Volleyball team heads to Austin for tough opener
The wait is finally over for the UH volleyball team, as its 2010 campaign gets underway today in Austin.
New head coach Molly Alvey and the Cougars open up the season at the Texas Invitational with a noon match against TCU, followed by a 4 p.m. match against McNeese State. UH will finish up the tournament with a tough matchup Saturday night against third-ranked Texas.
“It’s always important for us to mesh well, and I think that’s been our main expectations and goal for this pre-season training camp — for us to focus on playing well as a unit,” Alvey said.
The Cougars are led by junior middle blocker and All-Conference USA preseason selection Lucy Charuk.
The team captain missed all of the 2009 season because of a shoulder injury, which required surgery.
Charuk is excited to return to the court.
“I have no jitters whatsoever; I’m really excited,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for this for way too long.”
UH understands the toughness to the start of the season, facing opponents like TCU (27-7 last season) and 2009 national runner-up and No. 3 Texas (29-2 last season).
TCU is 5-3 in season openers under head coach Prentice Lewis and 2-2 in season openers on the road. The Horned Frogs return 10 letterwinners and four starters from last year’s team.
“It’s not so much about worrying about the tough competition; we’re just going to go out there and play,” Charuk said.
Texas will be Houston’s final opponent in the tournament as the Longhorns return nine letterwinners and four starters to a program that’s been ranked in the Top 5 for 32 consecutive weeks.
“There’s some worry (about playing No. 3 Texas); we don’t want to go home and get killed. That’s probably the only worry,” Charuk said. “We know that it’s going to be a tough match so we’re just preparing for that mentally, and we’re just going to play as hard as we can.”
McNeese State (17-13 last season) won’t be a pushover, but the Cougars know that it’s a match they must win while facing the Texas two-step in the Horned Frogs and Longhorns. McNeese State, like UH, is in its first year under head coach Terry Gamble.
“Same way we will address Texas and the same way we will address TCU,” Alvey said on playing McNeese State. “It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net. We’ve got to come out and compete at a top level.”
UH will need production outside of Charuk, and outside hitters Ingrida Zauere and Marluci Toazzi will shoulder that load. Zauere and Toazzi combined for 291 kills in 2009.
The Cougars return nine letterwinners and four starters this season from a 9-23 team in 2009 and add six newcomers to this year’s team.
“We go out and we play hard; you pick up wins where you can get them,” Alvey said. “I don’t want to set a goal; our goal is to play as a unit.”