Sports Volleyball

Houston heads to first postseason tournament in 19 years

For the first time in almost two decades, the Cougars are heading to a postseason tournament. Houston will face Sam Houston State for their first matchup in the National Invitational Volleyball Tournament on Thursday in Dallas. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

For the first time in almost two decades, the Cougars are heading to a postseason tournament. Houston will face Sam Houston State on Thursday for their first matchup in the National Invitational Volleyball Tournament in Dallas. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The Cougars have their sights set on the Bearkats, whom they will face on Thursday afternoon after qualifying for the National Invitational Volleyball Championship, which is the first time Houston qualified for a postseason tournament since 2000.

The tournament offers the team a chance at redemption after falling short to Tulane in the quarterfinals of the American Conference Championship.

“It’s going to be the ultimate goal for us every year,” head coach David Rehr said. “The thing we need to start teaching the kids is that we want to play in December. If you’re playing in December it means you are playing in the postseason.”

All around the team is happy about the opportunity to compete again.

“It’s been a great season so far and this is kind of like the cherry on top,” senior libero Katie Karbo said. “So, I think everyone is excited to be able to say we are making history here.”

Even though the team is filled with enthusiasm about playing this late in the year, they are not satisfied with just getting invited to the party.

Houston has played in 14 five-set matches, with their latest being in the American tournament,  and they feel like the experience of being in so many close games will help them in the NIVC.

“It shows that we can stick through a lot of games and a lot of tough matches and fight to the end,” Karbo said. “I think going through that at the beginning of the season has prepared us for the future and this tournament and being able to put a fight against anybody we play against.”

Regardless of any situation the team may find itself in, they are confident in their own abilities, and because of this moxie, they never stop attacking even when they find themselves trailing.

“We just have the will to fight,” said senior outside hitter Megan Duncan. “We won’t give up no matter what, you can see from our record, we went to five (sets) for most games. We’ve come back from being down quite a few points, so we just fight our all every time we play.”

The Cougars also feel like the experience they gained in preparing and competing in the AAC tournament will benefit them in Arlington.

“Obviously we didn’t turn out how we wanted to in the conference tournament,” Karbo said. “I think that loss kind of prepared us a little bit more, so that way we have more fire in our belly that we wanna get another win and keep going further.”

A look at the opponent

Houston will begin the tournament against Sam Houston State, which will be a difficult first-round test.

They are 18-13 overall this year, and they went 12-4 in their conference.

Sam Houston State is led by head coach Brenda Gray, who has 717 total wins in her career.

“Brenda Gray has done a great job with Sam Houston State,” Rehr said. “They were the runner up in the Southerland Conference Tournament, and they got a lot of good players on the team. It’s going to be a tough task, but I like what we got going on.”

The Bearkats have opened up matches strong all season long, outscoring the opposition 737-660 in the first set, which has been a weakness for the Cougars as they have had a tendency to get themselves in holes early.

Final Hoorah for seniors

Regardless of the outcome of the tournament, these will be the final games for the four seniors on the team.

“We are trying to make it really enjoyable and really fun, and just be really excited to play with each other,” Duncan said. “There are a lot of seniors on the team and this is the last time we are going to play, so we are really just trying to make our last games count and enjoy it.”

For both Duncan and Karbo, their collegiate playing careers will end with somewhat of a homecoming, which will add more fuel for them to give it their all in this tournament.

“It’s really crazy to think about,” Duncan said. “It’s really exciting that we are going to Dallas because it is my hometown and it’s Karbo’s hometown too. Just having this to be our last year has been really nostalgic. I couldn’t have asked for a better year to end on.”

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