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Thursday, June 8, 2023


Houston volleyball’s resiliency on full display in win over South Dakota

Houston volleyball won its first NCAA Tournament match since 1994 with a five-set victory over South Dakota on Friday in Omaha, Nebraska. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

Houston volleyball won its first NCAA Tournament match since 1994 with a five-set victory over South Dakota on Friday in Omaha, Nebraska. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

Kate Georgiades didn’t see the table in front of her. All that her eyes were focused on was the ball sailing towards the crowd behind the end line of Creighton’s D.J. Sokol Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.

Suddenly, the two-time American Athletic Conference Libero of the Year went flying. 

“I was just looking up. I didn’t even see a table there,” Georgiades said. “I’m just thankful I got (the ball) up.”

The table took the brunt of the damage as Georgiades was up and sprinting back onto the court just seconds after the collision to help UH steal what should have been to be a sure point for South Dakota.

“Someone needs to get that clip and send it to the Buffalo Bills the way she went after that table,” said UH head coach David Rehr after the match.

Georgiades’ highlight play exemplified the fight that UH, a team that had rarely been pushed to the brink during the regular season, displayed on Friday its first NCAA Tournament match in 22 years.

After dominating the first set and comfortably taking set two, all signs were pointing toward the fifth-seeded Cougars getting their 16th sweep of the season. 

South Dakota had other plans. 

The Coyotes won the next two sets despite losing the nation’s kill leader, Elizabeth Juhnke, after she had to be carted off in the fourth set due to an apparent knee injury, swinging all the momentum in their favor.

While seeing a 2-0 lead disappear was nerve-racking in the moment, a test like this was exactly what Rehr said his team needed. 

“If we would have swept our way through like we did the first set, I think we would have got punched in the mouth fast by a really really good team whoever we’re going to play next.”

UH outside hitter Kennedy Warren, who finished with a season-high 21 kills, reiterated this point.

“I think it helps that we had to fight in the first round,” Warren said. “If you just sweep and there’s no tough back-and-forth then it makes it hard to fight the second day. Already getting into that gear can help us get into the next gear the next day.”

With the season on the line, Rehr’s message was clear going into the fifth set.

“Win one point,” Rehr said. “Wash, rinse, repeat. Win the next point. Win the next point.”

That’s exactly what UH did.

The Cougars took the first four points of the fifth set and then ended it on a 5-1 run to survive the Coyotes’ late comeback efforts.

“We had a job to do and we got it done,” said outside hitter Abbie Jackson. “I’m really proud of us.”

It was resiliency that powered UH its first NCAA Tournament win since 1994 and it will take the same thing in round two on Saturday  against Auburn if the Cougars are to achieve their goal of reaching the Sweet 16.

Rehr is confident that his team will be up to the task.

“They’re resilient,” said UH head coach David Rehr. “This team doesn’t back down a lot.”

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