Aug. 16, 2012
ROCHESTER, Mich. - The Oakland volleyball team and head coach Rob Beam reached its first Summit League Championship last season after finishing with a school record 18 wins and 12 league victories to finish tied for third in The Summit League and will look to use that momentum into the 2012 season.
"We feel really good about the momentum we are taking in from last season and also had a great spring season," said Beam. "We have some great depth and leadership coming back from a team that reached the league tournament and won 18 matches."
The Golden Grizzlies will be led by seniors Meghan Bray, an All-Summit League first team selection in 2011, Alli Kirk, who finished 22nd in the NCAA in digs per set last season, and Brittany Holbrook, who ended 2011 with a team-high .260 hitting percentage. Oakland also returns Summit League All-Freshman team selection Taylor Humm, and the teams 2011 assist leader Alissa Valentine.
"We have seven returning players from last year who have all started or played key roles for their entire careers," added Beam. "Meghan Bray is on the verge of breaking the school's all-time kill record, Brittany Holbrook is one of the best blockers in the league and is a strong hitter while Alli Kirk returns as one of the best players in the country in digs per set and leads a group who finished ranked third in the country last year in digs per set."
Oakland will face some of its toughest non-conference opponents in school history as they take on Oregon State, Kansas State and UC Irvine in Manhattan, Kan. to open the season at the Kansas State Tournament Aug. 24-25. For the second consecutive season, the Black and Gold will host the Golden Grizzlies Invitational, hosting Toledo, Eastern Illinois and Iowa at the Athletics Center O'rena Aug. 31-Sept. 1.
"This is a team we have high expectations for so I wanted to stretch us and put out a nationally competitive schedule," said Beam. "I believe that The Summit League can become a two-bid league to the NCAA tournament so we are going to continue to build our RPI in the league by scheduling top-25 and top-50 matches."
Summit League play opens on Sept. 14 as OU will take on Fort Wayne in the O'rena followed by Western Illinois on Sept. 17. Oakland will host North Dakota State, the league regular season and tournament champions, on Sept. 28 while Summit League newcomer Omaha will make its first appearance in the O'rena on Nov. 2.
"The league was ranked 13 out of 32 conferences last season so there is quality top to bottom," added Beam. "I am really expecting the league to be as good, if not better, than it was last season especially in the middle of September and October."
The Golden Grizzlies will open up the season on Saturday when they take place in the annual Black and Gold Scrimmage in the Athletics Center O'rena starting a 5 p.m.