VOLLEYBALL: UH fights tough schedule

The difficult part about playing volleyball in Conference USA is that every matchup pits quality teams against one another.

The Cougars (7-17, 4-5) began a four-game road trip last weekend, losing to conference-leader Southern Miss (20-4, 8-2) 3-1 Friday and defeating Central Florida (10-12, 2-7) 3-0 Sunday.

This weekend, the Cougars will try to bounce back when’ they’ take on two quality teams in Tulsa (17-5, 6-2) at 7 p.m. today in Tulsa, Okla., and SMU (15-7, 5-3) at 7 p.m. Saturday in Dallas. The Cougars are familiar with their upcoming opponents, having lost to both squads two weeks ago at the Athletics/Alumni Center.

Head coach Bill Walton said the key this time will be to focus on the details.

‘Essentially, against Tulsa, we’ve got to do a better job of handling No. 7 (Tyler Henderson).’ Walton said. ‘She hits a lot of balls cross-court, and we didn’t do a good job. She hit almost .400 against us last time, so we have to do a better job against No. 7.’

Walton also said the lesson to be learned from the loss to SMU is to execute from start to finish.

‘Against SMU, we got lots of free balls and we had lots of situations where we had opportunities to score, and we let them slip away,’ Walton said. ‘So we just want to get smoother and execute our offense a little bit better against SMU, and I think we’ll be OK.’

One thing both teams were able to do was block the Cougars’ offense. Tulsa had 16 team blocks against UH, while SMU had 14 team blocks. Walton said avoiding blocking has been a constant dilemma, and that solving it requires a team effort.

‘That’s one of the things we’ve been working on all year,’ Walton said. ‘First, the hitters have to do a better job of a tight ball, meaning they can’t hit the ball right into the block, and then the second is we need the setter to set the ball a certain distance off the net. The last two weeks, we’ve been working hard on getting her to set the ball at the net. We’ve done a lot better job getting the ball off the net so we can get our hitters a couple of swings.

‘Hopefully we have that solved, and we won’t get blocked so much.’

The Cougars will try to improve on their 1-1 record for this current four-game road stretch. After a tough loss to Southern Miss, UH regrouped to come back with a solid win over UCF.

Unlike previous times when the team would get down after a tough loss, they picked their heads up and moved on to the next practice, Walton said.

‘You know on the road, after losing a close game to Southern Miss, instead of the team being depressed, they came out and practiced hard on Saturday,’ Walton said. ‘We were very efficient and very calm, and we blocked well on Sunday.’

However, Walton still recognizes that could be another sign of the team’s inconsistency that has been evident this year.

‘Hopefully it’s not an anomaly that we played good,’ Walton said. ‘We want it to be our average that we play a certain way all the time; we got down against Southern Miss and we didn’t get down against Central Florida, so hopefully this weekend we can stay consistent and focused enough.’

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