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Volume 72, Issue 62, Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sports

Conference tourney gives UH fresh start

Cougars look to use home court advantage to advance in C-USA tournament. First up: Rice

by RONNIE TURNER
The Daily Cougar

The 2006 season could hardly be called "memorable" for the Houston volleyball team.

The disappointments have been numerous, and success has come in small spurts for a team that was picked to finish second in Conference USA by league coaches. Near the conclusion of the regular season, the Cougars have only a seventh place finish to show for their efforts, but their place in the standings have no bearing now.

With Houston (17-14 overall, 8-8 C-USA) set to host and compete in the upcoming C-USA Tournament at Hofheinz Pavilion for the rights to the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid, the old slate has been wiped clean. 

The No. 7 seed Cougars can choose their own path, but the first stop will be a first-round match-up against cross-town rival and No. 10 seed, Rice, at 5 p.m. Thursday. The winner of that meeting will earn the right to face No. 2 seed Marshall (20-10, 12-4) in a quarterfinal match set at 5 p.m. Friday. 

Houston enters the tournament on a two-match losing streak, but head coach Bill Walton doesn’t think this will matter in the long run.

"The big deal is not going to be what you did last weekend, but starting off on a good foot at the beginning of the tournament and carrying it through," Walton said. "(Sometimes), when you come to the tournament, the dangerous teams are the (lower) seeds because they’ve had bad years, but they see this as an opportunity to have a great finish," Walton said. 

If so, this could be a problem for Houston. Rice (12-18, 5-11) has struggled to overcome injuries and inconsistency this season and enters Thursday’s match with losses in six of its last eight contests. However, the Owls have been known to put together some of their best performances against the Cougars.

If sophomore outside hitter Justine Farmer manages to get back on track Thursday night, Houston might hold the edge in the match. Farmer, who leads the team in kills with 534, struggled tremendously in losses to Southern Methodist and Tulsa over the weekend, and the Cougars could use her at full strength. If not, it could be a long night for the Houston offense. 

Thursday’s match, as well as all other tournament matches, will be free for all Rice and Houston students who show their student ID upon entrance.
 

Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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