Oct. 1, 2009
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Four Green Wave players posted double-digit kill totals, including a career-best 10 by junior Lindsey Shepard, as the Tulane University volleyball team rallied late for a 3-2 win over Stephen F. Austin Thursday night at Johnson Coliseum.
Tulane (8-4) bounced back from a 25-18 loss in the opening set to post 25-19 and 25-21 wins over the next two stanzas. The Lady Jacks (12-8) rallied for a 25-23 win to force a fifth-and-deciding set, and with the score tied at 14-all, the Green Wave got a kill by sophomore outside hitter Visnja Djurdjevic and took advantage of an SFA miscue to extend Tulane's winning streak to four.
"Today's match was very similar to a couple of matches that we've already played - like SMU and UTEP," first-year Tulane head volleyball coach Sinisa Momic said. "It was the same type of thing where we were inconsistent and put ourselves in a position to have to go five rather than three or four. In the fifth set, we were pretty consistent in certain skills and were pretty consistent among a level of play of certain individuals. When all of that comes together, we're winning. The problem is it's only coming in the fifth set when we're forced to. It's been on and off, but we played well in the fifth set to win."
With the match tied at two sets apiece, Stephen F. Austin ran out to a 3-1 lead early in the fifth stanza before Tulane rattled off seven straight points to take an 8-3 advantage at the customary switching of benches. The Green Wave lead swelled to as many as five at 10-5, but the Lady Jacks rallied to tie the stanza at 11-all before taking a 13-12 lead three serves later.
A Djurdjevic kill knotted the set at 13 and her block assist along with Shepard gave Tulane match point at 14-13. The Lady Jacks staved off the loss momentarily on a kill by Mary Caitlin Bottles, but the Green Wave scored two straight to come away with the win.
Senior outside hitter Ksenija Vlaskovic led all players with 19 kills and tallied her fourth double-double of the year by tying her season high with 16 digs. Djurdjevic and senior setter Rachel Lindelow also tallied double-doubles on the night with 17 kills and 13 digs, and 52 assists and 15 digs, respectively.
Senior libero Jenn Miller - who was hospitalized on Tuesday night with severe stomach pain - provided the team with a spark of guts and leadership, and led the Green Wave defense with 17 digs. Shepard paced the front-line "D" with two solo blocks and four block assists.
"She did a great job of leading the team, playing sick and playing exhausted," Momic said of Miller. "It would have been much tougher without her. It was a great job by her to put herself on the court and play like this for her team. Hopefully, she will get some rest. She has 24 hours to rest and get better physically for (Friday night's opponent) Houston."
The two teams traded the first 20 points of the match before the Lady Jacks created some separation at 14-12. Tulane rallied to tie the score at 14-all, but it was all Stephen F. Austin the rest of the way as the home team used an 8-2 rally to make it a six-point affair and scored three of the final five points to claim a seven-point win.
The Lady Jacks scored the first point of set No. 2, but an SFA attack error and a Shepard kill gave Tulane a 2-1 lead and the Green Wave never trailed again. Tulane saw a three-point advantage whittled down to one at 10-9 before the Wave strung together a 6-2 rally and never looked back.
The third set followed a similar script as Stephen F. Austin held a 9-7 lead early on before Tulane made its move. Down by a pair, the Green Wave rattled off six straight points to take a 13-9 advantage. The Lady Jacks rallied to tie the frame at 19-all, but Tulane outscored Stephen F. Austin 6-2 the rest of the way to take a 2-1 advantage in the match.
Tulane's momentum carried over into the early part of the fourth set before an all-out slugfest ensued. The two teams traded blows as the stanza featured five ties and three lead changes, and with the score knotted at 20-20, Stephen F. Austin used a 5-3 run down the stretch to send the match into the fifth set.
"(Coming away with the win) is a positive thing," Momic said. "Now, the challenge is to force ourselves to play at a high level before the game and the score forces us to do it. We have to find a way to do that because we won't be able to consistently win all these five-game matches and tight games like we have so far. It's too risky.
"We have to play up to our potential and be mentally tough to not allow ourselves to play under a certain level. There were too many times where we were below a certain level of execution and we have to find a way to be above that."
Arielle Daron and Kelsey Owens tied for the Stephen F. Austin kills lead while Ashley Baily tallied 14 and Bottles added 10. Paloma Buckner had 38 of the Lady Jacks' 57 assists, Owens paced the team with a match-high 19 digs and Bottles led SFA with six blocks (two solo, four assists).
The Green Wave return to action on Friday, Oct. 2, when they take on Conference USA foe Houston at 7 p.m. in the Athletics/Alumni Center before closing out the week on Sunday, Oct. 4, against Rice at 1 p.m. at Tudor Fieldhouse. Following Tulane's trip through Texas, the Green Wave's next home match is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 7, against Southern Miss. For ticket information, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office at 504-861-WAVE.