Sept. 14, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - A hard fought match between North Dakota and Tulane went in favor of UND during the championship game of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Classic, as Tulane dropped their first game of the season in four sets on Saturday afternoon at Devlin Fieldhouse.
UND defeated the Green Wave in the first set, but needed extra points to do so as the score was 26-24. Tulane came back and tied the match with a win in game two, 25-20, before North Dakota took the next two games, 25-21 and 25-20 for the tournament championship.
Tulane now sits at 10-1 on the season, with a blemish in the loss column despite a valiant effort from many of the Green Wave players against North Dakota.
"North Dakota were just steady throughout the match, digging and chasing ball around," said Tulane director of volleyball Sinisa Momic. "They were relentless. As soon as we stepped back and tried to match defensively, they took the lead. We made some mistakes, and they made some blocks."
The Green Wave were led by freshman Tea Juric once again, as she notched 16 kills and 10 digs for another double-double on the season. Freshman Sarah Strasner posted 14 kills, while junior Anna Wruck added 10.
Senior Mel Mandelbaum was her usual, steady self, as she notched a double-double with a team-leading 43 assists to go along with 12 digs. She also led the team with two service aces, while junior Grace Weaver and senior Cori Martone - who played in her first match since facing Saint Francis (Pa.) last Saturday - also recorded one.
Weaver led the way in digs with 21.
One night after hitting a season-high .382, Tulane only managed an attack percentage of .185 against a team that recorded 14 total blocks.
The first set proved fatal for the Green Wave, as the team struggled after UND battled back right at the end. The Green Wave took the lead at 10-9, and held it until match point at 24-20. However, UND posted three consecutive kills while an attack error on Tulane tied the match. North Dakota closed out the Green Wave on two more kills, giving UND six straight points to win the first set.
"We didn't close out game one, and that was a big thing," added Momic.
Tulane made things interesting by posting a win in the second set, thanks in part to the five kills both Juric and Strasner posted. The team hit .382 during the game, and Martone played her best ball of the night, posting a service ace and four kills, while adding one block assist. Tulane even trailed early before ultimately taking the lead at 13-12, proving that the team is resilient.
After the break, Tulane came out and took an early lead on UND, going up 8-7 before the set went back-and-forth at nearly the same pace as the ball crossed the net during the action. The game was tied at 19 before a kill by UND and an attack error on Tulane's side of the net allowed North Dakota to take a two point lead that they never relinquished. Strasner managed to have a solid set, recording five kills, while Juric added four.
Tulane led again in the fourth - and what became the final - set of the day before things got tied up at 15. Other than another tie at 18, UND remained in the lead throughout the end of the set, hanging on for the win. Tulane had a tough set on the attack, recording eight errors to only ten kills.
"I think our team has to understand that when playing a good team like this, it's not going to be easy," added Momic. "They are going to have to play the best they can. They have to play on a different level, and play structured and be in the right position at all times. We have the potential, though, and we understand where we can be."
Tulane placed two players on the All-Tournament team in Wruck and Strasner. Joining them were Florida A&M's Ginna Lopez-Chavez, Texas Southern's Erin Spivey and North Dakota's Lisa Parlich. Nikki Husfeldt of North Dakota was also named the tournament MVP.
The Green Wave will return to the court next Friday and Saturday, as they will compete in the Radford Invitational against the host team at 6pm CT on Friday, followed by a match against Savannah State Saturday morning at 9:30am CT. Coppin State was originally scheduled to play in the tournament, but backed out in recent days, therefore shuffling the times of the matches.
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