March 6, 2014
NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane University sand volleyball team will open its third collegiate campaign and its first under new head coach Wayne Holly on over the weekend when the Green Wave travel to DeLand, Fla., to participate in the Stetson Spring Break Duals.
Tulane will face host Stetson at 10 a.m. on Friday before facing Florida Gulf Coast at 2 p.m. In addition to the Green Wave's matches, Florida Gulf Coast will face Warner at 8 a.m. and Warner will take on Stetson at noon. From there, pairs from all four teams will square off in a bracketed tournament on Saturday starting at 8 a.m.
"We're excited to start things off, that's for sure," Holly said. "We've been training for two months and we expect to play very well. We'll just have to see how the results turn out. We're all excited to get there and get ready to go."
The Green Wave are coming off a 2013 season which saw the team post a 9-4 overall record and finish 10th in the final American Volleyball Coaches Association Poll. In addition, Tulane picked up its first victory over a nationally-ranked program when the Wave defeated then-No. 6 FIU, 4-1, on March 30 in Miami.
Tulane is 2-1 all-time against Stetson, going 1-1 against the Hatters in 2012 and posting a 3-2 win in the final match of the Tulane Pelican Classic on March 17, 2013, at Coconut Beach. Against Florida Gulf Coast, the Green Wave sport a 1-1 mark with a 3-2 loss on April 13, 2012, and a 5-0 sweep on April 12, 2013.
"I expect a lot of success this year coming off where they were last year where they were ranked high and played at a good level," Holly said. "It's going to be a challenge to maintain that level of success because there are so many more teams this year. We're at over 40 teams now in the NCAA college game, and with more teams comes greater competition. We strengthened our schedule a little bit this year. It'll be a real challenge, but again, every day that we get out of bed we expect to be successful. We'll see how it turns out."
Joining the team for the 2014 season are freshmen Miah Diirell, Tea Juric, Annie Shurtz and Sarah Strasner - who helped Tulane's indoor team finish 28-4 and advance to the title game of the Conference USA Championship during the fall - as well as sand-only rookie Hannah Holmes.
"It's come together about as good as we can expect," Holly added. "The freshmen are experienced players, even though they are freshmen. They're new to being in college student-athletes, but they're not new to playing sand volleyball. Some of them have more experience than our returning veterans. But it's been great.
"The veterans have been able to teach the younger players and showed them the ropes on what it takes to be a college athlete, handle the traveling and so on. The younger student-athletes are teaching a little bit on the court about how the dynamics of sand volleyball are different than indoor. It's worked wonderfully, and actually some of our pairings are veterans and freshmen. Both the veterans and the freshmen have been open minded about helping each other out to improve both on their [pairings] team and our program."
After the weekend in Florida, the Green Wave return to action on Friday, March 14, when they travel to Tucson, Ariz., to open play in the Wildcat Spring Challenge against Arizona Christian. Tulane will also face Arizona State and host Arizona during the tournament before playing its first home match of the 2014 campaign on March 26 at Coconut Beach in Kenner against in-state rival and first-year program, LSU.