Improved Showing Not Enough As Volleyball Falls To Rice, 3-1

TULANEGREENWAVE.COM Sophomore middle blocker Anna Wruck had eight kills, four blocks and three digs during Friday's Conference USA contest against Rice.
Sophomore middle blocker Anna Wruck had eight kills, four blocks and three digs during Friday's Conference USA contest against Rice.

Oct. 19, 2012

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NEW ORLEANS - It was a day of peaks and valleys, of highs and lows, and of ebbs and flows. In the end, however, it was not enough for the Green Wave as the Tulane University volleyball team dropped a 3-1 Conference USA decision to Rice on Friday evening in the Hertz Center.

After falling 3-0 to the Owls two weeks ago in Houston, the Green Wave showed marked improvement. Forced to play without its top outside hitter Cori Martone, who missed her second straight match due to a shoulder injury, the Green Wave offense fell short when it counted. The Rice sandwiched 25-18 wins in the first and third set around a 25-20 Tulane win in the second frame. The Green Wave had the Owls on the ropes at times in what proved to be the final set only to see Rice score 10 of the stanza's final 15 points to complete the regular-season sweep.

With the loss, the team's fifth in a row, Tulane fell to 4-17 on the year and 2-8 in C-USA play. Rice, meanwhile, won its second-straight contest as the Owls improved to 15-9 overall and 8-2 in league action.

"I think we fought hard and showed some heart tonight," Tulane head coach Sinisa Momic said. "When we were able to be on a certain level, we were winning. Our problem again was that we just don't have hitting power on the outside and, on top of that, our setters where not connecting with our middles. We don't have a go-to player that we know can consistently play well, and it's frustrating for everybody.

"There were good things happening today. But what it comes down to, instead of putting the ball away we're committing hitting errors and Rice uses that. When they are in system, they're running a very quick offense and it's pretty hard to stop because they are creating seams in our block constantly."

Senior right-side hitter Milica Jovic led the Green Wave with 13 kills and posted a .256 attack percentage with just three errors in 39 swings. Junior outside hitter Milena Dragovic was one of three Tulane players to tally double-digit dig totals with a team-best 14 while junior setter Mel Mandelbaum and sophomore libero Grace Weaver posted 13 each. Mandelbaum recorded a double-double with 19 assists and both Jovic (four assists) and sophomores middle blocker Olivia Utt (1 solo, 3 assists) and Anna Wruck (four assists) all had four blocks in the match.

As a team, Tulane hit .127 with 44 kills and 24 errors in 157 attempts. The Owls had as many hitting errors and swings as the Green Wave, but tallied 14 more kills to come away with a .210 attack percentage. In addition, Rice had 73 digs to Tulane's 62 and posted 52 assists to the home team's 38.

"We had to play this line-up with Cori out," Momic said. "I don't think there was a lack of energy or a lack of effort. It comes down to do we have an outside that when it matters they're going to put the ball down? We just had too many errors. They had the same amount errors as we did, but they had 14 more kills. Even with the same number of errors, if we had someone who could put the ball down for us, it would be a different story."

The two teams traded blows early in the match as the score stood tied at 6-6 a dozen serves into the opening set before Rice used a 3-0 run to break the deadlock and never looked back. It remained a three-point affair at 21-18, but the Owls scored the final four points to complete the seven-point victory.

It was a different story altogether a set later as the Green Wave rolled out to a 7-1 lead. The Owls whittled the deficit down to a pair at 19-17 before Tulane used a 6-3 run the rest of the way to tie the match at one set each.

After the intermission, Rice and Tulane once again stood tied at 6-all, but as they had done in the opening frame, the Owls got a key run - this time of the 5-0 variety - to create the separation that set the tone for the rest of the set. The Green Wave hung tough for a while only to see Rice pull away late and cruise to its second 25-18 decision of the night.

Tulane looked poised to send the match into a fifth frame early in the fourth as the Green Wave jumped out to a 6-1 lead. From there, Rice used a 12-5 rally to tie things up at 13-all, and later broke a 15-15 tie on a kill by Jillian Humphrey and never trailed again. With Rice clinging to a 20-19 advantage, the Owls got consecutive kills by Nancy Cole and Laurie McNamara while taking advantage of a Tulane error to stretch the lead to 23-19. Tulane got as close as three on a Megan Murphy service error, but back-to-back Green Wave miscues on the final two plays provided the Owls with the final margin.

"There were several players who played very well, and we played much better than we did at Rice," Momic added. "Those are positives. We showed some improvement and we were beating them at certain points. For short amounts of time, we looked like we were on top of them and that's a positive. We just need to build on that and keep working."

Rice's Cole and Jillian Humphrey shared match-high kills honors with 15 apiece, and Megan Murphy led all players with 44 assists. Daniela Arenas was one of four Owls' players to tally double-digit dig totals with a match-best 16 while Murphy followed with 15, Noelle Whitlock had 14 and Mariah Riddlesprigger finished with 12.Cole led Rice with five block assists.

The Green Wave return to action on Sunday, Oct. 19, when they play host to league foe Houston at 1 p.m. in the Hertz Center. 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.