Nov. 14, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Friday and Sunday will be emotional days for the Tulane volleyball team as they host Conference USA newcomers Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee on Friday and Sunday, respectively, at Devlin Fieldhouse, marking the final home matches for six Green Wave seniors.
Friday night's match will begin at 7pm CST, and Sunday's match will start at 1pm CST. Live stats can be followed by clicking the GameTracker links on the TulaneGreenWave.com volleyball schedule page. Live, streaming video will also be made available to members of the All-Access pass.
Sunday afternoon will mark the final home match of the careers of seniors Cori Martone, Mel Mandelbaum, Azarri Badawi, Elysa Jackson, Milena Dragovic and Amber Bennett. Director of Tulane volleyball will present each athlete with a framed jersey while their families and friends join them on the court.
Friday night's match will also be chock full of festivities as the volleyball program is hoping to "White Out Devlin for Devon". On Friday, the volleyball team has asked that fans wear white shirts - preferably their Devon Walker 18 shirts - in the hopes of whiting out Devlin Fieldhouse in honor of Walker, a former Green Wave football player who was injured in a game against Tulsa last season.
Donations will be accepted at the entrances of Devlin Fieldhouse, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Devon's Den, a privately funded project providing needed materials and services for the care of Walker. The Tulane Green Wave gift shop will have new Devon Walker merchandise on sale, as well, with proceeds from sales going towards Devon's Den.
Tulane is coming off one of the best weekends in program history, as they scored wins over both Tulsa and Rice on the road. The victories against each program were the first for Tulane since the 2009 season. With their victory over Rice on Sunday, the Green Wave quadrupled their win total from a season ago, going from 6-21 overall to 24-3, while also posting a 10-2 record in league play.
The Green Wave can clinch a first-round bye in the Conference USA Championship in a number of scenarios. The most obvious one is defeating both opponents this weekend, which would require no help whatsoever from any other teams in the league.
Tulane tops the charts in assists per set (13.82) and kills per set (14.83) in the conference standings, while also ranking second in hitting percentage (.259) and third in digs per set (15.68). As a team, the Green Wave posted 28 more digs than Tulsa last Friday, which is noteworthy due to the fact that Tulsa is the NCAA's top digging team.
On the national level, Tulane's assists per set number ranks them fifth overall in the NCAA, while their kills per set number is good for sixth in the NCAA.
Senior setter Mel Mandelbaum will continue to rewrite the record books this weekend, like she did against Rice and Tulsa. Last weekend, the Clovis, Calif., native moved to the second most career assists in Tulane history, as she currently has 3,453 assists. Her 1,101 assists that she has this season are good for the ninth most in a single season in school history.
Mandelbaum currently leads C-USA in assists per set with an average of 11.71. That average also places her at 10th overall in the entire NCAA.
In addition to her assists, Mandelbaum is close to 1,000 career digs, needing only 11 to get to reach the milestone.
Junior libero Grace Weaver is having an outstanding season digging the ball, and her ranking in the conference standings show that. She is fifth overall with an average of 4.63. In addition to her standing amongst her conference peers, Weaver is just 54 digs shy of recording the fourth-best single season dig total in Tulane history. She currently sits at 441 digs, which is good for the eighth-most in Green Wave history. Weaver also leads the team in service aces with 28.
Like Mandelbaum, Weaver is close to 1,000 career digs as she is just 17 digs away of eclipsing the 1,000 dig plateau for her career. There are only ten former Green Wave volleyball players who have over 1,000 career assists, and it is likely that two will join them this at some point this weekend.
Senior middle blocker Cori Martone will cap off her career as one of the most complete players to ever wear a Green Wave uniform. She is just 64 kills shy of moving to the ninth spot in Tulane history in kills. Martone is seventh in the league standings in kills per set (3.75) and points per set (4.29). On the year, Martone owns 315 kills and 220 digs.
Two Green Wave volleyballers in freshman Sarah Strasner and junior Anna Wruck are in the top five in hitting percentage in the league, as they have posted averages of .372 and .351, respectively for second and fifth place. Strasner's mark is good enough for 36th overall in the NCAA. Strasner is also the team's leading blocker, posting 91 total blocks (15 solo).
Freshman Tea Juric has put together one of the best seasons by a freshman in Tulane history, as she currently leads the team with 371 kills, 3.99 kills per set and 4.37 points per set. Her kills per set and points per set numbers rank her sixth and fifth, respectively, in the league rankings.
Louisiana Tech has had a rough go this year, posting an overall record of 7-20 and a record of 1-11 in league play.
One of their lone bright spots is Maria Coelho, who ranks second in the league in service aces per set with an average of .40. Xzache Mathis also ranks ninth in kills per set in the league with an average of 3.51. Mathis leads the team in kills with 316.
The Lady Techsters have eight volleyballers with double-digit block totals, and are led by Caitlin Germany's 81 (11 solo). Alejandra Aviles is the team leader in digs with 341, while Coelho leads the team in assists with 863.
Middle Tennessee is having a fine season, going 17-10 overall with a league record of 8-4. The Blue Raiders are looking for a bye in the first round of the Conference USA Championships, and need to score two wins to do so without any help from other teams.
The Blue Raiders are third in the conference in aces per set (1.26) while ranking fourth in both blocks per set (2.36) and hitting percentage (.238).
Individually, Tyler Richardson is the conference's top blocker, as she averages 1.20 blocks per set. She is also the league's hitting percentage leader, hitting at a rate of .429.
Chelsey Ross leads Middle Tennessee with 337 kills, while Shelby Anderton is the team's top setter, posting 635 assists over the course of the season. Kendall Howard leads the Blue Raiders with 348 digs, while Ross also paces the team with 28 service aces.
Next week will be the Conference USA Championship, held in Murfreesboro, Tenn., starting on Thursday. Depending on the way the weekend plays out will determine whether or not Tulane will begin play on Thursday in the first round, or Friday when the second round begins.
Fans can follow the Green Wave volleyball program on Twitter (GreenWaveVB) or on Facebook at facebook.com/GreenWaveVolleyball.