Home cooking could be recipe for success
From the moment Natalie Keck boarded the flight en route to Houston after UH’s loss to UTEP on Sunday, a single thought gave her enthusiasm in the wake of the Cougar’s snapped six-match winning streak.
“I just remembered — wow, we’re still undefeated at home. It’s a great place to bounce back from last weekend, win these two matches and move on.” Keck said.
When UH (16-7, 9-4 Conference USA) welcomes Marshall to the Athletics/Alumni Center Friday, the Thundering Herd will encounter a Cougar team currently unbeaten at home.
After a slew of gritty five-set battles, come-from-behind victories and the occasional three-set sweep, the Cougars have managed to hold serve in nine out of nine attempts to put them in second place in C-USA.
“We love playing at home,” middle blocker Lucy Charuk said. “It’s definitely a confidence boost for us.
“The fact that we are undefeated here gives us more encouragement to play hard, and keep it that way. We’re more comfortable here, and we’re more confident here. So that definitely gives us a huge advantage over whoever we’re playing.”
Entering the matchup, the Cougars have spent the week zeroed in on the largest contributor to their losses to Central Florida and UTEP — the mental game.
“It’s definitely a mental thing for us,” Charuk said. “It’s one thing we struggled at during the beginning of the season. We haven’t had the problem in the last couple of weeks, so the losses were kind of a step back for us. But we’ve looked at the weekend, learned from it and we’re going to move on and get better.”
In their dominating performances against Rice, UAB and UTEP, the Cougars displayed a knack for coming through in big moments.
For a team that has reeled off two five-plus-match-winning streaks, the key to topping visiting Marshall will be the ability to keep composure during pressure situations.
“A combination of things let us down last weekend,” Charuk said. “We couldn’t put a full game together. We would have a string of good plays, then one person would take a break, then another would.
“It was hard for us to put it all together, and put the teams away when we’re all on the same page.”
Marshall streaks into matchup
The Thundering Herd will make the trip to Houston claiming one of the weakest road records, 1-7, among C-USA schools, but has recently shown signs of life as they enter the home stretch of the season.
With the stellar play of freshman setter Sammie Bain, Marshall currently owns a three-match win streak, topping SMU, Southern Miss. and Tulane for their latest victories.
Bain currently ranks seventh in C-USA in assists with 9.65 per set.
“Last weekend I feel like we were individually playing, and not playing as a team,” Keck said. “So staying together and working for each other is something we’ll have to do.
“We can’t be selfish, or work for ourselves. That’s what’s important for us to remember.”