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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Sports

Cougars northward bound for tournament in the Prairie State


The Cougars will travel to Champaign, Ill., to compete in the State Farm Illini Classic Tournament hosted by the University of Illinois.

UH will tip things off tomorrow with the University of Dayton, and round out tournament play Saturday when they take on the Tennessee Volunteers and tournament host Illinois.

Both Dayton and Illinois ranked inside the Top 25 of the AVCA Coaches Poll.

“We have to come out with more of a focus,” junior outside hitter Katie Norris said. “Be ready for tougher serves, more balls coming back over the net, harder hitting.

“Everything is going to be bigger.”

At outside hitter, Norris’s strong play at the net has been a vital part of the Cougars’ success early in the season.

She has averaged more than 11 kills through three games, and earned All Tournament Honors for her play at the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup in UH’s opening matches.

“This weekend I’m just going to focus on being really consistent,” Norris said.

“I really have to focus on bringing my level of play every time we go on the court. It really helps to have that one person who’s always consistent. I want to try to be that player, so they know they can count on me.”

This weekend’s set of matches will mark the Cougars’ first matches away from the Athletics/Alumni Center, and will be the first true test of the season for Norris and Co.

Like UH, Illinois enters the State Farm Classic with a spotless 3-0 record.

The Fighting Illini swept the BYU/Nike Invitational over the weekend and entered the season ranked seventh in collegiate volleyball.

“We talk about this a lot — it’s such a mental game,” Norris said. “If we get those points and have opportunities to pull ahead and finish a game, we can’t stop focusing.

“We have to focus on making plays at the end, and avoid making errors.”

The Cougars begin tournament play at 4:30 p.m. Friday against the Dayton Flyers at Huff Hall.

After this weekend the Cougars’ next competition is the UK Invitational in Lexington, Ky.


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