Sep 3, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Despite a slow start that allowed their opponent to take the first set, Tulane's volleyball squad picked up their fourth-straight win on Tuesday night as they defeated Southeastern Louisiana in four sets in Hammond, La.
The Green Wave dropped the first set, 25-21, before rattling off three straight wins, 25-14, 25-12 and 25-11 to continue their season-opening winning streak. The Green Wave have not started a season 4-0 since 2007 when they won their first seven matches on their way to a 28-6 record.
"This has been a plan-in-the-making," said Tulane director of volleyball Sinisa Momic of his team's early success. "We knew what kind of class we had coming in, and we are looking for wins during this preseason schedule. We expect a high percentage of winning during the preseason part of our schedule, and we know we are a team that can do it. We want to get as many wins as we can, and at the same time, improve our play before we get to our Conference USA schedule."
Tulane last won four-straight matches when they posted a six-match winning streak from Oct. 11-30, 2009, defeating UCF, Marshall, ECU, UAB, Memphis and SMU during the meat of their Conference USA schedule.
In the 38-year history of the program, Tulane has only started the season 4-0 on ten different occasions.
Against Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday night, the freshmen and returnees mixed to lead the Green Wave to another win early on. Freshman Annie Shurtz posted 15 kills for the third time in four matches this year, while senior Cori Martone also recorded 15 kills, tying for the team lead. Freshman Tea Juric added ten kills, while junior Anna Wruck recorded seven and freshman Sarah Strasner added four. Senior Azarri Badawi also posted one kill, seeing her first action since the season opener against Mississippi Valley State.
Senior Mel Mandelbaum once again paced the team in assists, posting a new season-high of 45. Junior Grace Weaver bested her dig season-high total with 24, while Juric (15) and Shurtz (12) also posted double-digit dig numbers. Juric recorded Tulane's only two service aces.
Wruck and Strasner both totaled four block each, with two of Strasner's being solo, while Wruck posted one solo block. Shurtz added three block assists, while Martone also added a solo block and a block assist.
While the Green Wave finished strong, the team got out of the gate slow, but put together a strong rally towards the end of the first set before ultimately falling. The Lions led the first set 18-7 before Tulane managed seven straight points to cut Southeastern's lead to just four. Four of those points came off errors by the Lions, while Shurtz added a kill and Martone added one. After a timeout by Southeastern, the Lions seemed to recollect themselves, as they were able to put the Green Wave away.
"At first, our passing was struggling, and we couldn't quite figure out their offense," stated Momic. "We couldn't really put our game together. We just realized that if we didn't play our best, we would not win the match. We figured that out early on, and we learned from that."
However, Tulane quickly put that set behind them and came out for the second set, playing with reckless abandon. While the set was back-and-forth early, Tulane came out and played big at the net to tie the game at one set a piece with a win of 25-14 when it was all said and done. With the set tied at ten, Shurtz and Strasner recorded back-to-back kills, and the Green Wave never looked back. Shurtz, Wruck, Strasner, Martone and Juric managed multiple kills during the set, while Juric also added just her second service ace of the season for the 24th point of the set. Tulane earned the win on an attack error by Southeastern. As a team during the second set, Tulane hit at a very respectable .400.
The third set played a lot like the second, as Tulane got past Southeastern by a score of 25-12. The Green Wave led 10-3 early on before allowing three straight points to the Lions. Kills by Shurtz and Juric sandwiched three straight errors on Southeastern's side of the net to give Tulane a 16-7 lead. Martone posted another kill immediately after a timeout and Southeastern gave Tulane a point on an error to go up 18-7. Juric posted two more kills at the tail end of the set.
Southeastern held an early lead in the fourth set, jumping on top of the Green Wave 4-1. But Tulane stormed back to tie the set before taking the lead once and for all, eventually winning the set, 25-11, to give them the win on the evening. Tulane led the set at one point by 12 points. Martone led the way with four kills, while Shurtz added three. They both also added four digs during the set, and Strasner notched one of her solo blocks.
"After (the slow start), everything kind of fell into place," added Momic. "We knew who to serve, who not to serve. We converted most of our attacks. We got them out of their system. Cori and Tea got going. Mel was good at running our offense. Once we were able to figure them out, we kept improving on all of the things we were doing. We just wanted to be steady and not give them easy points."
Southeastern Louisiana fell to 1-3 on the season with the loss. They were led by Landry Bullock, who recorded 13 kills.
The Green Wave will travel to Youngstown, Ohio, over the weekend for the Youngstown State Invitational. On Friday, they will play at 1pm CT and 7pm CT against Toledo and tournament host Youngstown State, respectively. They will close out the tournament on Saturday with an 11am CT tilt against St. Francis (Pa.) before returning to Louisiana for a cross-town match against UNO next Tuesday.
Fans can follow the Green Wave volleyball program on Twitter (GreenWaveVB) or on Facebook at facebook.com/GreenWaveVolleyball.