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Saturday, September 23, 2023


UH digs into first C-USA tournament

UH could not have picked a better time to produce a season-best 84 total kills as it did in its regular season finale against Tulsa on Sunday.

The Cougars will be fresh off that performance heading into the Conference USA tournament beginning Thursday in Huntington, W.Va., at Marshall University.

Last season the Cougars made it to the semifinals before they were bounced by Memphis. Head coach Bill Walton said that his team is prepared to make another run at the title this season.

"The key will be to make sure we get a good night’s rest before game days," Walton said. "If we have better preparation than the other team, which is up to us coaches, then I think we’ll be in good shape."

The Cougars (13-14, 8-8 C-USA) are the No. 6 seed and will draw Southern Mississippi in the opening round. UH was at home earlier this season against Southern Miss on Sept. 23 and defeated the Golden Eagles 3-1.

Junior setter Kelsey King had a team-high 30 assists and likes her team’s chances on a neutral floor.

"We did fairly well on neutral courts this season," King said. "I like playing in new places, and they won’t have their fans yelling at us. I think we’ll do really well, and we can focus a lot more knowing that it’s just us."

Southern Miss (12-20, 3-13) limps into the postseason with losses in 10 of its last 12 matches.

When these teams met last on Sept. 23, UH rode the arm of junior outside hitter Justine Farmer as she notched a career-high 36 kills to go along with 21 digs.

Senior outside hitter Amanda Huntoon led the Golden Eagles in that match with 16 kills. Three other Southern Miss players each recorded 12 kills.

Only four current UH players saw action in last season’s tournament, one being sophomore outside hitter Ashley Calhoun.

Calhoun, who recorded 17 kills against Tulsa on Sunday, said that players who have been through the C-USA tournament will look to help the younger players prepare to bring their best game.

"It was different for all of us last season, because it was here in Houston," Calhoun said. "We’re definitely going to have to make sure all of the freshmen are relaxed and ready to play because we’re going to need them."

Farmer will look to improve upon her performance in last year’s tournament, where she averaged 23 kills and 13 digs in three matches. Those numbers were good enough to earn her a spot on the C-USA All-Tournament Team.

"The tournament is going to be very exciting because everyone starts the tournament 0-0," Farmer said. "In the regular season you’re playing and learning from your mistakes, but in the tournament you’re just playing your heart out because every game could be your last game."

Thursday’s match against Southern Miss will begin at 1 p.m. in the Cam Henderson Center. If the Cougars are victorious, they will face No. 3 seed Alabama-Birmingham on Friday – a team that the Cougars fell to in five games earlier this season.

"If we get to see UAB again, I think that will also be a good matchup for us," said King. "We almost beat them at their home, so we’ll be confident that we have the ability to beat them."

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