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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Young Cougars dominate UT-Arlington’s squad

Young teams generally are a source of frustration for head coaches, but Houston volleyball head coach Bill Walton has not lost much sleep over his young squad.

The Cougars, who feature 10 underclassmen, kept Walton satisfied by operating smoothly during preseason camp, and gave him something else to enjoy with a dominant 3-0 victory (30-23, 30-24, 30-18) over Texas Arlington in Friday’s season opener at the Athletics/Alumni Center.

Junior outside hitter Justine Farmer paced Houston (1-0) with a game-high 25 kills and 17 digs, but the three-game sweep wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of freshmen Lucy Charuk and Hannah Sullivan.

Charuk, a middle blocker, smacked 11 kills on a .526 attack percentage and Sullivan, an outside hitter, knocked home 10 kills to go along with three assisted blocks.

With Farmer, Charuk and Sullivan providing the fireworks and junior setter Kelsey King (44 assists) controlling the offensive tempo, the Cougars were hardly ever threatened by Texas-Arlington (0-1).

"I’m loving not having to do a lot of things and having (the offense) spread apart because it’s hard when (opponents) know that (I’m) going to get set," Farmer said, who recorded her seventh consecutive double-double and 10th in 11 matches dating back to last season. "It’s really great to have Lucy and Hannah here. I’m glad they stepped up."

Walton started four freshmen against Texas-Arlington, but the team played like veterans from the outset.

The Cougars’ passing was crisp, they didn’t commit a single service reception error and they out-shot the Mavericks .216 to .085 in the first game en route to taking a 30-23 decision.

"If you can pass this good, then you’re in every game," Walton said. "I don’t care who you’re playing; if you pass this good, you have a chance to beat everybody."

Farmer notched only six kills in the first game, but came alive with a 10-kill output in the second game. She started the set with three consecutive kills to help the Cougars to an early 9-6 lead.

Texas-Arlington kept the contest close, and gave itself a chance after pulling within 21-20. Charuk, however, smacked another kill that propelled the Cougars on a 9-4 run to close out the game.

Farmer and Charuk combined for five kills during that spurt.

"I got a little bit nervous before the game, but as soon as we got out there, I got comfortable and just kind of did my thing," Charuk said.

The two teams traded blows at the start of the third game, but the Cougars gained some separation, and jumped out to a comfortable 19-12 lead.

From there, Houston sprinted to the victory, which Farmer fittingly capped with a kill.

The Cougars torched the Mavericks in the final game, out-hitting their opponents .438 to .233 and converting 89 percent of their sideout opportunities. Farmer led the offensive onslaught with nine kills.

The dominant victory left the Cougars feeling good about their chances for Tuesday’s match at Kansas State.

Although Walton was impressed with Friday’s outcome, he’ll wait before passing further judgment on his team.

"I’m not getting cocky right now because they’re young and we could (play) exactly the opposite the next time," Walton said. "We’ve got to find out what our average (level of play) is, and we’ll know in about two or three weeks."

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