By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The University of Cincinnati volleyball team received the news it had been hoping for this week. The Bearcats, 17-2 and fresh off an upset of No. 17 Louisville on Friday, were ranked No. 25 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association/USA Today poll, the first time the UC volleyball program has been ranked.
"We've always known that we've had the potential to be a Top 25 team," said setter Laura Lauder. "It was just a matter of being consistent enough to get up there."
Lauder, a senior from Louisville, is a big reason the Bearcats have played so well this year. She leads the nation in assists with 15.08 per game.
"She has that fire inside of her and she's worked hard," said Reed Sunahara, in his fourth year as UC's head coach after three years as an assistant. "She's overcome injuries and adversity. She's pretty feisty, and that helps this team."
As the setter, Lauder controls much of what happens on the court. It's her job to read the blocks and set up UC's hot hitters.
Junior Julie DuPont, a second-team all-Conference USA selection last year, is UC's leading hitter with 5.90 kills per game, which ranks her ninth nationally. Three other UC players - Maria Pongonis (McNicholas) Leslie Newell and Rachel Torblaa - average more than three kills per game.
"I feel confident in every hitter I have this year," Lauder said. "The block doesn't know where I'm going to set, because I'm able to spread the ball out and set everyone."
UC has been to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four years, three under Sunahara, but has never advanced beyond the second round.
"Hopefully we can get to the Sweet 16 this year," said Sunahara, who won three NCAA titles playing for UCLA. "That's the goal of this team. ... Is it possible? Yeah, anything's possible."
UC plays at Charlotte on Friday and at East Carolina on Saturday. Its next home match is Oct. 24 against Southern Miss.
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