Nov. 18, 2008
NEW ORLEANS - At the onset of the 2008 season, the Tulane University volleyball team made a simple checklist of goals it wanted to accomplish before season's end - 1) win the Conference USA regular-season title, 2) win the C-USA Tournament Championship, and 3) earn the first bid to the NCAA Tournament in school history.
After achieving the regular-season title with a 3-0 win at UTEP last Friday in El Paso, Texas, the Green Wave now have an opportunity to check off the final two items on the goals list as 2008 C-USA Tournament begins on Thursday, Nov. 20, at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse in Memphis, Tenn.
"This is a whole new season," Tulane head volleyball coach Liz Kritza said. "The regular season is over and we are proud of our successes, but now it is time to get back to work and focus on the most important part of the season and the most important week for us so far - which is the conference tournament and going after that automatic bid to the NCAAs. Both have been goals of this program from early on.
"This is when we have to be the most diligent, the most focused and most prepared. If we can do that, we will fare well in the conference tournament and reach a few more of our goals. While we are pleased to have captured our first regular season Conference USA title, the time for celebration has passed and the time for ardent preparation has begun."
The Green Wave enter the C-USA Tournament 24-5 on the year and 15-1 in league play. As regular-season C-USA Champs and the tourney's No. 1 seed, Tulane will enjoy a first-round bye and open play in the event at noon on Friday, Nov. 21, against the winner of Thursday's SMU/UCF contest.
Tulane, which has won its last 13 contests and 21 of its last 22 matches, needs just two more victories to advance to the league's championship match on Sunday, Nov. 23. That contest is slated to be televised live at 2 p.m. on CBS College Sports Network (channel 315 on Cox Digital Cable, channel 613 on DirecTV, channel 152 on Dish Network), and the winner of the match will received the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"(Having a first-round bye) is crucial," Kritza said. "Four matches vs. three matches is a big deal, especially in a row. It may not matter as much on the Thursday and Friday matches. But when you get to Saturday and Sunday, I think it makes a considerable difference because your body is continually recovering after you play and you are constantly preparing for an additional opponent.
"However, that means there is a lot of waiting around. If you are a team that does not play until Friday and you get there on Wednesday, and you need to make sure your team is staying focused and that they are prepared to play a full 48 hours after arriving there. That will be different for us. Normally we get there the day before and we have a routine. We try to stick to that routine as much as possible because it has proven to be successful for us so far."
Tulane has accomplished several firsts already in 2008, including claiming its first C-USA regular-season title and running its home winning streak to a school-record 24 in a row. The Green Wave have never gotten as far as the title game in the 14-year history of Conference USA, but Kritza feels this could be the year the Tulane team gets over the hump.
While she admitted the team may need to win the C-USA Tournament to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history, Kritza was quick to note that her squad realizes the importance of playing well this weekend and feels the snub of last year - when Tulane did not make the NCAA postseason field despite going 28-6 and finishing the year 30th in the final AVCA poll - will provide extra motivation this time around.
"I think that they are extremely excited and I think they are as confident as I have ever seen them," Kritza said of her team's overall attitude heading into the C-USA Tournament. "But we want to be careful to balance that confidence with the idea and the knowledge that we should be playing our best volleyball at this point of the season. They are of one mind in that they want to reach these goals more than anybody. Any time that happens on a team, then you are in a good place because they are the ones out there playing.
"Coaches can win it as much as anybody, but when players are set on it and they are focused on it, then some special things can happen. I really think they are in that place. They have some unfinished business, they want to see the season all the way through completion and they will be highly disappointed if they did anything other than that."
If Tulane wins its quarterfinal match, the Green Wave will advance to the semifinals on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Green Wave are a perfect 7-0 against teams in their half of the bracket with a pair of wins over fourth-seeded Houston and fifth-seeded Tulsa while claiming single victories against No. 8 SMU, No. 9 UCF and No. 12 East Carolina. Tulane's lone C-USA loss in 2008 came back on Oct. 5 at second-seeded UAB when the Wave rallied for a 2-0 deficit to tie the match at 2-all before falling in the fifth set, 15-6, in Birmingham, Ala. Tulane will not play the Blazers, however, until the championship match if both teams win their first two tournament contests.
Tickets to the 2008 Conference USA Tournament are now on sale through the Memphis Athletics Ticket Office with a variety of ticket packages available. All-Session passes run $25 for adults and $20 for youths while single-session passes $8 for adults and $6 for youths if purchased in advance. At the gate, All-Session passes are $30 for adults and $25 for youth while Single-Session passes are $10 for adults and $8 for youths. Students at C-USA institutions receive free admission with a valid Student ID.
Fans not able to make it to Memphis, Tenn., can follow all the action on-line at www.ConferenceUSA.com. Live stats for each tournament match are available for free via GameTracker while live streaming video is also available for a small fee. Paid members of the All-Access Pass or CBS College Sports XXL subscription can view the games on-line on the league's website as well as each team's respective website, including www.TulaneGreenWave.com. Non-subscribers can purchase a November package for $9.95 to get those games. Sunday's championship match, however, is available strictly on a pay-per-view basis for $7.95.
2008 CONFERENCE USA TOURNAMENT BRACKET
Thursday, Nov. 20 - Opening Round
Match 1: No. 8 SMU vs. No. 9 UCF, 12 p.m.
Match 2: No. 5 Tulsa vs. No. 12 East Carolina, 2 p.m.
Match 3: No. 7 Southern Miss vs. No. 10 Marshall, 5 p.m.
Match 4: No. 6 Memphis vs. No. 11 UTEP, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 21 - Quarterfinals
Match 5: No. 1 Tulane vs. Winner Match 1, 12 p.m.
Match 6: No. 4 Houston vs. Winner Match 2, 2 p.m.
Match 7: No. 2 UAB vs. Match 3 Winner, 5 p.m.
Match 8: No. 3 Rice vs. Match 4 Winner, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 22 - Semifinals
Match 9: Match 5 Winner vs. Match 6 Winner, 2 p.m.
Match 10: Match 7 Winner vs. Match 8 Winner, 4 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 23 - Championship
Match 11: Match 9 Winner vs. Match 10 Winner, 2 p.m.
(CBS College Sports Network)