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Volume 71, Issue 48, Thursday, November 3, 2005

Sports

Houston fries Rice Owls in five-game battle

Volleyball ends five-match losing streak; 
Ritter finishes with career-high 32 kills

Ronnie Turner
The Daily Cougar

It took the UH volleyball team five games, nearly two and a half hours and several tense moments before it was able to loosen the stranglehold Rice held over it Wednesday night. The Cougars (14-9, 9-2) defeated their cross-town rivals by a 3-2 decision (31-29, 30-23, 28-30, 34-36, 15-9) in their final home game of the season, halting a five-match losing streak to the Owls that began in 2002.

"We should have easily dominated that whole game," head coach Bill Walton said. "I really thought that in the fifth game we were poised and (Rice) wasn't. That was a good sign that we had confidence that we were going to win the fifth game and they were a bit nervous. That was the difference."

The Cougars went into the locker room at half time with a 2-0 lead, but Rice (15-8, 6-6) rallied two wins in the next two games to force a fifth game. The Owls struggled to put together much momentum in the deciding game, getting out-hit by the Cougars .286 to -.056. The Cougars jumped out to a 7-4 lead and took control of the match the rest of the way as they rode the strong attacking of senior outside hitter Kariny Ritter on their way to a 15-9 victory.

"The game took a little longer than it should have because we were ahead in all the games," senior libero Jaci Gonzalez said. "We had a few mental breakdowns, but I think we turned it around and made the best of it. We did pretty well."

For the match, Ritter finished with a career-high 32 kills and a season-high 20 digs, one of three Cougars to finish the match with double-doubles. Senior setter Jennifer Hohl notched 64 assists and 12 digs, freshman outside hitter Justine Farmer registered 19 kills and 18 digs, and junior middle blocker Becca Sartori smacked home 15 kills on a team-leading .379 attack percentage. Gonzalez tied a season-high with 35 digs and freshman middle blocker Akilah Grant-Sullivan tied a career-high with five blocks. For the entire match, the Cougars had .219 team hitting percentage to the Owls-- .159.

"Kariny really put the ball down and took charge out there," Gonzalez said. "It was what we needed and that's what we're going to need from here on out."

Neither team came out blazing in the first game. UH only managed a .170 hitting percentage for the game, but Rice couldn't do any better, only hitting .151. With the teams tied at 29, Rice senior outside hitter Olaya Pazo committed a crucial attack error that gave the Cougars the serve for game point. Rice's Rachel Lopez was later charged with a ball handling error that gave UH a 31-29 win. The Cougars picked up their hitting in the second game, leaping out to a 24-18 advantage and finishing off the Owls from there, hitting .250 for the game. The third game proved to be a wild affair with the Owls clinging close the entire game, and then taking the lead late in the match, winning it 30-28 after Ritter committed an attack error. The teams battled it out late in the fourth game, but Rice took it 36-34 on consecutive points from a Pazo kill and a UH attack error. 

"We shouldn't have taken this game as far as we did, which is kind of upsetting, but we managed to finish it, and that's all that matters," Sartori said.

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