Andrew J. Ferraro
Almost as reliable as the sun rising in the east every day, the Houston Cougars are back in postseason action.
For the ninth consecutive season, UH volleyball head coach Bill Walton has led his Cougars to a postseason tournament.
The Cougars will be in action against the Oklahoma Sooners in first round action at 7 p.m. Friday at Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, Calif.
Houston has been to eight NCAA Tournaments in that nine-year span, including the last seven in a row. UH is one of just 13 schools in the country that can claim a streak of seven straight NCAA bids.
Should the Cougars defeat the 19-12 OU team, they will have to get ready for a tougher challenge as No. 1 and host Stanford awaits the winner.
The Cardinal has a record of 28-2 and was the 1996 NCAA champion.
Although the Cougars know winning is tough in the tourney no matter who the opponent is, they say they have the experience and dedication to take the team far as it is willing to go.
"We are definitely ready and excited to be playing this weekend," junior setter Bethany Hill said. "Right now I think we're playing real well as a team and all 13 of us are ready for the challenge."
Although the post season bracket is tough, the Cougars have had quite a bit of experience with the best teams in the country, having played the likes of Arkansas, UCLA, Hawaii, Texas A&M and Texas.
"Going to Hawaii and playing those tough teams (UCLA, Hawaii and North Carolina) really showed us and a lot of people that we are capable of playing with the best of them," Hill added.
Walton said that the two early tournaments were good for his team and should serve as preparation for what they will see this weekend.
"The quality of teams we'll play this weekend are very similar to what we saw back in September in Arkansas and Hawaii," Walton said. "At the time, those tournaments prepared us for the C-USA - now they are very indicative of what we can expect."
With No 1 Stanford in the green room waiting for the UH/OU winner, the Cougars are very tactful in pointing out they must not look past anybody, especially Oklahoma.
"We just need to go out there and play our kind of volleyball," freshman hitter Jenny Kniss said.
Should the Cougars defeat the Sooners, they have been preparing for the intense hitting that they are sure to expect from the Cardinals.
"We watched them (Stanford) on TV earlier this year, we knew they looked good even then," Kniss said. "They really come after their teams and they hit at a lot of different angles."
Added Walton, "We need to shut the door on their big guns as well as serve good and just play like we've practiced this week.
"I just hope some of the younger players don't get caught up in the awe of playing a team like Stanford."