ORU Opens 2013 Season at TSU Invitational
Live statistical coverage of all three matches is available on Texas Southern’s official athletics website, athletics.tsu.edu.
Oral Roberts posted a 17-15 record in 2012, with an 11-7 record in Southland Conference play. The Golden Eagles return four starters and eight letter winners from last season’s team, while the roster includes six newcomers who could potentially make their debut for Sheera Sirola's team this weekend.
Last season, the Golden Eagles became the first No. 6 seed in Southland Conference history to advance to the SLC Tournament Championship Match when they swept No. 3 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and No. 2 seed Sam Houston State in the first two rounds. ORU was beaten by tournament host and No. 1 seed Central Arkansas in the SLC Championship Match, 3-1, to end their Cinderella run through the postseason.
Three of ORU's returners were named to the Preseason All-SLC 1st Team last week. Reigning SLC Libero of the Year Bruna Silva, Jessica Pancratz and Laura Taylor were all recognized among the league's top performers heading into the 2013 campaign.
Opinions were varied on the Golden Eagles in last week's Southland Conference Preseason Polls. SLC Coaches picked the Golden Eagles second, with two first place votes, while the league's media relations personnel slotted ORU in a tie for 5th.
Defending champion Central Arkansas was the preseason favorite in both SLC polls.
All three of ORU’s opponents at the TSU Invitational are members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Golden Eagles are 5-0 all-time against SWAC members, with the most recent victory coming on September 9, 2011, a 3-1 win over Prairie View A&M in Lake Charles, La.
Texas Southern posted a 15-15 record in 2012 and finished the season with an RPI of 297. The Tigers went 6-2 in the SWAC West Division, good for a 2nd place finish. Sophomore Robyn Shannon led the Tigers as a freshman last season with 3.02 kills per set and a .275 hitting percentage.
Prairie View A&M was 14-21 in 2012, with an NCAA Division I RPI of 289. The Panthers were much stronger in SWAC play, going 7-1 to win the SWAC West Division regular season championship. Senior Kelsey Espinosa is Prairie View’s top returner after averaging 7.94 assists per set last season, 4th-best in the SWAC.
Southern struggled in 2012, posting a 4-25 record and finishing with an RPI of 324. The Jaguars were 1-7 in SWAC West Division play last season Junior Marisol Macias led Southern with 1.45 kills per set and 25 service aces last season, while senior Michelle Williams added a team-best 3.12 digs per set.
Oral Roberts is 15-10 all-time in the city of Houston, although they’ve made the trip to America’s 4th-largest city just once since 1981, going 2-1 at the 2007 Mizuno Invitational, hosted by Rice.
This is the eighth consecutive season that the Golden Eagles have opened the season on the road at a four-team tournament. ORU went 2-1 at the UB Invitational in Buffalo, N.Y., to open the 2012 season, and they last opened the season 3-0 in 2009, when they knocked off UT-Arlington, Gardner-Webb and Illinois State at the Redbird Classic in Normal, Ill.
Following the season-opening TSU Invitational, ORU will head back to Oklahoma for their first local appearance of 2013. The Golden Eagles will bus across town to face city rival Tulsa on Tuesday, September 3. First serve at the Reynolds Center is scheduled for 7 pm CT.