Nov. 24, 2013
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Tulane volleyball made a valiant effort to even Sunday's Conference USA Championship Match against UTSA to two sets a piece at Alumni Memorial Gym in Murfreesboro, Tenn., but the Green Wave fell behind late in set four to fall to the Roadrunners, three sets to one.
Tulane (28-4) had to dig themselves out of a hole after the first two sets, as they were down to UTSA (24-7) two sets to none as the Roadrunner won the first two games by scores of 25-20 and 25-16. However, the Green Wave returned to the court reenergized in the third set, blasting their way to a 25-18 victory.
In set four, the Green Wave led throughout most of the early action, but UTSA came back to tie things at 20. The set was tied at 21 and 22 before UTSA rattled off two points to Tulane's one to take the victory, 25-23.
"I think the first two games, our serving just wasn't good enough," said the director of Tulane volleyball Sinisa Momic. "(UTSA's) offense is really fast, and they have exceptional hitters. Their setter was making good choices. It took us awhile to adjust, and (UTSA's) passing was a little off in game three. We tried to continue to do the same thing in set four, and it was point-for-point until the end."
Freshman Tea Juric had an outstanding match on Sunday, hitting .412 with 20 kills, while senior Cori Martone hit .276 with 14 kills. Martone also added the lone service ace for the Green Wave on the afternoon. A pair of freshmen in Annie Shurtz and Sarah Strasner added nine kills each, while junior Anna Wruck notched five kills.
Senior setter Mel Mandelbaum was her usual self, as she posted 49 assists to lead the Green Wave.
Martone and Juric had double-doubles on the afternoon, as they posted 13 and 12 digs, respectively, to go along with their kill totals. Junior libero Grace Weaver added ten digs for the Green Wave. With the ten digs, Weaver surpassed former Tulane libero and current Green Wave director of volleyball operations Nikki Osuna for the second-most digs in a single season in Tulane history with 515.
At the net, Juric, Wruck and Strasner all had three block assists each.
As a team, Tulane hit .250, boosted mostly by the hitting percentages the team put together in the latter half of the match. Tulane hit .333 in the third set, followed by a .278 average in set four after hitting only .154 and .250 during the first two games on the day.
Tulane dropped the first set on the afternoon, despite three kills from Strasner on four attempts. Martone added four, and both Shurtz and Juric posted three each, but the trio combined for five hitting errors, two of which gave the Roadrunners the set point and the subsequent win.
Set two didn't go the way Tulane planned, despite jumping out to an early lead. Tulane scored the first three points of the match, thanks in part to kills from Martone and Wruck. Tulane had to fight off attempts from the Roadrunners to take the lead early before UTSA was able to move ahead of the Green Wave at 11-10. From that point on, it was all UTSA, as they hit .394 as a team during the action. Juric paced the Green Wave with five kills on ten attempts with no hitting errors, but Tulane had trouble defending UTSA's attacks, as they only recorded ten digs and 1.0 total block during the set.
It was a completely different looking team in the third set, as Tulane came out and blasted their way to a lead at 8-7 before never looking back. Juric recorded six kills, while Wruck, Martone and Shurtz added three each. Martone also had six digs during the set, and Tulane had 3.0 total blocks as a team, the most on the afternoon in any set for the Green Wave.
Tulane repeated their success moving into the fourth set, and things looked like they might be going to five before UTSA mounted a comeback late to take the lead. UTSA's last two points came on errors by the Green Wave.
Mandelbaum and Martone were both named to the Conference USA All-Tournament Team for their efforts this weekend.
Despite the loss, Tulane posted a 28-4 record, and made it to the Conference USA Championship match as the number-two seed in a year they were picked to finish 10th in the league during the preseason poll.
And the season isn't necessarily over just yet. The Green Wave will practice this week in the hopes of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The selection show will be next Sunday at 8:30pm CST on ESPNU.
"We are having a great season, and I'm really proud of the way the girls have played this year," added Momic.
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