Nov. 17, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Emotions were high, and so was the level of play, on Sunday at Devlin Fieldhouse in a volleyball match that pitted Tulane against one of the better teams in Conference USA in Middle Tennessee. Despite dropping the first set, the Green Wave won the next three, catapulting them to second place in the league standings on Senior Day.
Tulane (26-3, 12-2) fell to a very talented Blue Raider (17-12, 8-6) squad on Sunday in the first set by a score of 25-22 before going on a tear to win the next three 25-15, 25-18 and 25-15.
Tulane hit .410 on the afternoon, the ninth-best mark in a single match in Tulane history, and by far the highest the Green Wave have hit this season. Each player hit over .333, including an amazing .531 hit by senior Cori Martone in her final match at Devlin Fieldhouse. The Baton Rouge native posted 18 kills with just one hitting error in 32 attempts.
Freshmen Sarah Strasner (.467; 7K-0E-15TA) and Tea Juric (.344; 15K-4E-32TA) each notched incredible hitting percentages, while freshman Annie Shurtz, junior Olivia Utt and senior Mel Mandelbaum all hit .333. Junior libero even got in on the offensive action, posting a kill in one total attempt to hit a perfect 1.000.
Shurtz notched 12 kills, while Strasner (seven), Utt (five) and Mandelbaum (four) all recorded kills, as well.
Defensively, Mandelbaum and Weaver reached a milestone on Sunday, becoming just the 11th and 12th players in Tulane history with over 1,000 career digs. Weaver tied for the match lead of 11 with Shurtz, while Mandelbaum added four.
Mandelbaum led the match with 47 assists, while also chipping in a match-high two service aces.
At the net, Utt led the team with a total of six blocks, while Martone added five. As a team, Tulane notched 8.0 total blocks.
Tulane got off to a rocky start, as Middle Tennessee came out of the gate on fire, as they hit .419 as a team with 3.5 total blocks. There were ten tie scores throughout the action, along with one lead change, but the Blue Raiders came out on top once it was all said and done.
But the Green Wave evened things up in the second set by hitting .567 behind nine kills from Martone and five from Juric. Even though Middle Tennessee hit .300 as a team, Tulane's offense was too much to match.
After the break, the Green Wave continued to pound the ball into the opponent's floor, while playing stellar defense. Middle Tennessee hit .132 and .071 during the last two games, respectively, while Tulane hit .455 and .360 in sets three and four. Tulane established leads early in both matches, and never let the Blue Raiders take the lead away.
"Middle Tennessee is a good team," said the director of Tulane volleyball Sinisa Momic. "We had to settle down a little after that first set, and I think our defense and passing helped us get more stable. We started serving tougher. We were able to stop a very physical team. Our ball control was better, and we matched our good hitters to theirs, and at the end, we just executed well."
With the win, Tulane posted a 20-win turnaround in the regular season from 2012 to 2013, the largest in the entire NCAA. Howard University won just one contest last year, but won 20 during this season's regular campaign, giving them a 19-match turnaround. Prior to the contest, the Tulane volleyball program honored their six seniors in Martone, Mandelbaum, Amber Bennett, Azarri Badawi, Elysa Jackson and Milena Dragovic. With the Green Wave win, and with UTSA defeating Tulsa in straight-sets on Sunday, the Green Wave earned the second seed in the C-USA Championship to be held from Thursday to Sunday in Murfreesboro, Tenn. UTSA won the C-USA regular season title, while Tulsa fell to third, since Tulane held the tiebreaker against them.
"I think we started the season well and we just showed consistency moving forward," added Momic. "I think we are playing our best right now, and that is a good thing at this point. Being second place with just two losses in the conference is something we should be happy with. It shows we can play with anybody."
Tulane will have a first-round bye on Thursday at the Conference USA Championship in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and will play the winner of the match between UAB and Rice on Friday at 7pm CST. All matches of the tournament other than the championship match will be televised on the C-USA Digital Network. The final game of the championship will be on the CBS Sports Network.
Fans can follow the Green Wave volleyball program on Twitter (GreenWaveVB) or on Facebook at facebook.com/GreenWaveVolleyball.