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Friday, October 19, 2018

Sports

Cougars are prepared to excel after a hot start


Junior libero Katie Karbo leads the team in digs and has solidified the Cougars’ defense. | Thomas Dwyer/ The Cougar

The red-hot Cougars volleyball team has already won more games than it did all of last season and will look to continue the success in the American Athletic Conference.

Houston is 13-2 and finds itself on top of the conference standings with South Florida and Tulane behind it. It is a far cry from the eighth place that UH was picked to finish in the preseason conference poll.

Houston’s success has spurred from its balanced abilities on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

Of the team’s 766 kills, 12 different players have at least one. Junior Megan Duncan leads the squad with 181 kills. She’s followed by sophomore Gabi Zelaya at 139 and freshman Kendall Haywood with 111.

On defense, the balance is even more spread out. Fifteen different players have multiple digs and six have double-digit blocks.

Junior libero Katie Karbo leads the team by a fair margin with 265 digs and Zelaya, Duncan and senior Katie Krebs have more than 100 each.

“We’re digging more balls, and I think we can still dig more,” said head coach Kaddie Platt. “I think that is the determination. Scrappiness and effort.”

Duncan said in the preseason that the key to success for this year’s squad was to start the season strong and build off the momentum of early success.

“We’ve done a lot of good things in preseason and we’ve built a lot of confidence throughout the whole team and a good chemistry,” Karbo said. “So going into conference, these teams are good and we’re just as good, or even better.”

The Cougars are on track to do just that and will look to top head coach Kaddie Platt’s most wins, 18, in her previous six seasons at the school.

While no teams in the AAC are ranked, Wichita State and Cincinnati have both received votes.

The second-place preseason pick, Cincinnati, has a 9-3 record and is tied with Central Florida in fourth. Wichita State was the preseason favorite but sits at No. 10 with a 5-6 record. The teams have still received votes because the strength of the schedule of each team is high.

Houston lost its only matchup against Wichita State last season 3-0. The two squads will play Oct. 21 in Houston and Nov. 9 in Wichita.

UH only plays Cincinnati once this season on Sept. 30 in Ohio. Cincinnati got the best of Houston in both meetings last season.

UH rival SMU sits at No. 11 with a 3-7 record after it was voted to be fourth place. The Cougars will play in Dallas Oct. 5 and will host the Mustangs in the season finale Nov. 21. SMU defeated UH in both matches last season.

Through the first four tournaments of the season, Houston has only lost 15 sets and two games total. The losses were a 0-3 defeat against UTSA and a 2-3 loss to Robert Morris. In the latter, the Cougars had a two-set lead before stumbling in the closing stretch.

UH opens the AAC season Friday against Temple at the Athletics and Alumni Center on campus.

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