UH’s (17-10, 10-7 Conference USA) end-of-the-season skid went from bad to worse Sunday as visiting SMU and Tulsa handed them back-to-back losses, putting the Cougars out of the running for the C-USA championship.
For seniors Lucy Charuk, Ingrida Zauere and Krysta DeAngelis, the loss against Tulsa was especially meaningful as the match doubled as the season’s Senior Night.
“You always want your seniors to pull out a victory on Senior Night,” head coach Molly Alvey said. “Luckily for them we’ll come back for Rice as our final match at home.”
Friday’s match will mark the final meeting between the Cougars and Golden Eagles (15-14, 9-8), with significant conference implications on the line. Southern Miss. is currently tied with SMU for fourth place, but will jump to third if they are able to defeat UH.
The Golden Eagles have recently hit a late-season surge, defeating SMU, Alabama-Birmingham and Memphis to fuel their rise in C-USA. Senior Kelsea Seymour has been at the forefront of the streak, averaging 11.97 assists per match to lead C-USA setters.
The ability to sustain a high level of play throughout an entire match will be key to the Cougars quest for a weekend sweep, and retaining third place in C-USA.
“I think we have to do what we for the first three-quarters of the first two sets against Tulsa, we have to play solid volleyball,” Alvey said. “Our communication needs be there, we have to be in sync, swing for kills, but swing in play.
“We just have to sustain. That extended focus, extended mental strength, needs to be there to stay with a team for 25 points in a set, for three whole sets.”
The road trip marks the final collegiate road matches for Charuk. The middle blocker currently ranks first among conference hitters in hitting percentage, and second in blocks per match.
After Sunday’s contest against Tulane, the Cougars will return home for their season closer against Rice on Wednesday.