Veteran Leadership Sparks Record-Breaking Season

By Grant Martin

2009_volleyballSuccess has been a constant for UAB’s volleyball team in recent years, but the 2008 squad reached a new standard. Led by four all-conference seniors, the Blazers had the best season in school history, setting records for the most wins (26) and longest winning streak (16 games). The team advanced to the finals of the Conference USA Tournament for the third straight year and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history.

“You have to give a lot of credit to our seniors,” says UAB coach Kerry Messersmith. “I know they were a little disappointed because they wanted to win the conference championship in their final year, but the trophies they have collected over the past three years say they have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.”

The four UAB players named to the all-conference squad marked the most players from UAB in C-USA history. Nevena Stefanov was named first-team all-conference as well as the C-USA setter of the year, while teammates Ivana Bozic and Casey Dent joined her as first-team all-conference selections. Lilly Domingos was named to the all-conference second team.

Stefanov, who also earned first-team honors in 2007, was named the C-USA Setter of the Week twice as a senior and seven times in her career. She also was just the second Blazer ever to reach the 5,000-assist plateau.

Bozic was named to the all-conference squad for the third time in her career, having been voted to the first team in 2006 and the third team in 2005. As a senior, she led UAB in both kills and digs heading into the NCAA Tournament. She posted 16 double-doubles and was named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Week three times.

Dent, who earned second-team all-conference honors in 2007, turned in the best season of her career in 2008. Over her four years at UAB, Dent compiled a .335 career hitting percentage to rank second in school history. The middle blocker was also named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Team, as voted on by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Domingos, last year’s C-USA Newcomer of the Year, led UAB in blocks but also contributed offensively with 2.10 kills per set and a .290 hitting percentage. She had a career-high 16 kills twice in 2008 and a season-best eight blocks on three occasions, and was named a C-USA Defensive Player of the Week.