Sept. 13, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Friday proved to be a long, but fruitful day for the Tulane volleyball program, as they posted wins over Texas Southern and Florida A&M on the opening day of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Classic at Devlin Fieldhouse.
The Green Wave only needed six sets to notch their ninth and tenth wins of the 2013 campaign, getting past Texas Southern by scores of 25-21, 25-15 and 25-16. After a five-hour break, the Green Wave returned to the court to take on Florida A&M in a close battle that finished with scores of 25-22, 25-17 and 25-23.
Tulane has continued to keep their record-setting winning-streak alive, posting double-digit wins in a season for the first time since the 2010 season.
"We didn't know what our roster would be like, and it's a hard thing to not lose focus in ten straight matches," said Tulane director of volleyball Sinisa Momic. "All the credit goes to the girls, especially the freshmen. They show up every day and play so well, and they have so much potential. It makes it much easier for our coaches that we are dealing with these girls who are mature beyond their years. We are off to a good start, but we certainly have some things to improve on."
Freshman Tea Juric had another solid outing - something becoming relatively routine - as she notched a match-high 21 kills, hitting .545 on the evening. Fellow freshman Annie Shurtz was the only other player for Tulane with double-digit kills with 11, but she also recorded 10 digs for a double-double.
As a team, the Green Wave posted their best hitting percentage of the season, as they blasted their way to an average of .382 (55 kills, 13 errors, 110 attempts). The mark of .382 is good for the 16th best outing in terms of hitting percentage by the team since the 2001 season.
Two Green Wave juniors held a block party against the Lady Rattlers of Florida A&M, as Olivia Utt's four block assists and junior Anna Wruck's five total blocks (two solo) led the way for the team. Tulane posted six total blocks as a squad during the day's second match.
Despite only playing eight student-athletes on the evening, Florida A&M gave the Green Wave a run for their money. The set was close from the start, before the Green Wave were able to pull away from the Lady Rattles towards the middle of the action, leading at one point 22-14. However, Florida A&M stormed back, cutting the lead to 22-18, and eventually, pulling within two points at 24-22. Shurtz was able to put the set away on a kill, assisted by Mandelbaum.
Set two was the easiest for the Green Wave against the Lady Rattles, as they held the lead from start to finish. Juric led the team with seven kills during the set, while Wruck added three alongside her two solo blocks.
The third set was a lot tighter than its predecessor. Tulane jumped out to an early lead, before the Lady Rattlers tied things up at 10 before taking the lead. The Green Wave took it back on a kill by Wruck to make the score 13-12, and they held on from there. The score remained close, though, throughout the remainder of the set, with Tulane only leading by three at the most. With the score at 20-19, Shurtz posted a kill before Juric did the same for the largest lead during the end of the match before consecutive kills by the Lady Rattlers brought the game back to a one point lead in favor of Tulane. Juric and the Lady Rattlers traded kills during the next four plays before Juric took matters into her own hands and ended the match, 25-23.
"Florida A&M has a lot of players who know how to play," stated Momic. "They have a good volleyball team."
Against Texas Southern, Juric (13), Strasner (12) and Shurtz (11) all notched double-digit kills to lead the way for the Green Wave. Shurtz also led the team in service aces with two.
Mandelbaum once again led the team in assists with 26. Weaver posted a team-high 13 digs while Strasner and Mandelbaum led the team in block assists with two each.
Despite the final score, Tulane got off to a rough start, while Texas Southern used their athletic abilities to post nine kills and three blocks during the set. While Tulane did lead 2-1 out of the gate, the Tigers were able to stay out front of the Green Wave until both teams reached double digits. At that point, Texas Southern went ahead on a few errors on Tulane's end of the net. With the score at 17-12 in favor of the Tigers, Tulane cut the lead to just two with a kill by Juric and two errors by Texas Southern. The intensity continued, with Texas Southern taking the lead before Tulane would tie the score until the Green Wave managed to squeak out a lead at 21-20 for the first time of the set on a kill by Shurtz. Three straight errors by Texas Southern, Wruck was able to end the set on a kill, putting the finish on a remarkable comeback.
"Texas Southern ran a very fast offense, and they played very scrappy," added Momic. "They were explosive. We had to learn a lesson from them (after the first set). You have to play until the ball hits for the floor. We stabilized the whole thing, and took off from there."
The story was different during the second set, as Tulane held the lead from the beginning to the end. The Green Wave hit .484 as a team during the set, and were led by Wruck and Strasner, who each recorded five kills. Weaver and Shurtz both tallied service aces during the set.
The third set was more of the same from the Green Wave, even though Texas Southern cut the lead to 10-7 during the game. Tulane distanced themselves from the Tigers on three consecutive kills by Shurtz and an error on Texas Southern to double the lead. At that point, the Tigers posted a kill before Tulane tallied three more points to stay out in front once and for all. Six Green Wave players posted kills during the set, while the team hit .400.
North Dakota and Florida A&M kicked off the tournament, with North Dakota taking the match in five sets. In between the two Tulane matches, North Dakota posted a victory over Texas Southern in three straight sets.
Tomorrow, the Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Classic will begin with a 12pm CT match that will pit Florida A&M and Texas Southern against one another. Tulane will follow with the last match of the tournament against North Dakota at 3pm CT.
Live stats will be made available through TulaneGreenWave.com for tomorrow's contests. Live streaming video will be available through the All-Access link on TulaneGreenWave.com, for the Tulane match only.
Fans can follow the Green Wave volleyball program on Twitter (GreenWaveVB) or on Facebook at facebook.com/GreenWaveVolleyball.