Nov. 18, 2005
WASHINGTON - For the fifth straight year, the American University women's volleyball team will host the Patriot League Tournament and play for a berth in the NCAA Tournament beginning tonight when they take on Bucknell at 6 p.m. in Bender Arena. The winner of that match will play the victor of Army versus Navy match on Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the PL Championship.
"We're excited about this weeekend's championship," said head coach Barry Goldberg. "We are in the best position we could be, hosting the tournament on our home floor with a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament."
The 2005 Eagle squad entered the season forced to replace the loss of six graduated seniors from the 2004 team. Thanks to a handful of athletes who stepped in and filled the gaps, headed by All-PL First Team selection Cutrina Biddulph (Reseda, Calif./Granada Hills), the Eagles have not shown marked signs of their growing pains, achieving a 22-9 record including 13 league wins. Biddulph has been the team's leader throughout the season, accumulating a .343 hitting percentage and a 4.09 kills per game average. In league play she has been undoubtedly the finest hitter with a .427 hitting percentage and 4.52 kills per game average - both tops in the conference. Combined with blocks and service aces, she averages 5.49 points per game, which also leads the league. Defensively, she has averaged 1.04 blocks per game overall, which is third in the league.
Alongside Biddulph, outside hitter and All-PL First Team selection Elizabeth Maloney (Toronto, Ontario/Richview C.I.) has been having a career year. The junior leads the league in service aces per game and stands at fourth in the NCAA. Earlier this year she dropped eight service aces in a 3-0 win over Howard. She has averaged 3.00 kills per game overall and 3.41 in league play, averaging .324 against PL opponents.
Also providing firepower up front has been freshman Rubena Sukaj (Tirana, Albania/Asim Vokshi) who was named to the All-PL Second Team. The outside hitter came to American with impressive credentials and has not disappointed in her first year, averaging 3.52 kills per game and hitting .279 overall, while notching a career-high of 21 kills twice this year. She is second in the league in service aces in conference play.
Setter Christina Nash (Princeton, Fla./Coral Reef) has set up the Eagles playmaking over the course of the second half of the year, working her way up to a starting role in the rotation. The 6-3 playmaker has become a triple threat for American as she's grown more comfortable with the team. Working primarily as the Eagles' best passer, Nash also blocks and can hit, averaging .347 in league play for her 42 kills. In league play she is the only frosh in the top eight in assists and blocks.
The team's defensive anchor throughout 2005 has been senior libero Jennifer Cosco (Montvale, N.J./Pascack Hills). Thrust into the starting role, she is having a career year for the Eagles with career-highs in digs per game average at 3.36 with a high of 24 in the team's 3-2 win over Georgetown.
Much of their in-league success can be attributed to their difficult non-conference schedule which included matches against No. 20 University of San Diego and No. 26 Long Beach State as well as regional foes University of Pittsburgh and Maryland.
The Eagles look to continue their winning ways against a Bucknell squad that is 17-13 on the year. AU holds a 14-1 all-time advantage over the Bison with two 3-0 sweeps this year. Biddulph was a monster in the wins, totaling 32 kills over the six games.
The two teams play tonight at 6 p.m. for a right to play in the nationally-televised PL Championship game on Saturday 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on College Sports Television on Sunday at 8 p.m.