April 13, 2014
SIESTA KEY, Fla. - Two Green Wave tandems earned spots in the Gold Bracket and the team of junior Olivia Utt and sophomore Courtney Liddle advance to the finals of the 23 Silver Bracket as the Tulane University sand volleyball team put up a solid showing at the Sixth Annual Fiesta At Siesta Key over the weekend at Siesta Key Beach.
Playing in a somewhat unusual format and one of 30 teams participating in the Fiesta At Siesta Key, the Green Wave held their own against some of the top programs from around the country and turned a few heads along the way.
"Overall, this was the most productive weekend of the season for us - not just because we accomplished so many of our goals but because of the leaning and growth this tournament allows," first-year Tulane head coach Wayne Holly said. "Collectively, our pairs played in nearly 30 games or matches over the last two days and we played a dual on Friday before the event started. I thought we did a real good job of handling all of the competition, both mentally and physically. I'm looking forward to seeing how well we play down the stretch run of the regular season."
Headlining Tulane's list of accomplishments at the Fiesta At Siesta Key was the effort of Liddle and Utt. The duo went 2-1 in pod play - sandwiching a 25-14 win over South Carolina's Jordan Loney and Jade Vitt and a 25-19 victory over Grand Canyon's Britta Forsyth and Brandy Grant around a 25-15 loss to Webber International's Brittany Mock and Alida Schat.
Once in the Silver Bracket, the Tulane team made quick work of Stetson's Erika White and Kara Young (25-16), Florida State's Kayla Joyce and Lexy Ryan (25-19), Florida Atlantic's Megan Knapp and Mandy McIntosh and Georgia State's Milani Pickering and Natalie Wilson (25-22).
"They were terrific on Saturday. That four-win run to the finals was as well as I have ever seen them play together, and to compete into overtime in the finals shows a lot of growth. I want to see them sustain that level for the remainder of the season."
Also having solid pool-play performances were Tulane's top tandem of sophomore Jackie Wegner and freshman Tea Juric as well as the No. 3 team of junior Anna Wruck along with freshman Hannah Holmes as both advanced to the Gold Bracket.
Juric and Wegner opened the Fiesta At Siesta Key with a 21-19, 22-20 win over Jacksonville's Kendall Courtney and Niatha Cullen and a 21-16, 17-21, 15-13 victory over LSU's Katie Lindelow and Meghan Mannari before stumbling to Florida State's Kristina and Stephanie Pellitteri by scores of 21-13 and 21-18. Holmes and Wruck, meanwhile, dropped their tournament opener to Florida Gulf Coast's Marlene Moeller and Madi Wilcox but bounced back to defeat Webber International and UAB.
Both teams, however, came up empty in the Gold Bracket itself as Juric and Wegner fell to Aurora Davis and Jace Pardon of Florida State 21-11, 22-20 while Holmes and Wruck dropped a 25-22 decision to the Seminoles' Hailey Luke and Sierra Sanchez.
"Jackie and Tea drew a real tough team in the Gold Bracket in FSU," Holly added. "Both Aurora Davis and Jace Pardon are All-Americans and play the game at an elite collegiate level. It was good for us to play them twice in two days because to become the best in the game it is important to compete against top competition. We competed well at least in the second set and put ourselves in a position to go to a third set in that match. We will get there...soon."
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, April 19, when they travel to Baton Rouge to take on host LSU and UAB at 10 a.m. and noon, respectively.