Nov. 10, 2013
HOUSTON - After picking up a historic three-set victory over Tulsa on Friday, Tulane's volleyball program followed that up with another huge win, defeating Rice at Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston in four sets on Sunday afternoon.
Things were closer than they were on Friday night, with Tulane losing the first set 25-23 despite maintaining a lead throughout most of the action. However, the Green Wave rattled off three straight set wins by scores of 25-22, 25-19 and 27-25.
Tulane (24-3, 10-2) picked up their first win over Rice (9-18, 5-7) since 2009, giving the Green Wave their first double-digit league win total since going 10-10 during the 2010 campaign. The 24 overall wins are the most since Tulane went 28-6 during their 2008 Conference USA Championship season.
The Green Wave had an outstanding match offensively, as senior Cori Martone posted a season-high 25 kills during the match, while freshman Tea Juric had an enormous match of her own, chipping in 24 kills. With 12 digs from Martone and 10 digs from Juric, they both posted double-doubles. Juric's double-double was her 13th of the year, while Martone's double-double marked the 10th of her senior campaign.
Martone blasted her way to a .321 hitting percentage on the afternoon, committing only eight errors in 53 attempts. Juric was right behind her with a hitting percentage of .312, committing nine errors in 48 attempts.
Mandelbaum also notched a double-double, posting a match-high 54 assists and 16 digs. She tied for the team lead in digs with junior libero Grace Weaver. Along with the dig totals from Weaver, Mandelbaum, Juric and Martone, Shurtz also had 12, giving Tulane five volleyballers double-digit dig totals.
Weaver notched three service aces to lead the match, while Juric added one for the only other Green Wave service ace.
At the net, Utt had an outstanding game, posting six total blocks, tying for the second-most by a Green Wave volleyballer in a match this season. The team posted 10.0 total blocks, which tied for the second-most the team has recorded in one match this year, as they also notched 10.0 blocks against Toledo on Sept. 6 earlier this year.
This weekend was huge for the Green Wave, as they recorded wins against two historically strong programs in back-to-back matches. While Tulane sent Tulsa to their first Conference USA loss of the year on Friday, the Green Wave's win against Rice on Sunday was much tougher.
"Rice runs a much faster offense than Tulsa," said the director of Tulane volleyball Sinisa Momic. "Rice is a decent blocking team, too. I have to give credit to our girls for just going out there, digging it out and matching (Rice) point-for-point. It wasn't pretty, but we managed to win against a really, really tough team."
The first set of the action on Sunday saw a close match, with Tulane leading throughout a majority of the action. The Green Wave led from the ninth point of the match to the 20th before Rice stormed back to tie things. Rice didn't look back from that point, as they went on to win the set 25-23, temporarily setting Tulane back.
However, that loss was the only one Tulane would have on the day, as they came out to tie things up before the intermission behind a solid defensive effort in the second set. The Green Wave recorded half of their total blocks on the afternoon during the second set, including four from Utt, while the Green Wave held Rice to a meager .024 hitting percentage on their way to a 25-22, match-evening victory.
After the break, Tulane stormed to capture back-to-back wins thanks in part to the team's offensive prowess in the two games. The Green Wave hit .256 and .295 during the third and fourth sets, respectively, and while Rice made an effort to push the match to five sets in the fourth, Tulane held on to score an extra-point win in enemy territory.
When the schedule came out to start the season, this weekend was one Tulane had been looking forward to in the hopes they could avenge three year's worth of losses to each program the Green Wave secured victories against during the last three days, allowing Tulane to continue to rewrite the Green Wave history books during this outstanding season.
"This has been great," added Momic. "We had not been as successful as we wanted to be for a couple of years, but we have a different chemistry and different talent level this year. We are playing girls in positions that they should play. We have fixed our problems. We have a will to win, which is why we are so tough to beat this year."
Tulane's regular season will come to a close this upcoming weekend, as they will host Louisiana Tech on Friday, Nov. 15 for a 7pm CST match before holding Senior Day against Middle Tennessee for a 1pm CST tilt on Sunday. Both matches will be held at Devlin Fieldhouse, and live stats will be available on TulaneGreenWave.com.
Single game tickets will be available for $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children.
For single-game ticket information, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office at (504) 861-WAVE (9283). Group discounts are available when ten or more tickets are purchased.
The Tulane Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center and is open weekdays from 8:30 am to 5 pm. For additional information, log onto the official website at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
Fans can follow the Green Wave volleyball program on Twitter (GreenWaveVB) or on Facebook at facebook.com/GreenWaveVolleyball.