victories last week, improving to 6-0 in league play, and earning the top seed in the conference tournament. Juniata has won 315 consecutive conference matches. Sophomore right side hitter Kelsey Fuller averaged 3.43 kills and 3.70 points per set to garner Landmark Conference Player of the Week honors.

As the new No. 1 squad in Division III, Juniata knocked off Division IIs California (Pa.), 3-0, in a non-conference match on Oct. 19 to extend its winning streak to six straight contests. The Eagles will host this weekends Wid Guisler Invitational, featuring three of the top five teams in Division III - No. 1 Juniata, No. 4 Emory and No. 5 Eastern (Pa.). Emory is tied for first place in the UAA, while Eastern clinched the regular season championship in the Freedom Conference with a sweep of Wilkes on Tuesday.

New York University jumped six spots to No. 17 in the latest AVCA Division III Top 25 after upending then-No. 1 Washington (Mo.) and posting a 4-0 mark at the UAA round robin tournament last weekend. The Violets handed the Bears their first loss of the season.

NYU climbed to its highest national ranking since 2006, and recorded its best mark in UAA action (6-1) since 2003, when the Violets reached the NCAA title match.

The Violets step away from league play on Oct. 21-22 when they head to the Trinity (Texas) Invitational where they will face nationally-ranked foes No. 16 UW-Eau Claire and No. 22 UT-Dallas.

KILLING ‘EM SOFTLY: St. Olaf cruised to a 5-0 week behind the stellar play of outside hitter Kim Smisek, who was named Most Valuable Player of the Simpson Tournament for her performance.

The native of Northfield, Minn., knocked down double-digit kills in all five matches last week, highlighted by a 16-kill, 19-dig outing in a 3-1 upset of then-No. 8 UW-Whitewater. Smisek averaged 4.82 kills per set along with a .308 hitting percentage to garner Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Hitter of the Week honors. She leads the MIAC and ranks seventh nationally with 4.61 kills per set.

The No. 12 Oles started last week with a 3-1 win over Saint Marys to move to 6-1 in MIAC action, just a half-game behind No. 14 St. Thomas (7-1). St. Olaf is preparing for a pivotal weekend of conference play as the Oles host Saint Benedict and No. 18 Concordia.

Cal State Lutheran continued its winning ways with a sweep of Whittier on Oct. 19 in a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference match as the Regals stretched their winning streak to 20 consecutive contests. The Regals, who have also won nine straight SCIAC matches, broke into the national poll at No. 23 for their recent successful play. CLU, the only unbeaten squad in the conference, needs just one more league victory to clinch a spot in the SCIAC Tournament.

GOTTA HAVE HOPE: Hope College posted its 12th straight victory with a sweep of Kalamazoo on Oct. 19, improving to 19-4 on the year - just one win shy of the Flying Dutchs sixth consecutive 20-win season.

The Flying Dutch are coming off a 5-0 week, which included an upset of No. 9 Calvin in Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association action. Senior middle blocker starred for the Flying Dutch, averaging 4.90 kills, 1.20 blocks and 6.30 points per set for the week, and was selected Sports Imports/AVCA Division III National Player of the Week for her contributions. Against MIAA-rival Calvin, Fiedler helped avenge a previous loss to the Knights this season with 17 kills, three blocks, one dig and one ace.

Hope, which moved up to No. 8 in the latest national poll, is tied with Calvin for first place in the MIAA with identical 11-2 marks.