VOLLEYBALL: Cougars set to finish lengthy homestand
The Cougars will continue their stretch of quality Conference USA opposition when they take on SMU at 7 p.m. today and Tulsa at 1 p.m. Sunday inside the Athletics/Alumni Center.
Sunday’s match will conclude UH’s (6-14, 3-2 C-USA) longest homestand of the season – a five-match stretch that began Oct. 2.
This weekend’s matches will also feature opponents with double-digit wins in the Mustangs (12-6, 2-2) and the Golden Hurricane (12-5, 2-2). For the Cougars, these games come on the heels of a three-set sweep at the hands of Rice (12-4, 4-1) on Wednesday.
This weekend, head coach Bill Walton’s team will face two teams with a similar style of play.
‘Tulsa and SMU tend to be outside-oriented teams. Whereas Rice is middle-to-outside, those guys are outside-to-middle,’ Walton said. ‘Against SMU and Tulsa, we’re going to have to stop their outside hitters.’
The highlight of SMU’s season was a sweep at the SMU Invite, which included wins over Texas State and Syracuse. The Mustangs have also defeated TCU, Arizona State and C-USA foe Marshall, which is 15-4 this season.
SMU’s strength is blocking their opponent’s attack. The Mustangs rank second in C-USA in blocks per set with a 2.28 average. The Mustangs have three players who rank in the top 20 of the conference in blocks, including 6-2 middle blocker Kendra Kahanek.
Tulsa went undefeated in two tournaments to start the season – the Bronco Invitational in Boise, Idaho, and the Oral Roberts Classic in Tulsa, Okla. The Golden Hurricane has also defeated Stephen F. Austin, Texas Tech and Marshall.
Tulsa is a balanced team, leading the conference with a .269 hitting percentage while ranking second in assists per game and kills per game. The Golden Hurricane holds its own on defense as well, where they are third in opponents’ hitting percentage.
One of Tulsa’s most talented players is 6-3 middle blocker Hannah Stout. Stout leads the conference with a commanding .417 hitting percentage.’
Outside hitters Tyler Henderson and Jennifer Eichler rank in the top four of C-USA in kills, with Henderson averaging 4.23 kills to lead the conference. Defensive specialist Jessica Adams is second in C-USA in digs per game.
Against Rice, the Cougars were simply out-hustled. In the three games, the Owls had 30 more digs (134-104).
Walton said the key to closing this gap is effort.
‘It’s called pursuit,’ Walton said. ‘We didn’t pursue the ball very well. When you don’t make that kind of an effort, not only do you not dig the ball, but you kind of lose momentum’
Walton believes consistency is the key to becoming a top-tier team in C-USA.
‘If we play as hard as we can, work as hard as we can and give the maximum effort, I think we have a chance of being the best team in the conference,’ Walton said. ‘Being willing to actually hurt yourself going for the ball is going to be the difference between us being the best team in the conference.’
Friday will also be the annual ‘Dig Pink’ Breast Cancer Awareness Match, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Cougars will be wearing pink jerseys during the match and the jerseys will be auctioned off to raise money for the Side-Out Foundation.