Nov. 23, 2013
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Tulane's volleyball team punched their ticket to the Conference USA Championship match with a four-set victory over Tulsa at Alumni Memorial Gym in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Saturday in the semi-final round of the Conference USA Championship.
Tulane (28-3) blasted their way to victories in the first two sets, winning 25-20 and 25-16 before Tulsa (24-7) made things interesting by winning the third set, 25-23. Tulane came back to close things out in the fourth set, defeating the Golden Hurricane by a score of 25-20, securing Tulane their finest season since winning 28 matches during their 2008 Conference USA Championship campaign.
"I think we opened the match really well," said the director of Tulane volleyball, Sinisa Momic. "We followed our game plan. Our offense and our defense working together gave us a good advantage in both of those games. It was to be expected that a good team like Tulsa would try to come back, which they did. We lost the third set by two points. We were expecting a big fight for the rest of the match and we managed to pull it off."
Four Green Wave players posted double-doubles on the evening, as freshman Tea Juric (19 kills and 15 digs), freshman Annie Shurtz (16 kills and 11 digs), senior Cori Martone (12 kills and 11 digs) and senior Mel Mandelbaum (56 assists and 15 digs) all recorded double-doubles.
Junior libero Grace Weaver notched a match-high 22 digs, leading the Green Wave to 81 digs. Tulsa, who leads the NCAA in digs, posted only 59 on the night.
Junior Anna Wruck played huge at the net, notching eight block assists, tying her career-high.
As a team, Tulane hit .327, thanks in part to Juric hitting .421, Shurtz hitting .353 and freshman Sarah Strasner - who had 11 kills - hitting .500. Conversely, Tulsa hit just .153 on the evening.
Everyone chipped in on the offensive action during the first set, as Juric posted five kills and Shurtz added three. Mandelbaum, Strasner and Martone all had two each. Mandelbaum recorded a few of her patented sneaky kills, while Strasner and Martone played big at the net, blocking multiple attacks from Tulsa. Strasner ended the action on a tip kill that landed in between five diving Tulsa's players.
There was just one lead change in the second set, and that came at the second point, as Tulsa scored first, only to have Tulane take over at 2-1. From that point forward, the Green Wave never looked back, as they blasted their way to a hitting percentage of .410, with Martone and Shurtz posting six kills each.
Tulsa made things interesting after the third set, posting a victory despite hitting lower than the Green Wave during the game. Tulane led early on, but Tulsa turned the tables on the Green Wave at 16-15, and led throughout the rest of the action.
But Tulane finished things off during the next set, posting 3.0 blocks, while Juric led the offensive charge with six kills. Shurtz added four. Tulane led from the 10th point on, and at one point led by six points at 22-16.
Weaver vaulted to eighth in Tulane history in career digs, as she has 1,047 for her career. She passed Christen Carlson, Lindsey Norman and Jill Fayard in the record books. Weaver's 22 digs also give her 505 on the season, the fourth-best single-season total. She is just four shy of moving to third place in single-season school history, and just six of passing current Tulane volleyball director of operations Nikki Osuna for the second-most in a single season in school history.
The 28 wins this season matches the total of the Green Wave's last three campaigns, combined.
Tulane will play UTSA for the Conference USA Championship on Sunday at 1pm CST. Sunday's match will be televised on the CBS Sports Network. Check your local listings for channel information. The Green Wave opened the Conference USA season against the Roadrunner earlier this season in New Orleans, dropping the match in four sets.
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
"I think we opened the match really well. We followed our game plan. Our offense and our defense working together gave us a good advantage in both of those games. It was to be expected that a good team like Tulsa would try to come back, which they did. We lost the third set by two points. We were expecting a big fight for the rest of the match and we managed to pull it off."
On being able to pull out the win:
"When we see that the opponents are responding well to us and stopping us a couple plays or serving better or something, we can't let that affect us. We have to be steady and expect opponents are going to make good plays and great plays. We just can't let that affect our mistakes on the next couple points. Playing a great team like UTSA, we have to understand that they are going to have great plays and we have to fight back and not let something like that affect us."
Senior MB Cori Martone
On advancing to the finals:
"(It's my) senior year and I can't thank every single teammate (enough) tonight for just doing everything they can to get this win. So it was really emotional."
On playing UTSA in the C-USA Championship:
"Everything just needs to be disciplined and knowing where we need to be to take care of business. UTSA has a great hitter, McKenzie Adams. She's going to get good kills, but we need to stay positive and just fire back at them. (If we) just do our job, it will be a good match."
Senior S Mel Mandelbaum
On the opportunity to win a C-USA title:
"I think that we want this so bad that our mentality is to just go all out. We might not execute at every play, but we are definitely trying our hardest and going all out. We wanted this so bad. We have the drive, so when we drop that third set we came out even harder in the fourth."