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Courtesy: Toledo Athletics
Toledo opens its 2013 campaign this weekend by hosting the Blue/Gold Invitational.

Toledo Hosts Blue-Gold Invitational This Weekend; Entertains EIU, Loyola (IL), Marist and WVU

Courtesy: Toledo Athletics
Release: 08/27/2013
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      TOLEDO, OH - Toledo opens its 2013 campaign this weekend by hosting the Blue/Gold Invitational. The Rockets will face Marist at Noon and Loyola (IL) at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30, Eastern Illinois at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31 and West Virginia at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 1.
      The Rockets return all six starters from last year’s squad, including senior MB Dakota Harkins who earned second-team All-Mid-American Conference honors last year. Harkins ranked fourth in the MAC with 1.06 blocks per set and sixth with a .296 attack mark. UT’s returning starters also include seniors Jordan Kielty, Adria Pryor, Lauren Rafdal, Becca Reidy and junior Brooke Frazer.
      Toledo’s veterans will be supplemented by a group of six newcomers led by freshman Ellen Hays, who is slated to take over the libero duties and help improve the team’s back row defensive efforts. Fellow classmates Alyssa Ehrhardt and Maggie Johnston will look to aid Hays and provide the Rockets stronger ball control and an improved transition game.
      Marist is coming off a 12-16 campaign with junior Mackenzie Stephens leading the Red Foxes with a MAAC-best 1.13 blocks per set to go along with a .303 ATK%.
      Loyola brings back five starters plus its libero from last year’s squad that finished 17-12 and tied for the largest improvement in Division I volleyball. Junior RSH Laura Purcell is the Ramblers’ top returnee with a .246 ATK% and 2.64 kps.
      Senior Reynae Hutchinson is one of four returning starters for EIU (11-21 in 2012) and earned All-Ohio Valley Conference honors with a team-high 2.73 kps.
      West Virginia returns all six starters (two seniors, four sophomores) from last year’s 8-22 squad. Sophomore OH Hannah Sackett led the Mountaineers with 2.04 kps, while sophomore S Brittany Sample tallied 8.89 aps and 2.53 dps.     

      Following is the schedule for this weekend with all matches to be played in Savage Arena (7,300): 

Loyola (IL) vs. Eastern Illinois, 10:00 a.m.
Marist at Toledo, Noon
Marist vs. Eastern Illinois, 5:00 p.m.
Loyola (IL) at Toledo, 7:00 p.m. 

Eastern Illinois vs. West Virginia, 10:00 a.m.
Loyola (IL) vs. Marist, Noon
Loyola (IL) vs. West Virginia, 5:00 p.m.
Eastern Illinois at Toledo, 7:00 p.m.

West Virginia at Toledo, 2:00 p.m.

      Toledo was awarded the AVCA Team Academic Award for the 2012-13 school year. It marked the 13th straight season the Rockets have received the award which is the second-longest streak in the country. 

      After falling by a narrow 27-25 margin in the opening set, the Blue rebounded with convincing 25-16 and 25-16 victories in the final two sets to post a 2-1 triumph over the Gold.
      Senior RSH Becca Reidy paced the Blue team with 11 kills and a .348 attack percentage with senior MB Dakota Harkins (.350 ATK%) and freshman OH Alyssa Ehrhardt (.222 ATK%) each contributing nine kills. Freshman libero Ellen Hays paced the victors with 16 digs, while junior MB Brooke Frazer notched a team-high six blocks.
      Senior OH Lauren Rafdal topped the Gold squad with eight kills with sophomore MB Daiva Wise and freshman RSH Mary O’Connor each tallying seven terminations. Freshman DS Maggie Johnston registered a match-high 18 digs with Wise tallying a team-high six rejections. 

      Toledo has six newcomers — junior Natalia Parreira (Uberlandia, Brazil) and freshmen Alyssa Ehrhardt (Algonquin, IL), Ellen Hays (Temperance, MI), Maggie Johnston (Germantown, WI), Mary O’Connor (Muskego, WI) and Lindsay Smith (Perrysburg, OH) — joining its program for the 2013 campaign. 

      Toledo posted a 3-0 victory over Marist in 2009 in its only previous meeting against the Red Foxes...The Rockets dropped a 3-2 setback to Loyola (IL) in 1987, marking the only occasion the two schools have met on the volleyball court...UT leads its all-time series vs. Eastern Illinois by a 3-1 margin, including a 3-2 triumph in last year’s Golden Grizzlies Invitational...West Virginia possesses a 4-1 mark against UT, but the two schools have not met since 1985. 

• Senior MB Dakota Harkins is UT’s all-time leader with a .299 career attack percentage and 0.96 blocks per set entering the 2013 season.
• Head Coach Greg Smith is undefeated in four season openers at the helm of the Rockets. UT’s last defeat came at Ohio State in 2008. 

      Toledo begins a stretch of four straight weekends on the road when it travels to Youngstown, OH next weekend to compete in the YSU Invitational.
            UT open tournament play against Tulane at 1:00 p.m. and St. Francis (PA) at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6 followed by a matchup against the host Penguins on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 1:00 p.m.

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