Nov. 18, 2011
NEW ORLEANS - In the First Peloponnesian War the Athenians set up the first documented blockade and in the Green Wave's five-set loss to Houston on Friday (November 18) it was the tale of two blockades that ultimately gave the Cougars the victory over the Tulane volleyball team. The Olive and Blue held the edge in blocks over the first two sets, but Houston set up their block in the final three sets to claim the Conference USA contest.
"We talked about it in the locker room before the match, about just coming out and playing, not putting any pressure on ourselves and just having fun," said Tulane head coach Sinisa Momic. "And that's what they did. We played really well, but the problem is we couldn't sustain that level of play constantly. I think the positive is our overall effort and energy on the court, but we just couldn't sustain it for five (sets). Houston did a great job just staying in it, not quitting, and winning in the end."
An efficient attack and four blocks helped the Green Wave take an early advantage as they posted a .324 hitting percentage with 17 kills and only five errors. Houston held a pair of two-point leads in the early going, but back-to-back kills from Anna Wruck tied the match at 11-11. Chelsey Haring's successful attack pushed the Cougars back into the lead, but the Olive and Blue went on a 5-2 run to grab control of the set. After building a four-point edge, 21-17, the Green Wave watched Houston pull within two, 23-21, but a service ace from Elysa Jackson and a kill by Izabela Grot closed out the set in favor of the home team, 25-21.
Houston raced out to a 3-0 lead and built a five point advantage near the midway point of the set at 17-12. A kill by Cori Martone and five straight service points from the sophomore thrust the Green Wave into the lead at 18-17, but that was the only lead Tulane would enjoy. A pair of UH kills, a block and a TU attacking error gave the Cougars the lead back. The Olive and Blue knotted the set at 21-21, but Houston scored two straight points and sided out the remainder of the set to grab the win.
Houston used their blocking to limit the Green Wave to a .030 hitting percentage in the fourth set, while Tulane didn't record a block in the frame and UH boasted a .379 attacking clip. The Cougars twice built a nine-point lead in the set, the second one coming at 15-6, and never trailed on their way to a 25-13 win that evened the match at two sets apiece.
The fifth set was more of the same for the Green Wave, with Houston hitting .353 with two blocks and the Green Wave owning a -.087 attacking mark with zero blocks. The Cougars led 4-0 right out of the gates and built a seven-point margin on an attacking error from Milica Jovic to make it 13-6. An Azarri Badawi kill was the last point that Tulane would score, with UH closing out the set and the match with a Katie Norris kill and a Harding service ace.
The blocking proved to be the difference in the match. Tulane held a 9-5 advantage in blocking over the first two sets and Houston tallied a 9-2 edge over the final three frames. Those numbers affected the hitting percentages, which flowed in favor of Tulane early (.238 to .085), before Houston imposed their block to own a .281 to .040 advantage over the final three sets.
"Blocking is all about changing the momentum," Momic said. "If you have a team that's kind of down, they're hitters will probably get timid and if they get blocked a couple of times, that decides the whole game. Their outsides were stopped a couple of times in games one and two, and then our outsides kind of lost their mojo. We were getting timid, and we finished with either getting blocked or hitting the balls out. We just have to learn from it."
Martone led all players with 21 kills on .208 hitting, while Badawi added nine kills and Wruck chipped in six. Martone's 13 digs mark her third double-double of the season. Wruck added six blocks (three solo, three assists) and Olivia Utt added five (one solo, four assists). Nikki Osuna had a match-high four service aces to go along with 20 digs. The senior is now just 22 total digs away from becoming the second player in school history with 500-plus digs in a single season.
"I think Azarri did a much better job with serve receiving and digging tonight," Momic said. "She had thirteen digs, Cori had thirteen digs, [Elysa] had fourteen and Nikki was leading the way, again. When we play with this energy, it gives you that drive on defense which is the most important thing for a team. It was there, we fought all the way through, we just needed a little more at the end. It shows how just a few things can decide a match."
The final home match of the season awaits the Green Wave. Tulane will host Senior Day on Sunday, November 20 against Rice at 1:00. Tulane will honor Osuna, their lone senior, prior to the match in Fogelman Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Single game tickets for the final home match of the 2011 season can be purchased by contacting the Tulane Ticket Office at 504-861-WAVE or visiting the Tulane Team Shop inside the James Wilson, Jr. Center between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.