Nov. 12, 2008
NEW ORLEANS - With at least a share of the 2008 Conference USA regular-season title already under its collective belt, the Tulane University volleyball team will close out the regular season with a split weekend against C-USA foe UTEP in El Paso on Friday at 8 p.m. (CST) and in New Orleans on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Green Wave, which enter the weekend riding the crest of a season-best 11-match winning streak, needs just one victory in two tries against the Miners to claim the outright C-USA Championship and claim the No. 1 seed in the upcoming C-USA Tournament for the first time in the program's history.
"Going into this weekend knowing that we have clinched a portion of the conference crown, we need to make sure that we know what that really means," Tulane head volleyball coach Liz Kritza said. "It means that it is just the beginning of accomplishing our total goal of winning the conference title, winning the conference tournament and then going as far as we can in postseason play in the NCAA Championships.
"We are looking at these matches this weekend as a chance to build momentum to accomplish not just winning the title - we want to win it outright, of course - but we need to continually improve. For us, that is what we have always worked on all year. We need to continually improve and raise our level of play and make sure that we are not just stopping at the first phase of our goals because it really has three parts and we have not accomplished any of them yet. We are very close but close is not enough for this group."
The Green Wave head to El Paso for Friday's matchup with UTEP 22-5 on the year, 13-1 in C-USA action, and winners of 20 of their last 21 matches. As a team, the Green Wave are averaging 14.11 kills, 13.23 assists, 14.56 digs and 2.11 blocks per set. Senior outside hitter Sara Radosevic leads the squad with 3.62 kills per set, junior libero Jenn Miller paces the club with 3.91 digs per contest, and senior middle blocker Jen Linder headlines the team with 1.06 blocks per outing.
UTEP, meanwhile, enters the weekend 7-21 overall, 3-11 in Conference USA play, and looking to build on the momentum of a 3-0 win over SMU last Sunday in Memorial Gym. The Miners had lost their last six matches before the victory over the Mustangs.
As a team, the Miners are averaging 11.94 kills, 11.18 assists, 14.30 digs and 2.14 blocks per set. Amy Sanders paces UTEP with 3.43 kills per set, KeAnne Langford leads the club with 3.87 digs per set, and Daidre Mendenhall headlines the front-row defense with 1.04 blocks per set.
UTEP is hitting .173 (1254-613-3715) for the year while allowing its opponents to connect at a .213 clip (1336-560-3635). Miner opponents are averaging 12.72 kills, 11.62 assists, 15.10 digs and 2.02 blocks per set.
"We are looking at this weekend as a very important one for us on many fronts," Kritza said. "It is always a tough trip to travel to El Paso and play, and we are expecting a challenge. The standings may set us pretty far apart from UTEP, but we know better than to underestimate them. We are here at the tail end of the season and everyone is trying to gain momentum for the conference tournament. UTEP is no different.
"If you look at them statistically, they may not look like a formidable opponent, but they have had some good wins in conference against teams that we have traditionally struggled with. They picked up a win over Houston, which we went five with recently, and they beat SMU last weekend pretty handily. They are playing very well and we expect to have to put forth a strong performance to come away with the result that we want."
This weekend's matches mark the seventh and eighth meetings between the two teams, and the Green Wave hold a 4-2 advantage in the all-time series. All of Tulane's meetings with UTEP have come under Kritza, and the Green Wave are 2-1against the Miners in El Paso. The Miners joined C-USA in 2005 and won the first two meetings with the Wave, but Tulane has won all four since, including a 3-0 sweep to conclude the 2007 regular season at Fogelman Arena.
Following Friday's showdown at UTEP, the Green Wave return to New Orleans where they will play the Miners again on Sunday in Fogelman Arena. That match will be the final contest of the 2008 regular season for both teams and the Tulane Athletic Department will honor the volleyball team's seven-member senior class of Linder, Radosevic, Luna Rebrovic, Liz McGehee, Ashley Bernards, Lauren Boatwright and Bridget Wells at the conclusion of the contest. For ticket information, contact the Tulane University Athletics Ticket Office at 504-861-WAVE.