AU Volleyball in Search of First NCAA Victory Friday Night Against Duke

AU Volleyball in Search of First NCAA Victory Friday Night Against Duke

Dec. 1, 2005

Complete notes in PDF format.

TIP OFF: American (25-9) faces Duke (23-7) at 5 p.m. (CST), 6 p.m. (EST) in the Nebraska Coliseum.

FOLLOW LIVE: The NCAASports.com Web site will have live scoring available at: http://ncaasports.com/volleyball/womens/scoreboard/div1/2005/1202 or by clicking here and scrolling down. When available, click the "box score" link and follow the match point-for-point.

THE STORYLINE: This is the fifth straight year and seventh time in school history the Eagles have played in the NCAA Tournament. American is coming off two come-from-behind wins against Bucknell and Army to win the Patriot League Championship as well as a 3-1 victory last Saturday over Temple University.

The 2005 Eagles have been led by All-PL first team selection Cutrina Biddulph (Reseda, Calif./Granada Hills) who is averaging over four kills per game and hitting above .330. She is the school record holder in block assists and is averaging over a block a game. Biddulph was a 2004 AVCA Honorable Mention All-American and Co-Player of the Year for the PL. In addition she has been named to the All-Patriot League First Team each of the last three years and will go down in school as well as league history as one of the most dangerous hitting and blocking threats

Fellow senior Jennifer Cosco (Montvale, N.J./Pascack Hills) and upperclassman Elizabeth Maloney (Toronto, Ontario/Richview C.I.) have added valuable leadership to the team. Cosco is having her best year at the libero spot, notching a career-high 3.34 digs per game, which is fifth all-time in the school's single-season record book. Maloney earned her first All-PL first team honors this year with her strong play on the outside and on the serve. She is averaging over three kills a game and is fifth in the NCAA averaging .74 aces a game.

While the team's upperclassmen head the squad, the team's success is also attributable to its strong contingent of second-year and freshmen contributors. PL Tournament MVP Chelsa Brooks (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Darby) saved her best matches for late, hitting double-digit kills in the last three matches. Freshman outside hitter Rubena Sukaj (Tirana, Albania/Asim Vokshi) is ninth in the NCAA in aces per game with .67 a game and is hitting a shade under .280 with an average of over three and a half kills per game.

Sophomore Tara Stradling (Woodbine, Md./Glenelg) and freshman Christina Nash (Princeton, Fla./Coral Reef) have split time in the Eagles' 6-2 offense setting up the attack. Stradling played her best match of the year in the PL Championship with 37 assists and 13 digs. The 6-3 Nash has emerged as a dangerous threat in passing, blocking and hitting. In PL play Nash is the only freshman in top eight in assists and blocks. She registered a three-game career high of 41 assists in a win over Holy Cross earlier this year.

ABOUT DUKE: The Blue Devils finished third in the ACC and have won 12 of their last 13 matches. In the most recent Rich Kern/AVCA poll they were ranked 32 in RPI. They are 14-0 at home, 3-1 in neutral arenas and 6-6 on the road.

SERIES HISTORY: The Eagles faced the Blue Devils in 2002 and won in five games. Current player Cutrina Biddulph, then a freshman, had 11 kills and hit .429 in the win. Duke was undefeated coming into the match and American went on to their second straight PL Championship.

IN THE PATRIOT LEAGUE: The Eagles are 79-1 in the Patriot League all-time. They lost their only match this year on the road against Army, 3-0. AU won their next regular season match 3-0 and then fought their way back in the PL Championship against the Black Knights. Down 12 points, 22-10 and only eight points away from elimination in the fourth game, American went on a 30-8 run to take the fourth and build an insurmountable lead in the fifth. Statistically, as a team, American led the league in hitting percentage, blocks and service aces. Considering the team had the toughest non-conference schedule of any Patriot League team and she was not the team's primary passer, Cutrina Biddulph was second in the league hitting percentage (.334), third in blocks per game (1.07), third in kills per game (4.05) and second in points per game (5.06).

RECORD VS. THE ACC: American lost to Maryland this year 0-3. Duke split its matches with the Terrapins, winning the second contest, 3-0. Against the ACC in the last five years, American is 1-2 with both losses coming to Maryland.

BARRY GOLDBERG: As the foundation of the Eagles' success for the past 17 years, head coach Barry Goldberg has set a winning standard for all American University coaches. He has amassed 423 wins and his .723 winning percentage is in the top-25 among NCAA Division I women's volleyball coaches. He started his career in 1989 and the team rolled off 25 wins, only two years after going 9-23. Since then, he has had only one losing season, which came in 1996 when the team finished 12-26. He has guided the team to seven NCAA Tournaments, starting in 1997. This year he got his 400th career win, against Loyola on Aug. 30 - a feat only 36 other Division I coaches have reached.

NCAA TOURNAMENT STRUGGLES: The Eagles are 0-7 in the NCAA Tournament in school history. They have won two games in the NCAA Tournament in their career with the first coming in a 3-1 loss to Colorado State (before rally scoring) and against South Carolina in 2002.

25-WIN SEASONS: American is in the midst of its first 25-win season in three years and 10th in school history. In 1994 the team had its most wins in school history with 34.

YOUNG SETTERS: The Eagles' offense features two underclassmen setters. Sophomore Tara Stradling played one game last year in the Tournament match against Penn State and this is freshmen Christina Nash's first year in the NCAA Tournament. Standing at 6-3, Nash's versatility showed as she was the only freshmen in the Patriot League to finish in the top nine in assists and blocks per game.

ACES WILD: American is third in the NCAA in service aces, averaging 2.58 per game. Elizabeth Maloney led the league and is fifth in the NCAA with .72 per game. She is second in the AU single-season record books with 85 aces on the year. In the team's win over Howard University, she notched a career-high eight aces. Rubena Sukaj is close behind her, averaging .68 per game with 80 aces on the season, which is fourth best in the single-season record book at American and highest ever for a freshman.

INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR: Freshman outside hitter Rubena Sukaj comes from Tirana, Albania and follows a long line of international players at American University. Only a freshman, Sukaj has international experience as she played for the Albanian National Team and participated in the World Championships Qualifier, where she finished as the third best scorer. The All-Patriot League second team nomination follows in the footsteps of 2002 graduate and Verizon CoSIDA Academic Player of the Year Karla Kucerkova.

YOUTHFUL EAGLES: American lost six seniors to graduation in 2004 and have only three upperclassmen on this year's team. Chelsa Brooks, Christina Nash, Tara Stradling, Rubena Sukaj and Logan Striebel all play prominent roles in the team as first or second-year players.