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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Cougars prep for NM State

The UH volleyball team gears up for its second tournament of the season as it travels to Las Cruces, N.M., where it will face Florida Gulf Coast and New Mexico State on Friday and Utah on Saturday in the 2008 Hotel Encanto Volleyball Classic hosted by New Mexico State University.

After finishing 2-1 in the Marquette Kickoff Tournament in Milwaukee, Wisc., head coach Bill Walton said the key to repeating that success is bringing the same enthusiasm and mental preparation this weekend.

"One thing I always worry about as a coach – the first weekend the team is always really fired up," Walton said. "Sometimes in the second weekend there is a letdown in the emotion. My goal is to get the team to go in every weekend with the same enthusiasm even after school is starting to weigh down on (them)."

Two Cougars earned All-Tournament awards in the season’s first tournament: senior outside hitter Justine Farmer and freshman outside hitter Ingrida Zauere.

Walton said Houston’s opponents will likely set their defensive focus around those two this time, giving other members of the offense the opportunity to shine while catching the other teams off guard.

"Now we are playing teams that have seen us play," Walton said. "They will look at star players (from) last weekend, but hopefully we have five players with equal opportunities for kills. If the other team focuses on two players, the other three can make big points."

Of the three teams the Cougars will play this weekend, two of them – Utah and New Mexico State – received votes in the CBS College Sports Network/AVCA Division I Coaches poll. New Mexico State was ranked No. 23 in preseason polls, but dropped out of the top 25 after going 2-1 in the Illinois Tournament.

Walton said the trick to combating these tough opponents is going to be the team’s serve reception. He said if Houston can skillfully return the ball in the first contact after the serve, it can run some plays and have a better chance at getting the ball back and scoring points.

"With the better teams, the real difference is how you return that first ball," he said.

He said preparation for tournament play is different than it is for conference play.

"It is impossible to get ready to play three teams. We spend time preparing ourselves to play… without worrying about the opponent. The focus is 90 percent about us and 10 percent on the opponent," Walton said. "The use of the scouting report becomes more important in the conference play. Most people are spending all energy on who is going to play where, what we are going to do and what we need to improve on. After these few weeks, all focus will be on the opponent."

But for now, he said the Cougars will work on giving the other teams tough serves to return and building team chemistry as they square off in their second tournament of the season.

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