Early Lead Evaporates As Volleyball Falls At SMU, 3-2

Junior libero Milena Dragovic had 10 digs on Friday at SMU.

Junior libero Milena Dragovic had 10 digs on Friday at SMU.

Oct. 12, 2012

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DALLAS - It was a day of highlights, lowlights, rallies, lulls and ultimately - heartache - as the Tulane University volleyball team saw a two-sets-to-one advantage evaporate en route to a 3-2 loss to Conference USA foe SMU on Friday evening at Moody Coliseum.

The Green Wave appeared to be in control of the contests after three sets as Tulane sandwiched 25-18 and 25-21 victories around a 25-12 second-set loss. From there, however, the Mustangs sent the match into a fifth frame with a 25-19 decision in set No. 4 and closed things out with a 15-10 win in the final set to hand the Wave their third consecutive defeat. With the loss, Tulane fell to 4-15 overall and 2-6 in C-USA action. SMU, meanwhile, improved to 7-13 on the year and 4-4 in conference play.

"When we were consistent and have all six players on the court doing their job at a high level, we were playing pretty well," Tulane head volleyball coach Sinisa Momic said. "It's just a matter of us maintaining that consistency and not falling into the opposite where all the fundamentals become very inconsistent. We're dealing with those two extremes.

"We're up and down. Unfortunately in game five, when we needed to stay consistent and come up with big plays, we didn't. SMU played really good defense in the fifth set and it's unfortunate that we couldn't win this one."

With the match tied at two sets apiece, Tulane opened the fifth frame on a high note as junior outside hitter Cori Martone had three kills over the first four serves to stake Tulane to a 3-1 lead. SMU answered with a 3-0 run to go ahead 4-3 and never trailed again. The Green Wave knotted the set twice and forced a Mustangs' timeout with the score at 12-9 in favor of the home team only to see the Mustangs scored three of the final four points to complete the comeback.

Martone tallied a double-double with 11 kills and a match-high 18 digs to go with three blocks (1 solo, 2 assists) and a pair of service aces. Senior right-side hitter Milica Jovic shared team-high kill honors with 11 of her own, junior libero Milena Dragovic chipped in with 10 digs, and sophomore middle Anna Wruck had a team-best five block assists.

As a team, Tulane hit .204 with 49 kills and 20 errors in 142 swings while allowing SMU to connect at a .241 clip (64-26-158). Over the final two sets, SMU tallied a .200 attack percentage (24-11-65) while holding Tulane to a .103 showing (15-9-58).

"Realistically, we're good enough to beat a lot of the teams that we're dropping tight matches against," Momic said. "But then again, we're hurting ourselves. They know what the problem is. They know that they are good enough to beat these teams. We just don't. The positive is that we have the quality and talent to do it. We also have to be realistic and understand that we can't keep repeating these errors all the time because the outcome is going to be the same."

The Green Wave got off to a good start and used a 4-0 run to break a 4-4 tie and never trailed again in the opening set. Tulane's advantage swelled to as many as nine at 23-14, and a Martone kill capped the seven-point victory. It was a completely different story in the second frame as SMU scored the first point and raced out to a 4-1 lead. The Green Wave kept it close for a while, but the Mustangs outscored Tulane 15-7 over the final 22 serves.

After the intermission, SMU opened the third set with three straight points before Tulane rallied to tie things up at 10-all. It was the first of eight ties down the stretch, but with the scoreboard reading 21-21, Jovic tallied back-to-back aces, sophomore outside hitter Grace Weaver served up an ace, and Jovic had another kill to give Tulane a 2-1 edge in the match.

As they had done in the previous set, the Mustangs jumped out to an early 6-2 lead. This time, however, there would be no comeback. Tulane got things as close as a pair on two occasions, but SMU used a 3-0 rally to turn an 11-9 lead into a five-point advantage. The lead swelled to as many as nine at 20-11 and that proved to be too much to overcome as the Mustangs sent the game into the final frame.

Caroline Young led SMU with a match-best 20 kills while Abbey Bybel and Maddie Lozano added 13 and 11, respectively. Susan Lewis paced the Mustangs' defense with 13 kills while Lozano and Courtney Madding each chipped in with five block assists.

The Green Wave will close out their four-match road swing on Sunday, Oct. 14, when they play at Tulsa with first serve slated for 1 p.m. From there, the Green Wave return to the Hertz Center on Oct. 19 when they play host to Rice. Tickets to that match 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.