Volleyball team faces bumpy road to end regular season
The Cougars are on the road for their final three games of the regular season, starting tonight against second-place Conference USA opponent SMU followed by a showdown Sunday against No. 24 Tulsa.
“We continue to fine tune some detail work and continue to keep everybody on the same page,” head coach Molly Alvey said. “We’re already in mid-November, and it’s kind of when the aches and pains start coming, so we’ve just been maintaining health.”
UH (19-10, 13-4 C-USA) has won seven straight games to move in to sole possession of third place in C-USA, including a 3-1 win at home against SMU in their first meeting of the season on Oct. 23, which began the streak.
“Playing at home is a great advantage for SMU,” Alvey said. “They always come out and compete well so I don’t expect anything less from them.”
SMU (23-5, 15-2 C-USA) has won six straight games since the loss to the Cougars, and still has a lot on the line being only two games behind Tulsa for first place.
Dana Powell leads a balanced SMU attack with 364 kills this season. The Mustangs are coached by Lisa Seifert who is in her 15th season in Dallas. This season’s Mustangs are one win away from her highest win total as coach.
The Cougars hope to get the same gutsy effort they had in the first meeting against the Mustangs, a game in which they won two games in extra points, and held off Powell’s double-double of 13 kills and 11 digs.
“When our offense is on, we’re pretty good,“ Alvey said. “Defense to a certain extent just comes down to effort. We just got to get our aggressive attitudes on and just put every bit of effort out there on the floor.”
Sunday’s match will have the Cougars at Tulsa in another must-win for UH. They will hope to halt the nation’s longest winning streak at 26. Tulsa also currently holds the longest C-USA winning streak at 19 games, proving to be a worthy adversary on the road.
“More than anything we go in with confidence and we go in executing our game plan,” Alvey said. “We don’t need to do anymore or any less, we just need to execute.”
Tyler Henderson has had a remarkable season for the Hurricanes, leading the way with 600 kills. She recorded 26 kills in Tulsa’s 3-1 victory at UH on Oct. 22. Tulsa is the defending C-USA champions led by head coach Ed Allen.
“We have a specific game plan for Henderson and the main thing, is you expect that she’s going to get her kills – good players find a way to score,” Alvey said. “You don’t let yourself get bummed out when she gets her kills, and you do what you can when you execute.”
Lucy Charuk leads the Cougars with 330 kills and 132 blocks. Amber Brooks has 1,117 assists and Amanda Carson has been solid defensively with 499 digs.
The Cougars will need to win out and have Tulsa and SMU seemingly both lose out to figure into postseason play. They end the regular season after Thanksgiving with a Saturday night tilt at inner-city rival Rice.
“As a group we don’t even really talk about postseason play,” Alvey said. “The next match is the next match, and we have to take care of one game at a time.”
Following the matchups against SMU and Tulsa, the Cougars will head across town to face off against the Rice Owls at Tudor Fieldhouse on Nov. 27. For the majority of the season, the Cougars were in fourth or tied for third place with the Owls.