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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Volleyball

Big tests in Tulsa, SMU await Cougars


The weekend’s slate of games presents a big hurdle for the Cougars, but setter Amber Brooks (1) and middle blocker Lucy Charuk (13) feel it’s one the team can clear. | Brianna Leigh Morrison/The Daily Cougar

The Cougars are back home for two games this week against the top two teams in Conference USA in Tulsa (19-2, 9-0 C-USA) Friday, and SMU (16-4, 8-1 C-USA) Saturday.

UH (12-9, 6-3 C-USA) has won 11 of its last 14 games, but Tulsa comes to town having won 18 straight games. SMU has also been playing at a high level, winning nine of its last 10 games.

“We are really pumped up,” setter Amber Brooks said. “We’re really excited. We came off a 1-1 weekend, so we’re very excited and we’re very focused.”

Tulsa, ranked No. 42 in the NCAA, started the season 1-2, but hasn’t lost since being swept 3-0 Aug. 28 to Saint Louis. The Golden Hurricane are led by Tyler Henderson’s staggering 463 kills this season.

“I think mainly we just need them to set up good blocks,” head coach Molly Alvey said. “It’s important that we work our defensive system and not get out of system just because of one person.”

The back-to-back games against the Golden Hurricane and Mustangs can’t quite stack up to the brutal stretch at the Houston Invitational Sept. 3-4 when the Cougars played No. 17 Florida State, No.19 Oklahoma and No. 12 Tennessee in a two-day stretch.

“Our mentality has been focus,” Alvey said. “That’s the only thing we’ve talked about. We’re coming in each day from the start of practice focused on whatever it is that we are working on.”

SMU, ranked No. 49 in the NCAA, has only lost one conference game. That defeat came at the hands of Tulsa 3-2 at home Oct. 6.

The Mustangs don’t have a player like Tulsa’s Henderson and present a more balanced attack against UH with five players over 100 kills, Dana Powell leads Tulsa with 245.

“We watched film and we scouted them,” Brooks said. “We are focusing on the things that they are going to do and the things we are going to do to stop them.”

A sweep this weekend is not out of reach for the Cougars, having played tough opponents games all season, and being winners of five of their last six.

“We prepare for each opponent, do our scouting reports and watch film the same way. We make our subtle adjustments the same way. So, there is no different preparation,” Alvey said.

Lucy Charuk leads the Cougars attack with a team-high 224 kills and 94 blocks. Brooks is atop in assists with 792 and defensive guru Amanda Carson leads the way with 373 digs.

The Houston Cougars football team is on the road this weekend at SMU and with two home games on tap for volleyball, coach Alvey expects a good crowd.

“Our crowd has been phenomenal so far,” Alvey said. “I expect no less out of them and I expect my No.1 team to step out here and play at our top level as well as the crowd being the same that they’ve been, great supporters and great fans.”

Following Tulsa and SMU on the schedule, UH heads back on the road next week for a doubleheader at Marshall Oct.29 and at East Carolina on Oct. 31.


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