Oct. 5, 2012
HOUSTON - Senior right-side hitter Milica Jovic had a team-best 14 kills and junior libero Azarri Badawi tallied a match-high 20 digs, but it was not enough as the Tulane University volleyball team dropped a 3-1 decision to Conference USA foe Houston on Friday evening at the Athletics/Alumni Center.
The Cougar defense combined for 14.0 blocks and held the Green Wave to a .088 attack percentage with 41 kills and 28 errors in 148 swings. Tulane dropped the first two sets, 25-21 and 25-10, bounced back with a 25-21 win in set three, but fell in what proved to be the final frame, 25-14. With the loss, the Wave fell to 4-13 on the year and 2-4 in C-USA play. Houston, meanwhile, improved to 4-12 overall and evened its league mark at 3-3.
"From the start, we lacked consistency on our side of the net," Tulane head volleyball coach Sinisa Momic said. "We had no real ball control and weren't able to side-out when we wanted. We knew what they were going to do and we weren't consistent in stopping it. Part of that was not following the game plan, but more than that was not taking care of things within our control - controlling the digs better, controlling the hitting better. Overall, our offense struggled."
Four of the seven Tulane players to attempt at least 10 attacks hit .000 or below as Jovic led the team with a .273 clip with five errors in 33 swings. Fellow right-side Izabela Grot also hit above .200 with a .240 showing courtesy of eight kills and just two errors in 25 swings. Junior outside hitter Cori Martone was second on the team with nine kills but, with 11 errors in 37 attempts, finished with a -.054 attack percentage.
Badawi was one of three Green Wave players to post double-digit dig totals against the Cougars as senior setter Lilly Wolfe and sophomore outside hitter Grace Weaver had 10 each. Wolfe finished with 13 assists while junior setter Mel Mandelbaum led the team with 18. Jovic and sophomore middle blocker Olivia Utt shared team-high blocking honors with four block assists apiece.
For the night, Houston had 60 kills to Tulane's 41 and hit .284 with 18 errors in 148 attacks. The Cougars also had more assists (55-38) and digs (72-58) while both teams had a pair of service aces. The biggest differential, however, came at the net where Houston's block total was 10.0 more than Tulane.
"Some of that came from not controlling the ball, not controlling where we hit and not being able to hit around the block or over the block," Momic said of Houston's block total. "A hitter should have awareness of where the block is. That's how you (avoid getting) blocked straight down. Tonight, it wasn't a case of getting blocked in a way that we can cover. It was getting blocked straight down."
The first two sets were almost mirror images of each other as Houston got off to red-hot starts and never gave up the lead. The Cougars opened the match with a 5-0 run, but Tulane rallied to cut the deficit to one at 22-21. From there, however, Houston scored three straight points to come away with the win. Houston raced out to a 3-0 advantage in the next stanza, and unlike the first set, there would be no Tulane come-back. The Cougars' lead swelled to 10 at 15-5 and 15 at 21-8, and that proved to be the final point differential.
The Green Wave got something going after intermission and opened the third set with a 5-1 run. Houston got as close as two on five occasions, including at 23-21 late in the stanza, but Tulane got a kill from Jovic to create some breathing room and took the frame on an attack error by Stephanie Nwachukwu.
Tulane opened the fourth set with a point courtesy of another Houston miscue. That, however, would be the Green Wave's lone lead of the frame as the Cougars scored five of the next six points and never looked back. Tulane hung tough for a while and trailed by just a pair at 9-7. Houston crushed any talk of a come-back by 7-1 run to extend the lead to 16-8 and followed that with a 9-6 run to come away with the victory.
The Green Wave return to action on Sunday, Oct. 7, when they play at Rice. First serve for that match is scheduled for 1 p.m. The contest against the Owls is the second of a four-match road swing for Tulane, which will play at SMU on Oct. 12 and at Tulsa on Oct. 14. The Green Wave's next home match is slated for Friday, Oct. 18, when they play host to Rice at 7 p.m. in the Hertz Center.
Tickets to that matches and future Green Wave events are currently for sale through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the Wilson Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.