Nov. 20, 2011
NEW ORLEANS - The Green Wave dropped a close first set to second place Rice on Sunday afternoon, but the Owls would grab the next two sets in convincing fashion to defeat the Tulane Volleyball team in their Conference USA contest.
"We really had no answer defensively for Rice's middles and their setter really hurt us today," said Tulane head coach Sinisa Momic. "We knew what they were about offensively, but they do it at such a high level that we really didn't have an answer. We started with a six-two system, with Izabela (Grot) being out, but we had to move back to a five-one system. They were just playing a a little bit of a high level and in the end our hitting errors really affected us."
In the opening set, the Green Wave built an early two-point advantage when an Olivia Utt kill made it 8-6 in favor of the home team. Rice reeled off six straight point to grab the lead. After the two teams traded services over the next eight points, the Owls extended their lead to six points with three straight points to make it 18-16. Rice had set point at 24-19, but an attaching error and a service ace from Elysa Jackson pulled Tulane close at 24-21. A service error eventually closed out the set and Rice led 1-0 after the opening frame.
The second set was back-and-forth in the beginning, with TU holding a slim 4-3 lead and sitting in a five-all deadlock after a Milica Jovic kill. A six point service rotation by Nancy Cole made it 11-5 in Rice's favor and, after an Utt kill, Megan Murphy reeled off six straight points on a service to extend the Owls lead to 17-6. The two teams traded points until Rice finished off the frame with five straight points during a Laurie McNamara service rotation.
Tulane honored their lone senior, Nikki Osuna, in a pregame ceremony and the Bellflower, Calif. native had one of the best matches of her career. Osuna tallied twenty digs in the three-set match and is now just two digs shy of reaching 500 for the year. With one more match left, the senior can become just the second player to reach 500 digs while wearing the Olive and Blue. Jenn Miller accomplished the feat twice, tallying 609 in 2007 and 507 in 2006.
"We knew what to expect from Nikki when she came here," said Momic. "She came here with a purpose and she pushed herself and her teammates to get better every day. She was our starter this season, she filled a captain role for us and we know she is going to give it everything she has each time she steps on the court. She is going to be tough to replace next season."
Four different players posted six kills to Tulane, with Martone, Utt, Azarri Badawi and Anna Wruck all tying for team-high in the category. After Osuna's 20 digs, Martone and Lilly Wolfe followed with eight. Wolfe added 22 assists to lead the team and Wruck chipped in five blocks on the afternoon.
Rice's Cole led the way with 15 kills on .429 attacking, while Murphy added 35 assists and five kills.
The Green Wave will close out their 2011 season on Tuesday, November 22 when they travel to Southern Miss for a 7:00 match versus the Golden Eagles.