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This Week's Sports Notebook

1/29/09 6:00pm

Schamun earns top setter honors

On the heels of a season during which the women's volleyball team qualified for the NCAA tournament for only the second time in school history, sophomore setter Meredith Schamun earned high honors of her own. On Jan. 23, Collegiate Volleyball Update named Schamun as one of the top five setters in the country. The top setter of the year was Alisha Glass of Pennsylvania State University, who helped the Nittany Lions win the NCAA tournament.

Rice volleyball head coach Genny Volpe said she believes Schamun clearly earned the honor.

"I was definitely happy for her because statistically and from the way our offense was run this year . and the fact that she was top ten in assists and the fact that there was such a strong turnaround from 2007 to 2008 doesn't surprise me," Volpe said. "She definitely deserved it."

Schamun posted 1,308 assists on the season, making her ninth-best in Rice history. This season, Schamun has earned several other honors: She was named to the 2008 All-Conference USA first team, AVCA All-Midwest Regional team and she was an AVCA honorable mention All-American. She was also C-USA Player of the Week once and C-USA Setter of the Week twice.

Schamun posted 11.58 assists per set through the Owls' 31 matches, good for 10th-best in the country. Her job setting assists aided Rice in finishing ninth in the nation in kills per set with 14.5.

During their bid to the NCAA championships, the Owls went 23-8 overall and 12-4 in conference action. At the NCAA tournament, Rice went four sets against then-13th ranked Wichita State University, eventually falling 3-1. Posting a set win might have been a moral victory for Volpe's squad, considering Wichita State was undefeated coming into championship play.

Although Rice went out in the first round of play, every other setter named in the top five played for a school that qualified at least for the Sweet Sixteen. Two teams made it past that checkpoint: the aforementioned Penn State, and the University of Iowa, which made it to the Elite Eight.

Schamun was surprised by the award and said it shows how high a caliber of play the volleyball team has achieved.

"It says a lot about Rice's program and how much we've improved over the years," Schamun said. "Not only in our assists, but also our hitting percentage, kills per game and our digs per game is really high . People [nationally] are really starting to notice Rice."

- Natalie Clericuzio

Offensive Coordinator named

Rice football's hole at offensive coordinator is no more. Former Purdue University quarterbacks coach Ed Zaunbrecher, whose hiring was announced Jan. 23, will replace former coordinator Tom Herman, who took a job and a pay raise at Iowa State University Jan. 3.

By the looks of Zaunbrecher's history, the Owls' offense will be in good hands. In addition to maintaining a gridiron job during every college football season since 1973, Zaunbrecher has mentored three successful NFL quarterbacks: Rex Grossman of the Chicago Bears, Byron Leftwich of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chad Pennington of the Miami Dolphins.

Even though he has had plenty of time with playbooks, Zaunbrecher's newest challenge will be learning Rice's system. Zaunbrecher will not be installing his own offense at Rice, as the Owls will stick to the plays that brought them success with Chase Clement, Jarett Dillard and James Casey last season.

The former Boilermaker served the previous three seasons as the both coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Purdue. In 2006, Curtis Painter, one of Zaunbrecher's mentees, broke Drew Brees' Big 10 single-season passing record by two yards, throwing for 3,985 yards.

Zaunbrecher was unavailable for comment when this article went to press.

- Natalie Clericuzio

Former Owl makes NFL Pro Bowl

Ryan Pontbriand (Sid Richardson '03) was named to his second Pro Bowl as the long-snapper and center for the Cleveland Browns. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2003 draft, as the highest picked long-snapper in the history of the NFL.

- Yan Digilov

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