Sept. 16, 2009
NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane University volleyball will begin its defense of the 2008 Conference USA championship on Thursday, Sept. 17, when the Green Wave travel to El Paso, Texas, for a showdown against host UTEP at 8 p.m. (CDT) in Memorial Gym.
Ironically enough, Tulane will open the C-USA portion of its 2009 schedule in the same venue it won its first-ever conference crown courtesy of a 25-19, 25-19, 25-12 win over the Miners last Nov. 14 in El Paso. Thursday's C-USA opener is the first of three road matches Tulane will play on the week as the Wave will take on host Arizona and New Mexico in the Arizona Invitational in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
The Wildcats enter the weekend 8-0 on the year and ranked 21st in the nation in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 Poll. New Mexico enters the week 7-1 and will battle TCU tonight in Albuquerque, N.M.
"It's very important for us to open conference play the best that we can," first-year Tulane head volleyball coach Sinisa Momic said. "UTEP is the first on the list and then we have another good tournament to play in with two highly-ranked opponents in Arizona and New Mexico. These are three important matches. Coming off our tournament, we know that we can play well when we all carry out our assignments. Now, we just have to keep going, gain more experience and possibly come home with three wins."
The Green Wave enter Thursday's league match at UTEP 3-3 on the year and fresh off a 2-1 showing in the 2009 Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans. As a team, the Green Wave are averaging 12.55 kills, 11.68 assists, 15.59 digs and 2.09 blocks per set.
Sophomore outside hitter Visnja Djurdjevic leads the squad with 4.05 kills per set, while senior setter Rachel Lindelow has a team-best 9.38 assist-per-set average. Senior libero Jenn Miller paces the club with 4.32 digs per contest and junior middle blocker Lindsey Shepard headlines the team with 1.18 blocks per outing. Tulane is hitting .207 (276-113-787) on the young season while allowing opponents to attack at a .222 clip (281-109-776). Green Wave opponents, meanwhile, are averaging 12.77 kills, 12.18 assists, 16.05 digs and 1.98 blocks per game so far in 2009.
As a team, the Miners are averaging 12.18 kills, 11.06 assists, 11.82 digs and 2.29 blocks per set. Amy Sanders paces UTEP with 4.03 kills per set while Patty Jarmoc has a team-leading 9.38 assist-per-set average. Jennifer Nolasco leads the club with 2.79 digs per set, and Irma Blanco headlines the front-row defense with 0.81 blocks per set.
UTEP is hitting .267 (414-146-1004) for the year while holding its opponents to a .149 clip (370-210-1076). Miner opponents, meanwhile, are averaging 10.88 kills, 9.74 assists, 10.85 digs and 1.53 blocks per set.
Thursday's match between Tulane and UTEP marks the ninth meeting between the two teams, and the Green Wave hold a 6-2 advantage in the all-time series. All of Tulane's meetings with UTEP have come since the Miners joined C-USA in 2005, and the Green Wave are 3-1 in El Paso. The Miners won the first two meetings with the Wave during their first year in the league, but Tulane has won all six since, including a pair of 3-0 sweeps to close out the 2008 regular season.
"We've had some success against UTEP, but we're not going to take anyone lightly right now," Momic said. "We're used to playing at their place and we'll be up to the challenge. I think they're a much-improved team.
"We definitely can get better. Last week was basically just our second week playing. We're still getting used to playing together and there is much room for improvement. This is another good week for us against some tough opponents. I'm anxious to see how well we can play."
Since becoming a charter member of C-USA in 1995, Tulane is 7-7 all-time in conference openers, including a 2-4 mark on the road. Tulane's next home match is slated for Friday, Sept. 25, when the Wave play host to C-USA foe Tulsa at 7 p.m. in Fogelman Arena. For ticket information, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office at 504-861-WAVE.