Nov. 22, 2013
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Things looked bleak in the fourth set for the Green Wave volleyball team on Friday against UAB, despite a 2-1 set lead, but Tulane mounted one of the most outstanding comebacks of the season to post a win over the Blazers in the second-round of the Conference USA Championship in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Tulane (27-3) was down 12-4 in the fourth set despite winning the second and third sets by scores of 25-20 and 25-22, respectively against a UAB (21-14) team who came out on fire to start the match with a 25-19 win. However, the Green Wave whittled away into the Blazers commanding lead on a bevy of kills from freshmen Tea Juric and Annie Shurtz. The Green Wave finally tied things at 22, before taking the lead once and for all at 24-23 before a UAB attack error ended the match.
The win gave the Green Wave their first postseason victory since defeating Tulsa during the 2009 Conference USA Tournament in four sets on Nov. 20 of that year. The 27th win overall also moves Tulane within just one win of matching two of the top seasons in program history, as the GreenWave went 28-6 in 2007 and 2008.
"UAB played a great match," said the director of Tulane volleyball Sinisa Momic. "Game one they blocked really well. They stopped us at our strength, which is our offense. We had to find a way to fight back and figure out what to do. We had issues with trying to force our offense instead of moving the ball around. We scored some points in middle and had the great comeback in game four. Overall, just a really tough match and hats off to our players."
Senior Cori Martone, Juric and Shurtz paced the team in kills with 15, 13 and 12, respectively. Senior setter Mel Mandelbaum notched a new career-high in kills with seven, while junior Anna Wruck chipped in with nine kills and freshman Sarah Strasner (five) and junior Olivia Utt (one) also had kills.
Mandelbaum led the Green Wave with 47 assists. After the match, her assist total rocketed her from the ninth-best single-season total in school history to the seventh-best in single-season history.
At the net, Tulane had a total of 11.0 blocks, thanks in part six total from Wruck (two solo) and five total from Strasner (one solo).
Juric was the lone Green Wave player with a double-double, adding 11 digs to go along with her 13 kills.
Junior libero Grace Weaver tied for the match-lead with 15 digs, and is now just nine digs shy of moving into tenth place in school history in the stat.
Heading into the break, Tulane tied things at one set a piece, as they dropped the first game to the Blazers. However, the Green Wave came out in the second set very strong, taking a 7-3 lead before UAB roared back to tie things up. Things were back and forth throughout most of the early portion of the frame, with there being seven tie scores and five lead changes. A blocking error by UAB gave Tulane the lead at 14-13, and the Green Wave never looked back. Wruck, Martone and Shurtz all got in on the offensive action, while Wruck and Strasner played huge at the net to allow the Green Wave to make things 1-1 before the break.
Tulane got off to a rough start, as UAB came out of the gates hot. Tulane managed to tie things at 13, and even took a three-point lead at 16-13, but the Blazers marched back and eventually won the first game. The same happened for the Green Wave against UAB when the two teams met on Nov. 1 in Birmingham, Ala., during their first meeting of the season.
Tulane will return to the court on Saturday for a 5pm CST match against the number-three seeded Tulsa Golden Hurricane, who defeated FIU in five sets on Friday night. Tulane faced Tulsa on the road on Nov. 8, defeating them in three sets for the first time since the 2009 season.
All matches of the tournament other than the championship match will be broadcast through the C-USA Digital Network at conferenceusa.com. The final game of the championship will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.
Current subscribers to the C-USA Digital Network can just click the "watch links" on the Volleyball Championship Central site to view the current match in progress. New and school-only subscribers will need to purchase a monthly pass to view all 10 tournament matches. A monthly subscription is $14.95, and an annual subscription is $119.95.
Live stats can be followed on Volleyball Championship Central page at conferenceusa.com, and the links will also be posted on TulaneGreenWave.com once they are made available.
Fans can also follow the Tulane volleyball Twitter feed (@GreenWaveVB) for live tweets during the matches, along with special videos and interviews from the Tulane volleyball players and coaching staff throughout the weekend.
As always, fans can follow the Green Wave volleyball program on Twitter (GreenWaveVB) or on Facebook at facebook.com/GreenWaveVolleyball.
Head Coach Sinisa Momic
"UAB played a great match. Game one they blocked really well. They stopped us at our strength, which is our offense. We had to find a way to fight back and figure out what to do. We had issues with trying to force our offense instead of moving the ball around. We scored some points in middle and had the great comeback in game four. Overall, just a really tough match and hats off to our players."
On the team's focus for the semifinals:
"I think it's important to understand at a tournament, there are no real favorites. Anybody can have a good match, anybody can lose, so we have to prepare. Whatever the opponent brings, we have to respond. That's the first thing mentally: we have to know everybody will play well at this tournament. We're going to make sure we don't make mistakes like five or six hitting errors in a row. We can't afford that. I think we're going to learn from today and get ready for tomorrow."
Senior MB Cori Martone
On picking up the victory:
"It was pretty nerve racking through the whole match. Once Grace (Weaver) got back there to serve, she's ranked high in the conference in service aces, it's just like having confidence in the people back there serving. She got us on a roll. I think once we just got on that roll it was just like ok, we're good, we're going to do this. And we did."