Cougars continue undefeated conference streak after 3-2 victory over ECU
The Cougars remain undefeated against American Athletic Conference competition after they overcame late fourth and fifth set deficits against the Pirates on Friday night at the Fertitta Center.
ECU was able to build an early lead to begin the match against Houston as they scored the first three points of the set.
The Cougars answered the strong start from the Pirates by knotting the score up at three but soon found themselves down by as many as seven points.
The Pirates outlasted the Cougars as they held on for the 25-21 set win.
Houston struggled with errors all game long. The Cougars had 16 attack errors in the first and third sets combined, and UH lost both of those sets.
“I don’t think we ever cleaned (the mistakes) up,” said head coach David Rehr. “I think we just played better defense, and we let East Carolina make some mistakes to go along with it.”
The second set was a lot cleaner for the Cougars as they had only two attack errors, but it was a tighter contest with both teams scoring points in a hurry.
The Pirates began gaining a little separation towards the middle of the set, but the Cougars rallied to tie at 16 after a kill from senior outside hitter Claire Karsten.
Senior outside hitter Megan Duncan then scored on three consecutive possessions to give Houston a 19-16 lead.
The Cougars were able to keep the momentum from their comeback to defeat the Pirates 25-19 in the second set.
Houston then came out in the third set with an early edge as they built a 7-5 lead, but the Pirates countered the nice start by scoring six out of the next seven points and taking an 11-8 lead.
Following a timeout, freshman middle blocker Rachel Tullos ignited a four-point run with a ferocious kill that led to Houston regaining the lead.
The Pirates recovered, however, and took back the lead themselves after a few unforced errors from the Cougars. ECU did not look back as they took the set 25-20 and gained the 2-1 match advantage over UH.
“I don’t know if we overlooked them getting ready for Cincinnati, but every (conference) game we need,” said Rehr on the team’s sloppiness. “I am disappointed in how we came out. I am disappointed in how we coached them, and we gotta change it and fix it.”
The fourth set began with a fast start from the Cougars as they jumped out to an early 9-5 lead.
The Pirates stayed in the set never letting the lead extend for the Cougars. With Houston hanging on to a 22-21 led, the Pirates rallied to take the 23-22 lead.
Sophomore middle blocker Kendall Haywood was able to get the kill to tie the game at 23, and then both teams found themselves in an even deadlock as both teams refused to give up the final point.
The set was tied multiple times with each team taking turns getting a one-point advantage.
Ultimately, the Cougars outlasted the Pirates 29-27 after Tullos and Haywood got credited for a block, and junior setter Abby Irvine was able to seal the deal with an ace.
The fifth set was a continuation of the ending from the fourth set as neither team could build a comfortable cushion.
ECU had a 10-7 lead, but the Cougars fought back to tie the game at 11.
The two teams would tie on several occasions from that point forward until Duncan was able to seal the comeback win for Houston with a block followed by a kill.
The Cougars won the set 16-14.
Houston defeated ECU 3-2 in the match and are now 7-0 in conference play.
Houston finished the match with 72 kills, three aces, four total blocks, 64 assists and 80 digs.
Duncan led the Cougars in kills with 19.
Irvine was setting up her teammates left and right as she finished the game with 55 of the team’s 64 assists.
On defense, Tullos led the Cougars with three blocks while senior defensive specialist Katie Karbo finished the match with 19 digs.
The Cougars will look to improve to 8-0 against AAC competition on Sunday afternoon at the Fertitta Center against Cincinnati after surviving another nail-biter.
“I don’t know what they’re built with; I don’t know what the team has inside of them because there’s an automatic out that you can quit and lose the game and move on,” said Rehr, who remains very proud of his team. “They just won’t (quit). If we can bottle it and move it into the future, that’d be great.”