Cougars look to loosen up for finale
In light of UH’s (18-11, 11-8 Conference USA) loss against Southern Miss. at the Reed Green Coliseum on Sunday (16-25, 18-25, 25-23, 17-25), the Cougars will likely end their conference shuffle in third place regardless of the result of their home closer against Rice.
When the Cougars welcome the Owls to the Athletics/Alumni Center on Wednesday, the stakes will have drastically changed since the cross-town rivals did battle to open the conference season in late September.
With rankings all but decided, the Cougars, instead look to tackle a different objective in the season closer.
“I would just like to see our team play and have fun,” head coach Molly Alvey said.
“If they have fun and communicate, all those other things will work themselves out.
I think we’ve been trying to work extremely hard, and maybe overkill, when really we’ve just needed to take two steps back and relax a little.”
After kicking off conference play with back-to-back five match winning streaks, the Cougars have stumbled through the final stretch, dropping six of their last 10 matches.
Among UH’s struggles, late-game offensive inefficiency has been the crux of the recent defeats. With the loss against the Golden Eagles, Houston dropped to fourth in hitting percentage among C-USA teams, after peaking as high as second midseason.
The Cougars are currently hitting .263 as a team, with senior Lucy Charuk continuing to lead at .390 per match.
“The details stuff — hitting, decreasing errors or making defensive stops — they all become a lot easier when you just relax and let the game happen for you instead of forcing the action,” Alvey said.
For a team picked to finish third in C-USA, the Cougars widely exceeded expectations to start the year, ranking as high as first after a quick 10-3 start.
To Alvey, questions about the season’s successfulness in light of the recent late-season stumble deserve a broad perspective.
“We started out the season ranked at 91, and we got as high as 38 in the country,” Alvey said.
“That’s a pretty phenomenal season. We had our first top-25 win since I’ve been here. The Israeli National team coming was an impressive event.
“There’s been an insurmountable amount of success for this program.”
First serve against the Owls is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Athletics/Alumni Center.