UH splits two with Marshall
Through five sets Saturday evening at the Athletics/Alumni Center, Katie Norris looked as good as any outside hitter in Conference USA.
The junior racked 25 kills and 8 digs, on a .375 hitting clip to lead the Cougars to their first victory after having their home winning-streak snapped at six by visiting Marshall (8-17, 17-8 Conference USA) on Friday.
“I’m overly-impressed with the way Katie Norris bounced back from last night’s performance,” head coach Molly Alvey said.
“She was the player that I’ve envisioned her to be from the beginning.”
After dropping the first of their back-to-back matches against Marshall, the Cougars put together their most consistent team effort of the year to defeat the Thundering Herd (23-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-22, 15-12) in the back end of their two-match visit.
The Cougars struggled at the outset, allowing Marshall to race to a 7-3 lead. The quick offensive burst forced a UH timeout, but the momentum remained with the Herd as they pushed their lead to five points.
With Marshall leading 20-17, Houston went on a 5-2 run to close the gap. Down match point, the Cougars could not find the offensive production to continue the comeback, and ultimately fell 25-23.
Led by Norris and freshman outside hitter Kadi Kullerkann, UH fought back to even the match in the second set. After trailing early, the Cougars tied the match at 13-13 and inched to a 25-22 win, with Kullerkann producing in key moments.
“Kadi stepped in and took some great swings,” Alvey said.
“She’s getting a lot better. We’re working on her footwork, her transition footwork specifically. But she picked up several blocks, her errors were very minimal and she was absolutely key to this win.”
Coming out of the break, UH traded sets with Marshall to level the match and force a deciding fifth set.
With the early dips in momentum behind them, the Cougars battled point-for-point with the Herd to start the fifth set. The consistent production from middle blocker Lucy Charuk and Norris steadied the Cougars, and forced a 9-9 tie.
After breaking the tie at 10-9, the clearly frustrated Marshall head coach Mitch Jacobs called a timeout to regroup from the one-two punch of Kullerkann and Norris. Out of the break, however, the Cougars powered through Marshall’s defensive adjustments to force a match point at 14-12.
With the threat of the Univesity’s hitters looming, the Thundering Herd committed a passing error and dumped the ball into the net to hand Houston the victory.
“I think a win like this is great for us. I don’t think by any means it was our sharpest volleyball match,” Alvey said. “But I think when you’re in a little bit of a slump this is what you need to come out of it. You just need a team playing solid volleyball together.”
Conference standings on the line
With the split against Marshall, UH’s 10-5 C-USA record puts them in a three-way tie with UAB and Rice for second place behind Tulsa.
The Cougars will continue their final push for first place Sunday evening when they welcome the SMU to the Athletics/Alumni Center for the final regular-season meeting between the in-state opponents.
First serve is set for 7 p.m.