Tea Juric leads the Green Wave with nine kills and 11 digs; Anna Wruck named to All-Tournament Team
Etta, Juric and Ray post double-double performances; Green Wave to wrap tourney on Saturday vs FAU
Green Wave hit a season-best .256 with 40 kills in 90 swings to pick up first win of the 2014 campaign
Green Wave to face Southeastern Louisiana, Howard and FAU in first home matches of 2014 season
Freshman Sarah Ray tallies first career double-double with 11 kills and 11 digs in the loss
Photos by Parker Waters
If success is measure by victories and accolades, then the Sinisa Momic era has started with its fair share of successes for the Tulane Volleyball program. However in 2013, Tulane posted one of the best records in the country, and one of the greatest seasons in Tulane history.
Momic is entering his sixth year as the front man for the program, but is neither a stranger to the position nor a stranger to the Tulane program. The former professional athlete and coach in Croatia has spent the better part of ten years on the Uptown campus in various capacities.
Momic was named just the eighth head coach in the history of the Tulane volleyball program on March 23, 2009, after spending the previous six seasons with the Green Wave in various assistant coaching roles.
Despite the struggles the team went through in 2012 on their way to a 6-21 record, Momic and his staff put together one of the finest seasons in Tulane history in 2013, as the team posted the NCAA's largest turnaround from 2012 to 2013. The Green Wave finished the 2013 season at 28-4, good for second place in Conference USA despite being picked to finish 10th in the preseason poll.
In addition to that, Momic racked up numerous accolades during the 2013 campaign, including being named the Conference USA Coach of the Year and the LSWA Louisiana Coach of the Year. Momic was the first coach in Tulane history to win the Conference USA Coach of the Year award, outright.
Momic's 2013 squad also earned a slew of individual honors, as Cori Martone, Mel Mandelbaum and Tea Juric were all named First Team All-Conference USA, and Mandelbaum (Setter of the Year) and Juric (Freshman of the Year) earned individual accolades from the league. Martone and Mandelbaum also earned AVCA Honorable Mention All-American status.
Tulane got out to a good start in 2011, but couldn't find their stride during the Conference USA slate, finished with a 9-22 overall record and 4-16 mark in C-USA competition. Though the team success wasn't bountiful, a pair of players brought home postseason honors from Conference USA. Cori Martone earned Second Team All-Conference USA laurels and rookie Anna Wruck was a member of the conferences All-Freshman Team.
Martone and Wruck were also among the Tulane players honored by the State, along with senior Nikki Osuna. Martone earned first team all-state, Wruck was named to the all-state second team and Osuna received honorable mention honors after recording the second most digs in single season school history.
The Green Wave's second season under Momic didn't start out the way the squad had planned, but a roster peppered with underclassmen came on strong at the end of the season to win six of their last seven matches and finish in a tie for sixth place in Conference USA with a 10-10 mark in conference play. The roster featured seven freshman, three sophomore, one junior and two seniors. Martone, which was one of three rookies to play in 30-plus games, earned the Conference USA Freshman of the Year honors.
Izabela Grot grabbed the team's lone All-Conference USA award, landing on the second team, and was named the Newcomer of the Year in the state of Louisiana by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The redshirt-sophomore earned first team all-state honors, Martone was a second team all-state pick and Milica Jovic earned honorable mention honors from the states writers. Lindsey Shepard became the first player in school history to earn three selections to the Academic All-C-USA squad and eight players earned Conference USA Commissioners Honor Roll.
In his first season at the helm of the Olive and Blue, Momic helped the team to an 18-10 overall mark and earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. In 2009, four of his players earned postseason honors from C-USA, with Visnja Djurdjevic earning the Co-Conference USA Player of the Year accolade. Along with the POTY award, Djurdjevic was named to the All-CUSA First Team. Rachel Lindelow and Ksenija Vlaskovic were each named to the All-CUSA Second Team, while Marija Milosavljevic garnered All-Freshman team honors.
