Another volleyball tournament has come and gone with a mixed bag of results for the Cougars.
Three nationally ranked teams proving too much for the home team. No. 11 Florida State University, No. 18 Pepperdine University and No. 21 Ohio State University came together to sweep the Cougars over the weekend.
On the positive side, senior outside hitter Katie Norris was named to her third consecutive All-Tournament Team of the year.
“It feels good just to know that all the hard work we’ve been putting in has been recognized,” Norris said after the Ohio State match, in which the Cougars won their sole set of the tournament.
While the results were not what UH had in mind, the players acknowledged that the level of competition was fierce but had its benefits. So far this season, the Cougars have played five ranked teams in 10 games. Freshman middle blocker Emily Howard made note of the tough scheduling.
“We’re going to be prepared for conference,” Howard said after the finale match against Ohio State. “Playing such good teams definitely gets us ready for that. I’m hoping to take away from this season a conference championship but also getting the team where we need to be and doing anything that I can to do that.”
The tournament began Friday with a match against FSU. Though the Seminoles had their run of the court in the three-match sweep, the Cougars were able to rack up some impressive numerical and statistical accomplishments. Norris completed her third double-double of the year with 12 digs and 12 kills.
“You’ve gotta learn,” Norris said. “You have to play really hard the whole game. If you let up on one of these ranked teams for a second, they’re up on you by five or six points.”
Saturday began with a match against Pepperdine. The Cougars were swept again, but Norris and senior middle blocker Chandace Tryon added in eight kills and seven kills respectively. Senior setter Abby Simmons and sophomore setter Caitlin Ogletree contributed with 16 and 10 assists.
Simmons and sophomore defensive specialist Natalie Keck led the defense with 11 digs, with Simmons adding in another nine. Sophomore middle blocker Kaiti Waters rounded out the Cougars’ attack with a .444 attack percentage.
The final match against Ohio State allowed several promising freshman talents to get on the court.
“It’s been a great experience so far,” Howard said. “As a freshman, you have jitters and get nervous, and it’s exciting to play such good teams. It will definitely help us in the season.”
The team battled their way through to a tough 3-1 loss to the Buckeyes before a crowd of 787, with Norris tagging in with a tournament-best 16 kills. It was a strong showing. Waters put in a career-best four blocks, with the team putting up a total of 10.
With the tournament behind them, UH starts conference play against Rice University 7 p.m. Tuesday at Tudor Fieldhouse at Rice.
Conference play underway
With the de facto preseason behind them, the Lady Cougar volleyball team starts conference play and officially starts their quest for a Conference Championship. The Cougars can’t wait.
“They’re pumped and ready to go,” head coach Kaddie Platt said. “They’re really excited to be getting started with that. That’s definitely their mood.”
There’s ample reason for the Cougars to be excited. With many lessons learned from a rough and tumble pre-season inundated with tournaments against highly ranked opponents, the team is looking forward to the games that actually matter.
“Our little thing we say all the time is, ‘Dream, Believe, Battle.’ Dream about what you want, believe it, then go out and battle for it,” Platt explained.
“I guess that’s our little cliché for the season.”
The head coach acknowledged the ‘little cliché’ has actually helped a great deal through some of the rougher times in the pre-season.
“When you’re taking the hits like we have in pre-season, we’ve got to keep the fight and keep dreaming about what we want to accomplish and then you’ve got to commit yourself to it and go out there and work for it.”
This attitude that the Cougars hold so dear has earned from their head coach.
“They’ve got a lot of fight in them,” Platt said of her squad. “When you have that, the sky is the limit. They want to improve everyday. With that kind of attitude I feel that we can do a lot.”
While constantly improving, Coach Platt admits there is some room for improvement. But through this, even rivals had paid the Cougars some compliments.
“The Ohio State coaching staff told me that we battle hard for every point,” said Platt.
“He said he wishes his team was like that.”