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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Volleyball

Cougars off to quick start after Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup


Junior Stephanie Nwachukwu led the Cougars with 40 kills in their three weekend games in the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup, earning tournament MVP honors. Junior Katie Norris was close behind recording 35. UH hits the court again Wednesday to take on the Israeli National Team at the Athletics/Alumni Center. | Brianna Leigh Morrison/The Daily Cougar

Junior Stephanie Nwachukwu led the Cougars with 40 kills in their three weekend games in the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup, earning tournament MVP honors. Junior Katie Norris was close behind recording 35. UH hits the court again Wednesday to take on the Israeli National Team at the Athletics/Alumni Center. | Brianna Leigh Morrison/The Daily Cougar

By the time UH reached the match point against Central Arkansas on Saturday at the Athletics/Alumni Center, any remaining questions about the new-look Cougars had long been silenced.

After notching decisive straight set victories against Lipscomb and Xavier in early-round play Friday and Saturday, UH (3-0) wrapped up the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup with a gritty four-set win over Central Arkansas.

Leading the Cougars’ offense, juniors Stephanie Nwachukwu and Katie Norris tore through the weekend each averaging more than 10 kills a game.

Both earned All-Tournament honors, with Nwachukwu taking home the tournament MVP.

“Stephanie played lights out,” head coach Molly Alvey said.“One thing that she’s been working on through preseason training is just being consistent. Instead of hitting .800 one match and .150 in another, we just want her to be in the middle.

“I think she did that hitting almost .400 every match. She was unbelievable.”

At right side hitter, Nwachukwu’s activity at the net proved vital for the Cougars’ tournament success.

In racking 15 kills against Central Arkansas, she led the offensive push that dealt the final blow in the closing minutes.

“I feel like everyone pulled their weight,” Nwachukwu said. “Everybody stepped up. I’m just happy they honored me.

“We really practiced hard. We really had stuff prepared. A lot of it’s mental preparation, and we really had to make sure we were ready there.”

Establishing a presence

With the starting rotation in constant flux during much of the team’s preseason play, the Flo Hyman Cup proved the perfect spotlight for potential starters to make a push for their inclusion in the rotation.

Days prior to the season’s start, Alvey issued a challenge to those vying for the setter position to step up and establish a presence on the floor.

Freshman Caitlin Ogletree received the nod as starting setter from Alvey this weekend, and did not disappoint.

Ogletree posted a game high 33 assists and 10 digs in Saturday’s match against Xavier, marking the first double-double of her short career.

“She did a great job,” Alvey said. “I think she established her position.

“But now she has to continue to earn it on a daily basis.”

Under the watchful eye of Alvey and her coaching staff, Ogletree’s decision-making process was of particular importance throughout the tournament’s three matches.

Moving forward, the freshman setter hopes her strong showing throughout the tournament will solidify her role.

“I tried to pull everyone together,” Ogletree said. “I think I’m making the right decisions. If I’m not, the coach is telling me that I’m not. But mentally, I think I’m there.”

Ogletree and the Cougars will be back in action against the Israeli National Team on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Athletics/Alumni Center.


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