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Volume 71, Issue 6, Monday, August 29, 2005

Sports

Cougars 2-1 in season opener

Volleyball squad falls to Shockers, defeat Lady Jacks, Red Raiders

By Ronnie Turner
The Daily Cougar

It's not often that a team can say it won by losing, but that's what the UH volleyball team did during the Houston Tournament this weekend.

"We have to relax, play hard and make some critical plays when the pressure's on," head coach Bill Walton said. "Right now, that will be the most important thing. That was our weakness last year too."


Freshman Justine Farmer recorded her first career double-double during the Houston Tournament. The Cougars are now 2-1 in the season after falling to Wichita Falls, later defeating Stephen F. Austin and Texas Tech.
Stephen Pinchback /The Daily Cougar

"I think we are a lot better than we were last year, but we have a couple of things to work on," junior Kelly McAnelly said. "We are still getting used to each other because there are some new people that are starting, but overall we are doing alright."

The Cougars were swept in three games by Wichita State in the season opener Friday night, but rebounded to capture the tournament crown with wins over Stephen F. Austin and Texas Tech Saturday.

With the victories, UH (2-1) improved to 15-2 all-time against SFA and knocked off Texas Tech for the first time since 1995 when they were Southwest Conference rivals before the conference disbanded.

"I was proud of the way our team responded today," said Walton in a press release about the Texas Tech game. "Jennifer (Hohl) did a fantastic job of distributing the volleyball, and keeping everyone involved."

Hohl piled up a match-high 53 assists, 112 for the weekend tournament, as the Cougars took out the Red Raiders in four games (30-16, 30-28, 28-30, 30-20). 

"I get satisfaction as a setter when I see all of my teammates doing well," Hohl said in a press release. "Today we brought a lot of intensity after working out some of the kinks (Friday)."

The Cougars bounced back to take Saturday afternoon's match against SFA in four games (30-23, 24-30, 39-37, 31-29). Superb defense from senior libero Jaci Gonzalez and strong attacking from senior Kariny Ritter proved to be the difference in the victory, as UH struggled to get things going in the second game. 

Game 3 was a wild melee that featured 14 ties and six lead changes. The contest proceeded into the thirties with both teams laboring to put the game away with a match point. 

After taking a 38-37 edge, Ritter notched a kill for the point that put the game away. That momentum carried over to Game 4 where, after trailing 29-26, the Cougars scored five unanswered points to take the game and avoid losing their second straight match.

UH got double-double outings from three players, including freshman Justine Farmer (18 kills and 24 digs), Ritter (19 kills and 11 digs) and McAnelly (15 kills and 11 digs). Hohl tacked on 46 assists and Gonzalez totaled a match-high 31 digs in what Walton said was a must-win game.

"It was especially good for us to win that one close game (39-37) because we stayed pretty consistent and didn't make very many mistakes," Walton said. "The early morning match is always the toughest, especially after coming back from last night because you don't have as much rest, and I thought we looked a little bit lethargic today.

"It was really big after being behind the whole fourth game to win without having to play a fifth game, especially important so that we (could) rest longer going into (Saturday night's) matchup against Texas Tech."

The rest no doubt helped out against Texas Tech whom the Cougars toyed with in the four-game match. UH came out swinging in the first game, and managed to kill off a Red Raider rally in the second game, cruising to a 3-1 victory. 

The Cougars got double-digit kills performances from four players for the second straight game, led by McAnelly with 18 kills, followed by Ritter with 15. Sartori and Farmer trailed behind claiming 10 and 11 kills, respectively. Farmer also recorded her second straight double-double (10 kills and 19 digs) and Gonzalez competently held down her back row defensive duties, by garnering 35 digs, finishing the weekend with 89 digs at a rate of 8.09 digs per game.

"Jaci played great defense," Walton said. "Jaci kept so many balls alive for us that (her play) was the difference in the game."

However, one of the biggest storylines of the weekend was the emergence of true freshman Farmer and setter Kelli Adams into the starting lineup. 

"I was very nervous," Farmer said. "I thought I had played nervously in the first two games (on Friday), but when we were coming back I told myself to focus."

Farmer finished the weekend with 35 kills and 50 digs, and Adams, who didn't play in the Texas Tech match, totaled 35 assists. Walton said that the two players still have a long way to go.

"There's a lot of information that (they need to absorb) and then they'll be okay," Walton said. "I think that I've probably overburdened them right now. 

"They just need to forget what I've told them and play (as if) I've never told them (anything)."

Gonzalez said that it will take some time before this team gets it all together.

"We have to take it one step at a time this year," Gonzalez said. "What happened (Friday) was just a learning experience. We had some freshmen out there who made some freshmen mistakes that we (expected).

"We did a better job (Saturday) of communicating on what the other blockers and hitters were doing better than what we did (Friday). It wasn't just one player; it was all six of them up there who were hitting. We did a good job of turning things around today and using what we did (Friday) to better us."

Against Wichita State, the Cougars were brushed aside in straight sets (23-30, 24-30, 26-30). The Shockers got double-digit kills performances from three players, led by Cori Meyer's match-high of 14. 

Andee Hartig bolstered the Wichita State offense by chipping in 29 assists and the defense was paced by Angela Jakubov and Kelly Broussard who contributed 16 digs apiece.

"Obviously you always want to win," Walton said. "You feel better when you get a win. I was especially happy with our service reception. I thought we received serves well."

The Cougars got a double-double outing from Ritter (10 kills and 13 digs) and McAnelly supplied 13 kills and nine digs. Jaci Gonzalez performed admirably on the back row with a match-high 23 digs, but it wasn't enough to stave off the Shockers.

"I thought we were in a position to win (Friday) which is really discouraging," Walton said in a press release. "In the first two games, at no time was I really nervous about losing. It just kind of fell apart in the middle (of the match)."

The Cougars will hit the court again next weekend on Friday against Mississippi in the first leg of the Houston Invitational at 7 p.m. The Cougars are also set to face Arkansas State and Miami on Saturday.
 

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