Aug 31, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Tulane volleyball's third match - including their second on the day - was a true nail biter, but the Green Wave pulled out a victory over Nicholls State in five sets to win the Kathy Trosclair Memorial Tournament Saturday night at Devlin Fieldhouse.
The first five matches of the tournament only went three sets each, but the final match of the weekend provided a slew of excitement and action, with Tulane winning the fifth set, 15-13, to remain undefeated on the young season.
The freshmen were the talk of the match, as the top three Green Wave kill leaders were all rookies. Tea Juric posted 16 to pace the team, while Sarah Strasner recorded 13 and Annie Shurtz notched 10. Juric also managed 13 digs, while junior Grace Weaver led the team with 14.
"Our freshmen are pulling their weight," said Tulane director of volleyball Sinisa Momic. "Annie played very well all weekend. During the first two matches, she hit close to .600 with 15 kills each. She did well when we needed her. Sarah will be a great player for us, also. Tea also carried the load when it mattered."
Senior Mel Mandelbaum led the way in assists with 37.
Despite the strong individual performances from the Green Wave, things did not always appear like they would work out for Tulane on the evening. The squad started the first set strong, leading throughout a good portion of the action. Nicholls State - who went 1-2 on the weekend - tied things at 20, and they never looked back, eventually winning the set 25-21. Freshman Tea Juric led Tulane in kills during the set, and Wruck notched her solo block.
Tulane evened the playing field in the second set with a 25-16 win. Strasner and Martone posted three block assists each at the net, while Shurtz led the set with three kills. However, the second set was much more of a team effort, as Juric, Wruck and Strasner all had two kills each. Tulane served the ball well during the set, as Shurtz and Mandelbaum both had service aces.
The third set showed the same results as the second, as Tulane won, 25-16. The team hit .609 during the set, with Shurtz (four), Juric (three), Strasner (three) and Martone (two) all recording multiple kills.
Instead of putting the Colonels away, Tulane allowed their opponent to creep back into the action, as Nicholls State won the fourth set, 25-21. Tulane had to play from behind through most of the set, as Nicholls State established an early lead. The Green Wave made a valiant effort towards the end of the set, making it interesting at 24-12 on a block by Wruck and Shurtz, but Nicholls State put it away on a kill during the next play. With an abbreviated fifth set in view, Tulane turned the heat up by scoring the first four points of the set thanks in part to kills by Martone, Juric and Strasner. After Tulane went up 10-2, Nicholls State forced Tulane to pick up their play as they cut the lead to four with a score of 11-7. However, a few kills by Shurtz, and some errors on Nicholls State allowed Tulane to come out victorious.
"(Tonight) got tight because we made it tight," added Momic. "We were not executing our defense on a level where we should be at all at some points. That makes it hard to play. Our blocking needs to get much better and our serving needs to get much better. But, that is something we are going to build on. We pulled it out in the end, and that is the most important thing. We got three wins for our program in the opening weekend, and that's not a bad start."
The Kathy Trosclair All-Tournament Team was named after the final match. Mississippi Valley State's Steffi Rodriguez, Rider's Kaitlyn Griffin and Nicholls State's Kayla Burling joined Mandelbaum, Strasner and the tournament MVP Shurtz on the squad.
Tulane did not win their third match last year until their 11th match of the season. With the three victories in the first weekend of the 2013 season, Tulane has already achieved a win total that is half of their 2012 win total.
Tulane will hit the road on Tuesday and head north as they will take on the Southeastern Louisiana Lions at 7pm CT in Hammond, La.
Fans can follow the Green Wave volleyball program on Twitter (GreenWaveVB) or on Facebook at facebook.com/GreenWaveVolleyball.