Volleyball has eyes on comeback with new season
The University of Houston women’s volleyball team looks to come back from a forgettable 2016 campaign where the club lost all 20 of their conference matchups.
The team looked to be in disarray during the tumultuous season as they fell further and further out of contention. Houston was unable to stay healthy long enough to gain traction as they limped into the spring with a miserable 5-26 record.
It wasn’t until the offseason that the team began to turn things around.
In a trifecta of spring tournaments, the team dominated and managed to win all but one game. It was a significant improvement that displayed the perseverance and mental toughness of head coach Kaddie Platt’s squad.
“We don’t want to be the way we were last year,” senior outside hitter Brianna Lynch said. “We want to grow as a team and individually. I think it’s important that we take what happened last year and just keep moving forward.”
During the offseason coaches are not allowed to hold practices of any sort, leaving it up to the players to improve themselves. The Cougars used this time to their advantage by holding player-organized open gyms and working out as a team. It allowed them to develop relationships off the court, too.
“We always hang out with each other outside of volleyball,” Lynch said. “Whether it’s lunch, dinner or hanging out in someone’s room, we’re always trying to spend time with each other outside of Alumni.”
Supporting each other during their darkest hour shows a team using the experience as a learning curve instead of a deterrent — a team at peace with the past.
“I think last year, although the record didn’t show it, these girls worked their tails off the whole time,” Platt said. “We never lost focus no matter what the score said. The girls came in through summer and spring and were like, ‘We have something to prove.’”
With a plethora of new additions to the roster and two new coaches, the Cougars have placed themselves in position to flip the narrative.
Among the three recruits picked up this summer, two have been attending the University already. Freshmen setter Abby Irvine and outside hitter Gabby Zelaya both graduated high school early to join the Cougars. The extra semester will help them adapt to Platt’s system as well as the speed of the college game.
The Cougars face stout talent throughout their division schedule, highlighted by nationally ranked SMU, which claimed the AAC Championship last year. The school now ranks No. 25 in the nation based on RPI projections.
The Cougars will have their chance at redemption on Aug. 25 where they will attend the UTA Invitational to kick off the season. Houston’s first game is a matchup with McNeese, a team the Cougars have fared well against in the past. The last five encounters between them have resulted in UH victories.
After starting the season on the road, Houston will come home Sep. 8 to hold the 8th annual Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup. The Cougars will open their doors to McNeese, Mississippi State and Stetson University during the two day tournament. The home debut is scheduled to take place Sep. 8 against Stetson.
The Cougars’ regular season will end in Louisiana, where they will take on Tulane. Playoffs will be held a week after the Cougars’ last game. If Houston attends the NCAA Tournament, it will be their first appearance in some decades.