Oct. 21, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - Senior right-side hitter Izabela Grot posted a double-double with 13 kills and 10 digs, and sophomore libero Grace Weaver tied a career high with 24 digs, as the Tulane University volleyball team defeated Conference USA foe Houston, 3-1, on Sunday afternoon in the Hertz Center.
The Green Wave won the first two sets, 25-18 and 25-17, and saw an early lead evaporate late in set No. 3 as the Cougars came away with a 25-23 decision. In what proved to be the final frame, however, Tulane scored the first two points and four of the first five en route to a match-deciding 25-16 victory.
With the win, Tulane snapped a five-match skid to improve to 5-17 on the year and 3-8 in C-USA action. Houston, meanwhile, fell to 6-15 overall and 5-6 in league play.
"We did all the basics right - all the things in defense, blocking and even offensively that we've been making mistakes in recently," Tulane head coach Sinisa Momic said. "We controlled those plays and that kept us at a certain level. The offense worked well, the passing was good and the overall effort was there. At certain points when we let them back in, it was again because of our unforced errors, but what this win is about is we beat them because we played well and not that they played bad."
As a team, the Green Wave hit .220 for the match with 55 kills and 22 errors in 150 swings while holding Houston to a .096 clip courtesy of 42 kills and 27 errors in 157 attempts. A big reason for that was 10.0 team blocks by Tulane, including five block assists by sophomore middle Anna Wruck.
Senior right-side hitter Milica Jovic joined Grot in the double-digit kill category with a team-high 14, and Tulane also got a nine-kill performance by sophomore middle blocker Olivia Utt and added eight more from junior outside hitter Milena Dragovic. Junior setter Mel Mandelbaum had 30 of the Wave's 51 assists for the day, and recorded a double-double of her own with 11 digs to go with one kill and a block. Dragovic rounded out the four Tulane players with 10-plus digs with 16.
"In the past, we've had one person showing up and two having a bad match, and we can't play like that," Momic said. "We have to have contributions from all over the place. That's what we did today and that's why we were able to win."
The Green Wave scored the first point of the match on a Dragovic kill and never trailed in any of the three sets Tulane won. Houston tied the opening set three times, but Tulane had an answer on each occasion. Houston hung tough and were down just one at 16-15 only to see Tulane get three straight kills to create some breathing room and cruise to a seven-point victory.
The two teams traded the first eight points of the second set before Tulane used a 7-0 run to take an 11-4 lead. Houston cut the deficit to three on three occasions, but the early Green Wave run proved to be too much to overcome as the home team went into the locker room at the break on top two sets to none.
The Wave were poised to sweep the Cougars as Tulane led 18-15 late in the third set. From there, however, Houston rallied to tie the set at 19-, 20-, and 22-all before scoring three of the final four points to extend the match to a fourth-and-deciding frame.
The final stanza was all Tulane, though, as the Green Wave got back-to-back kills by Jovic and Utt to open the set. Following an Utt attack error, Tulane scored three straight points to open things up a bit. Houston refused to go away quietly and sliced the deficit to three at 17-14 and forcing Tulane to call timeout. The break in the action put the Wave back on track as the Tulane scored the next two points and six of the final eight to send the crown home happy.
"I'm proud of how the team responded to all of that and came up with a great effort," Momic added. "They really played like a team. If this was not the best match we played all year, it's one of the top two."
Katie Norris led Houston with a match-high 18 kills while Stephanie Nwachukwu was next on the squad with nine. Olivia O'Dell was one of three Cougars to post double-digit dig totals with 18 followed by Norris and Natalie Keck with 13 each. Abby Simmons led all players with 38 assists, and Chandace Tryon had five blocks (1 solo, 4 asssists).
The Green Wave return to action on Sunday, Oct. 28, when they travel to El Paso, Texas, to take on C-USA foe UTEP at 1 p.m. in Memorial Gym. From there, Tulane will play its final two home matches of the 2012 season against Tulsa and SMU on Nov. 1 and No. 4, respectively, before closing out the regular season with road matches at Marshall on Nov. 9 and at East Carolina on Nov. 11.
Tickets the contests against the Golden Hurricane and Mustangs, as well as 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.