Sept. 2, 2011
NEW ORLEANS - With a tropical storm approaching, the Tulane volleyball team weathered a storm of their own on Friday evening to open the Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Classic. The Green Wave trailed 2-0 heading into the third set versus San Diego State, but rallied to claim a 3-2 (19-25, 23-25, 25-20, 25-21, 18-16) victory over the Aztecs - who were receiving votes in the national polls - at Fogelman Arena to open the home portion of their schedule.
"I just told (the team) we made a huge improvement from last weekend," said Tulane head coach Sinisa Momic. "We came out (of the locker room) after being down 2-0 against a team that's getting votes to be ranked and played really tough down the stretch. (The coaching staff) knew we were a really good team and we see now that we need to be more confident in ourselves. There's no need for us to be so inconsistent on the floor. This win can move us up to that next level, where we can be a more confident team that can score more easily, dig more consistently and play on a higher level."
Tulane led in each of the first two sets, but a stingy Aztec defense kept the Green Wave at bay, limiting TU to just a .120 hitting percentage through two sets. The Aztecs hit .219 over the first two frames and pulled away late in each of them to post set wins of 25-19 and 25-23.
Just as the winds that whipped around Fogelman Arena on this night, the Green Wave came out of the locker room after the break with a more focused and precise attack and went about evening up the match with solid efforts in the third and four sets.
In the third set, Anna Wruck and Cori Martone each helped the team's attack by playing stout defense at the net and added kills to go along. The Green Wave led by two points, twice, early on in the match, but SDSU rallied to knot the score each time. After an Andrea Hannasch kill evened the match at 15-15, a pair of attacking errors gave the Green Wave a 17-15 edge. Martone would account for four of the team's final eight points, including the last two of the match on kills, to get the team their first set win of the evening.
The fifth set was a back-and-forth affair between the two teams, but Tulane forced the Aztecs to commit more errors than they did to claim the 18-16 victory. San Diego State led by as many as four, bolstering their lead to 12-8 and looked to be closing the match out with a tough service, but a six-point service rotation by Izabela Grot gave the home team a 14-12 lead that it would never relinquish. The Green Wave's blocking came to life towards at the end of the match, with Tulane forcing two hitting errors and collecting two blocks, including a block by Wruck and Jovic to close out the match at 18-16.
"Our two goals for today were to pass much better than we did last weekend and to beat teams that are at a higher level right now," said Momic. "Our passing was kind of inconsistent, but we still pulled out a win and we knew we would have to have a blocking system that was always set up right to beat (San Diego State). That's something that was kind of weak in the past, but it was better today, and I think that played a huge part in the win. We came up with some huge blocks a couple of times that changed the momentum of the match."
Both teams ended the match with 61 kills and 15 blocks, but the Green Wave was more efficient on offense, out-hitting the Aztecs .186-.149. Tulane will have to shore up their service, committing 11 service errors, but also cashed in five service aces.
Martone ended the evening with a match-high 20 kills, on .395 hitting (20-5-38), while chipping in six blocks and two digs. Weaver and Wruck both finished the night with nine kills and two assists, with Wruck adding eight blocks and Weaver putting up 11 digs. Osuna ended the night with a match-high 32 digs, while setters Lilly Wolfe and Mel Mandelbaum both completed the five-setter with double-doubles. Mandelbaum handed out 28 assists and had ten digs and Wolfe dished out 20 helpers and added 13 digs.
"Grace is in a tough spot right now," said Momic. "She has to dig, block, hit, serve-receive and serve. For somebody that young who we just put into our system, she came up with some great shots at the end (of the match). I think the match was decided by a couple of them. As for Cori, she brings a lot of energy, and we expect that from her. We know she's capable of scoring twenty points and hitting almost four-hundred (percent) every time out. She came up with some good blocks and had a great match. I think we just need to use this match as a building point."
Tulane will close out the weather-shortened Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Classic with a single match on Saturday, September 3 at Noon.
Season tickets for the 2011 volleyball season are currently available through the Tulane Ticket office for just $55 for the entire 16-game home schedule. Single game tickets are being sold, as well, and can be purchased by contacting the Tulane Ticket Office at 504-861-WAVE or visiting the Tulane Team Shop inside the James Wilson, Jr. Center between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.