Djurdjevic and Lindelow each earned AVCA All-Midwest Region honors in 2009, while Lindsey Shepard was named to the Conference USA All-Academic team.
Momic came to Tulane midway through the 2002 season and served the latter portion of that year and all of the 2003 season as the volunteer assistant under then-head coach Betsy Becker. He became the team's second assistant in 2004 and 2005 was tabbed the team's No. 1 assistant and recruiting coordinator. In that capacity, he was responsible for overseeing all aspects of player development, practice design and implementation, as well as expanding Tulane's recruiting base.
During his four years as the top assistant and recruiting coordinator, Momic was responsible for successfully recruiting the bulk of the 2008 roster that helped the team go 26-8, win the Conference USA regular-season and tournament titles and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
His recruits have gone on to rewrite the Tulane volleyball record book, including Sara Radosevic - who completed her career as the Green Wave's career leader in service aces (197) and kills per set (4.73) - Luna Rebrovic - who finished the 2008 season third in Tulane career assists (3,359) - and Bridget Wells - whose 1,211 kills and 261 blocks rank 10th and 12th in Tulane history, respectively.
A native of Zagreb, Croatia, Momic has been able to open the international pipelines of recruiting to the Tulane program which helped land four stars on the 2008 C-USA Championship Green Wave team. Radosevic and Rebrovic both hail from his hometown, and Radosevic became the first player in Tulane history to claim C-USA Player of the Year honors in 2008 and was a four-time All-America selection by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
Overall, Momic has been able to land nine international student athletes, including Vlaskovic (Pozarevac, Serbia) and Djurdjevic (Zitiste, Serbia) who claimed AVCA Midwest Region and C-USA Freshman of the Year honors in 2006 and 2008, respectively. His first recruiting class as a head coach, meanwhile, produced another pair of international standouts as former Serbian Junior National Team members Milica Jovic and Milosavljevic.
During Momic's tenure at Tulane, the Green Wave have seen their front-row hitters earn AVCA All-America honors in four of the last seven seasons, with a total of eight honors coming since 2003.
While Momic's collegiate coaching experience is limited to his time at Tulane, he brings a wealth of knowledge both as a player and a coach in his native land.
During his professional career, Momic helped his teams win the Croatian Championship and Croatian Cup four times. First breaking into the professional ranks at age 17 for VB Club Mladost in Zagreb, he joined their First Team which competed in the former Yugoslavian League and, later, the Croatian League. Momic competed there until 1994, helping the squad win the Croatian Championship and Croatian Cup three times each.
From there, he played in different Croatian and Austrian teams until 2001 when he came back to Mladost to help the team win the championship again as a player/assistant coach in 2002. He later joined the Men's Junior Croatian National Team as an assistant coach and went on to help the program qualify for the European Championship and finish in the Top 10.
In addition, Momic played professional beach volleyball from 1994-2001 where he won the Croatian Championship in 1994 and finished in the Top 4 in the majority of his 37 tournament appearances.
Momic graduated from The High School for Economics in 1993 and earned his bachelor's degree from University of Kinesiology-Zagreb in 2000, where he received certification as a senior volleyball coach - the highest volleyball coaching degree. While at the school, he learned from some of the best American, Chinese and Russian coaches.
Momic comes from a family rich in volleyball tradition. His brother Sasa, who played for the Croatian National Team and was often a beach volleyball partner, continues to play professionally in Europe. His father, Slobodan, has been involved in the sport in Europe for decades, including a stint as general secretary of the Croatia Volleyball Federation. He organized and planned the competition and training aspect of the team's 17-day excursion to Croatia in the summer of 2008, as the Green Wave barnstormed his native country playing club and national teams.
Momic is married to the former Lacey Vicknair, whom he met while both were playing for their respective men's and women's teams in the same professional volleyball club in Austria. Vicknair helped lead the Tulane women's basketball team to the NCAA Tournament from 1996-99 before turning her attention to volleyball where she lettered for the Green Wave squad in 1999 before turning professional.