UH volleyball downs No. 22 USC in record-setting opener
Fresh off a historic 30-win season in 2022, the UH volleyball team started 2023 making some more history.
In front of a record-shattering 1,904 fans in the Fertitta Center, No. 19 Houston beat No. 22 USC in the program’s first-ever ranked home matchup in Fertitta.
“I remember saying when I first walked in, ‘We’ve come a long way,'” said head coach David Rehr after the game. “It’s beautiful.”
The Cougars jumped out to an early lead in the first set, taking advantage of eight total errors from USC. Eventually, a 4-1 run forced USC to call a timeout with UH up 19-14.
A combined seven kills from a couple of new transfer outside hitters — grad student Nena Mbonu from Louisville and junior Katie Corelli from Ole Miss — led the way offensively for Houston en route to a 25-16 first-set victory.
The Trojans came out much sharper in the second set, even taking their first lead of the game, with a quick four-point spurt causing UH head coach David Rehr to call a timeout down 20-16.
Outside hitter Kenna Sauer, another grad transfer from Texas Tech, led a quick 4-1 surge by the Cougars to close the gap to within one before senior setter Annie Cooke tied the set at 22 with a slick dump shot. However, USC took over at the end to win the second set 25-23 and tie it up.
A 4-0 run gave the Cougars a 7-4 lead early in the third set, but a string of errors allowed the Trojans to get back into it and make it another tightly contested set. UH entered the media timeout clinging to a 15-14 lead.
Once again, another late run allowed USC to take control of the set and lead 21-18 before another Rehr timeout.
However, back-to-back kills from Sauer and junior middle blocker Kellen Morin ignited a furious comeback, giving UH set point and the set win.
“We just knew if we could get one or two stops that we could flip the whole game,” said senior libero Kate Georgiades. “And we just used that momentum we had inthe third set to carry us into the fourth set.”
Houston’s surge continued for the fourth set, with Georgiades nailing a service ace to put the Cougars up 10-4 and force a Trojan timeout.
USC tried to stage a late comeback, but huge plays from Sauer and Georgiades shut the door, and UH took the season-opener with a block from Morin and Corelli.
Sauer led the game with an impressive 18 kills on 45 attempts.
For Rehr, he expects this kind of performance to be the norm going forward.
“We’re good, and we’ve got to learn how to be good,” Rehr said. “And we’ve got to learn to live there.”
Up next, the Cougars will stay at home to face Southern Mississippi Saturday night.