VOLLEYBALL: Cougars gear up for Rice
The Cougars followed their finest two performances of the season with discouraging efforts on the road against UTEP and Tulane.
The Cougars were in control of the first set against UTEP on Friday, and at one point led 21-16. The Miners went on an 11-4 run to win the set and send the Cougars into a tailspin for the rest of the weekend.
The Cougars were swept by both UTEP and Tulane, ensuring a losing record for the Conference USA season.
The Cougars (9-21, 6-9 C-USA) will now play their final match of the season against in-town rival Rice (18-8, 10-5) at 7 p.m. today at Autry Court.
Head coach Bill Walton said the team is having issues at the setter position, but still expects them to play hard in the season’s final match.
‘For medical reasons, we were unable to play Tara (Roenicke) on Sunday and we’re still not sure we’ll be able to play her today,’ Walton said. ‘So we’re trying to get the team comfortable with whichever setter that is playing. So we need their confidence level to be high and we need them to be fired up.
‘We’ve got nothing to lose, so we should lay everything on the line.’
However, even for the season’s final match, Walton said the team still has some areas to improve.
‘We would like to improve on service reception,’ Walton said. ‘We’d like to pass better, and we’d like to make it harder for outside hitters to hit the ball crosscourt. We’d like to do better blocking the crosscourt angle.’
The Owls swept the Cougars on Oct.7 at the Athletics/Alumni Center. Rice’s win was only their 15th win against Houston overall, but Rice has had two 20-win seasons and a NCAA Tournament appearance under head coach Genny Volpe.
This year, the Owls lead C-USA in kills and digs per game. Setter Meredith Schamun is leading the conference in assists per game, while’ libero Tracey Lam is the conference leader in digs per game.
Walton said the key this time would be to contain the Owls’ offense, which had 49 kills in the first match.
‘We need to serve tough so they can’t run the middle and then block and dig their outside hitters,’ Walton said.
After today’s match, the Cougars will have a little over a week off before the C-USA championships begin Nov. 20, which is also hosted by Rice.
Walton said the mindset for next week is to start fresh.
‘The plan next week is that it’s a brand new season,’ Walton said. ‘Essentially, everybody in the tournament is 0-0, so we’re hoping that we can carry a fresh attitude and a new enthusiasm and a new excitement to next week.’