Volleyball team makes progress in first season under Alvey
The Cougars wrapped up their first season under head coach Molly Alvey this week improving on a nine-win season in 2009 to a 19-win season this year.
UH (19-13, 13-7 C-USA) finished third in Conference USA and had big wins against SMU, BYU, Loyola Marymount and McNeese State for Alvey’s first win of the season.
“I think it was an incredible season for us,” Alvey said. “On the outside looking in — from the beginning, if you would have told me we would be sitting in third place at the end of the season, I probably would not have believed that.”
The Cougars put themselves in a challenging situation after a 1-6 start, but three of those losses came from the likes of Top 25 teams Florida State, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Losing to high-caliber programs did not make Alvey hit the panic button.
“I think you only get better when you play better programs,” Alvey said. “It gives you a visual of what it looks like to be a Top 25 program.”
Following a loss against Wichita State, the Cougars reeled off five straight wins, including a 3-0 record and win at the Nicholls State Tournament, which improved them to 6-6 on the season.
The conference season began with back-to-back losses against rival Rice and Tulane, putting the Cougars in a tough spot at 0-2 in C-USA.
“It didn’t make me nervous at all,” Alvey said. “I think Tulane was probably the turning point in the chemistry of the team, the camaraderie and the emergence of a somewhat consistent starting lineup.”
The second five-game winning streak of the season followed as the Cougars beat Tulane, UCF, UTEP and Southern Miss twice before losing a heartbreaker at Memphis 3-2 on Oct. 15.
“I think we were really sharp,” Alvey said. “Our ball control got consistent, and that’s what changed the whole look to the team for us.”
The Cougars beat UAB in their next game, but like everyone in C-USA play this season, lost against Tulsa 3-1 on Oct.22. The No. 22 Golden Hurricanes finished the regular season with a 30-2 record, 20-0 in C-USA and are currently on a 28-game winning streak.
The Tulsa loss was a jumpstart to another Cougar’s winning streak that reached seven games spanning from Oct. 23 – Nov.14, which included wins against SMU, Marshall (twice), East Carolina (twice), UAB and Memphis.
The season ended with a rough patch as the Cougars dropped road games at Tulsa, SMU and Rice to end the season failing to get that 20th win.
“It was really tough,” Alvey said. “Especially for a team that grew in confidence and believed in itself. Everyone was extremely upset, and probably felt like they could have done something differently to go out on a better note.”
The Cougars say goodbye to two senior starters — Marluci Toazzi and four-year player Amanda Carson. UH heads into the 2011 season with great expectations following a resurgence and exciting bounce-back season under Alvey.
“I think more than anything now we don’t have to go into unfamiliar territory,” Alvey said.
“Coming up in February, it will be a year that we’ve all been together and expectations are a little bit more understood.”