Sep 6, 2013
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Just six matches into the 2013 season, the Tulane volleyball team has matched their season win total from a year ago after notching victories against Youngstown State and Toledo in the YSU Invitational on Friday at the Beeghly Center in Youngstown, Ohio.
One year removed from a 6-21 record, the Green Wave have started the season undefeated, recording their first six-game winning streak since defeating UCF, Marshall, ECU, UAB, Memphis and SMU from Oct. 11-30, 2009, on their way to an NCAA berth.
"Today was a very productive day," stated Tulane director of volleyball Sinisa Momic. "We faced two different teams; one big and strong team (in Toledo) and one with a much faster offense and better ball-control (in Youngstown State). We adjusted to both and came up with two good wins."
Tulane sent tournament-host YSU reeling Friday evening after the Penguins beat the Green Wave in the first set, 25-18. Tulane stormed back to win the next three games, 25-23, 25-18 and 25-22 to claim their sixth win on the season.
Earlier in the day, the Green Wave posted similar results, as they dropped their first set to Toledo, 26-24, before rallying to win the next three, 25-21, 25-17 and 28-26. Tulane has now dropped the first set in four straight contests, despite coming back to earn victories in all four.
The match against YSU - a team that came into the match with a 3-1 record - started off in favor of the home team. The first set was very close early on, but the Penguins were able to pull away from the Green Wave midway through the action. Tulane hit only .059 as a team in the first set while posting 29 digs. Offensively, Tulane was led by senior Cori Martone's five kills.
"We started off really slow," said Momic. "YSU's passing and ball-control and blocking were just surprising. We were just outplayed, and they just controlled the play."
YSU led for a majority of the second set, but Tulane matched the Penguins at 18 points before ultimately pulling away to tie the game. YSU led by as many as seven points during the set, but Tulane tied the set at 18 thanks in part to four straight errors by YSU. The Green Wave were not out of the woods yet, though, as YSU reestablished the lead, and were up 23-21 with just two until the win. Kills by freshman Annie Shurtz and Martone, as well as a service ace by senior Mel Mandelbaum put Tulane at set point before Martone notched a kill to tie the match at one.
Tulane jumped out to an early lead in the third set. While YSU managed to tie the contest on four different occasions, the Green Wave rejected all attempts of the Penguins to take the lead. After the final tie at 17, Tulane only allowed one more point to YSU on their way to a 25-17 win. As a team, the Green Wave posted six blocks at the net, including solo blocks by Shurtz and fellow freshman Sarah Strasner. Tulane also recorded 22 digs in the third set.
"We made some switches, bringing in Azarri (Badawi) and Olivia (Utt) in the second and third sets," added Momic. "Later, Tea came back in and played well at the end."
The fourth set was another tug-of-war at the beginning before Tulane was able to set themselves apart at the tenth point of the action. Kills by Strasner and Shurtz, followed by two attack errors, gave the Green Wave a four point lead. Later in the set, freshman Tea Juric, Utt and Shurtz notched consecutive kills to take a 21-14 lead before YSU made things interesting. The Penguins came back to cut the score to 23-21 in favor of the Green Wave, before two service errors allowed Tulane to take the victory.
Martone paced the team during the match with 15 kills to go along with her 22 digs, while Strasner (14) and Shurtz (11) were also in double-digits in the kill department. Mandelbaum recorded 47 of the team's 50 assists, and also led the team in service aces with two.
Junior libero Grace Weaver tallied 27 digs to lead the way, while Strasner led the squad with seven blocks (one solo).
"We made good adjustments against Youngstown," stated Momic. "It was a match with a lot of long rallies, and a lot of digs. We adjusted and started playing much better. I think Cori did an amazing job on defense and in passing. Sarah Strasner played great. We made adjustments and won against a very good team."
Friday morning saw Tulane defeat Toledo in four sets behind a tremendous outing by freshman Tea Juric. The Croatia native led the team with 26 kills while also posting 17 digs for her third-straight double-double. Weaver paced the team in digs with 27. Strasner led the charge at the net with five solo blocks, and junior Anna Wruck was just behind her with four. Weaver, Juric and Shurtz all recorded a service ace.
Mandelbaum once again held the team-lead in assists with 59.
"Toledo is a very strong team," added Momic. "They pushed us, and they played at a very high level. I think we responded well. Tea had an amazing match. She kind of led us during that match, and I think it was a great win."
The first set was incredibly close, as both teams matched one another's intensity right out of the gate. There were 11 ties during the first set, as well as three lead changes, including the final lead change when the Rockets went up 24-23. The largest lead of the set was three points, held at one point by Toledo. Shurtz led the way with seven kills, while she and Weaver notched a service ace each.
However, Tulane was able to put the Rockets away during the next three sets, despite Toledo's fair attempts to stay in the contest during the beginning part of each set.
Tulane looked especially dominating during the second set once they were able to take a lead. The score was back-and-forth during the early portion of the set, but the Green Wave set themselves apart in the middle of the action, leading by as many as four. Shurtz, Martone and Juric were big for the Green Wave during the end of the set, as they all recorded kills to tie the match at one set apiece. Tulane hit .412 as a team during the set, the highest percentage by the team in a set during the match.
The third game saw a very close contest that the Green Wave led until Toledo tied things at 11 and took the next point for their first lead. Two errors by Toledo and a kill by Strasner allowed Tulane to pull back into the driver's seat, and they never looked back, eventually winning behind six blocks by the team, including three block assists from Wruck and Strasner.
Toledo would not go away, though, as they came out in the fourth set and established an early lead. With the Rockets up by six, Tulane capitalized on three attack errors, two kills from Juric and one from Mandelbaum to tie the game at 16. Toledo earned the next point, but then Tulane tied things up again, and took the lead for what looked to be the remainder of the contest. The Green Wave couldn't put the finishing touches on the morning, though, as they managed three straight errors and allowed a kill at match-point to give Toledo new life. Strasner notched a kill to go up 25-24 before Toledo tied things again, but a kill by Martone and two errors by Toledo eventually wrapped thing up for the Green Wave.
Toledo dropped to 2-3 on the season with the loss to the Green Wave.
"I think all of the returners, including me, learned from last year in order to get better," Momic shared. "With all of the newcomers, we have a lot of depth. We are no longer forced to play girls out of position. For example, Grace is only playing libero now. She doesn't have to play outside. She is getting better and better. The depth allows our coaching staff to do so many different things. We have a good mix, and our record shows it."
Tulane will square off against Saint Francis (Pa.) at 10am CT Saturday morning. Live stats will be made available through TulaneGreenWave.com for tonight's contest.
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