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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Sports

Rachel Tullos not satisfied with 2019 season, wants conference title for UH


UH volleyball sophomore middle blocker Rachel Tullos extends high for the ball in a game against Rice during the 2020-21 season. | Courtesy of UH athletics

UH volleyball sophomore middle blocker Rachel Tullos extends high for the ball in a game against Rice during the 2020-21 season. | Courtesy of UH athletics

Wake up around 9 or 10 a.m, eat breakfast, attend Zoom classes, head to practice and then return home for another round of virtual lectures.

This is the routine of sophomore middle blocker Rachel Tullos during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her day doesn’t sound too different from that of the typical student-athlete, but Tullos is far from an ordinary college player.

The Lantana native wasted no time in cementing her status as a force to be reckoned with on the volleyball court for the Cougars, but she didn’t expect her freshman campaign to be as significant as it was.

Tullos led the American Athletic Conference in total blocks with 185 and came in at No. 3 in the nation in 2019. When it comes to solo stops, Tullos tallied 62 to lead all of Division I, with the next in line being 20 blocks behind.

“When I heard that I had the most solo blocks, it kind of surprised me a little bit,” Tullos told The Cougar. “It also made me happy because I worked hard to do that. It was a feeling of accomplishment.”

Since then, Tullos has become more confident in her talents.

“I learned that I could do more than what I thought I could do. I have high standards for myself,” Tullos said.

Her work last season earned her a spot on the preseason AAC All-Conference team, but Tullos is not focused on all of the awards and honors.

“She’s humble. She’s a person that doesn’t really care about the accolades,” head coach David Rehr said. “She’s just another kid on the team and doesn’t seek it.”

Rehr has known Tullos for over four years and has enjoyed watching her grow.

She continues to dominate as a blocker and her offense is getting better, but he feels it’s her mindset that is shifting the most.

“She’s a kid that just doesn’t want to see a negative thing happen to her, so she gets really hard on herself when it comes to that, but she’s starting to break out of it a little bit,” Rehr said. “Her maturity is showing every day, and it’s going to be fun to see what happens in three years, four years from now.”

Tullos has high expectations, and at times, ends up putting extra pressure on herself.

Since arriving at UH, she has looked to take a step back and remain calm when things don’t go exactly as she planned, which is where Rehr has seen her grow the most.

“That’s what I’ve been working on over this past year, ‘you know what, if I didn’t get that right, OK, then I’m going to do it again, and I’m going to get it right this time,’” Tullos said.

To no surprise, Tullos’ favorite thing to do is block. She’s looking forward to more moments like the win over SMU last season.

UH went to five sets against the Mustangs, and it was match point for the Cougars. Knowing SMU was going to set the middle, Tullos got into position for the stop.

“I was like ‘I’m going up for this block, and I’m about to get it,’” Tullos said.

And she did.

“I went up there, and I got the block, and that was probably the most intense, hype moment of my life,” Tullos said.  “Everyone was freaking out.”

Rehr is also excited for Tullos’ sophomore season, and to watch her get better and better.

“We know what she can do on the court as a defensive stopper. Her offense is much improving,” Rehr said. “It’ll be interesting to see how this season progresses with her.”

Tullos has high hopes for this 2020-21 team, and some of her ambitions for the year include upsetting opponents and bringing the conference title to UH.

While it’s fun to reflect on the past, Tullos is eager to get to work tackling these goals.

“That was awesome,” Tullos said. “But now it’s on to this year and what I’m going to do this year.”

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