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Volume 72, Issue 63, Thursdsay, November 16, 2006

Sports

Farmer, Rice earn conference honors

Walton: Awards indicative of entire team

by RONNIE TURNER
The Daily Cougar

Houston sophomore outside hitter Justine Farmer has the skills and ambition of a top-notch volleyball player. Now she has the hardware to match.

On Wednesday, Farmer was named to the All-Conference USA First Team in recognition of a season that saw her set career highs in kills and digs, numbers that also placed her among the top 10 league leaders in those statistical categories. This marks the second consecutive all-conference honor for Farmer, who was named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team in 2005.

Joining Farmer on the all-conference squads will be freshman middle blocker Erin Rice, who was named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team.

"I'm really excited (because) it wasn't expected," Farmer said. "(Making) the first team was really one of my goals this season, (after) making the freshman team last year."

The accolades come with Houston seeded seventh in the C-USA Tournament and set to face off against No. 10 seed Rice in a first-round match-up at 5 p.m. today at Hofheinz Pavilion. The Cougars (17-14, 8-8 C-USA) will rely heavily on the services of Farmer and Rice on their run through the tournament.

Farmer leads the team in kills with 534 at a rate of 4.68 per game (fifth in C-USA) and is second in digs with 437 at a rate of 3.83 per game (10th in C-USA). She has also tallied 21 double-doubles on the season.

Rice, a transfer from Michigan State, leads C-USA with 1.29 blocks per game, and her 1.56 blocks per game in conference play is also a league high. 

Although Farmer enjoys the recognition, she doesn't mind sharing it with her teammates.

"We've all worked hard, so when one person gets the award, it means the whole team did well," she said. 

Head coach Bill Walton views individual awards along the same lines.

"Any individual award means that the team had a pretty good year and that (the league) could recognize some people, but I'm not big on individual awards," Walton said. "I'm more about what the team gets out of it."

Farmer has stepped her skills up a notch as a sophomore, and the improvement can be seen in each match. As one of the Cougars' most dangerous offensive threats, Farmer has had to place more responsibility on her shoulders and carry the team through some rough stretches. 

As the seventh seed, Houston will face some tough obstacles in the tournament, starting with today's match, but Farmer has set her mind on overcoming the challenge.

"Personally, I've been waiting for this weekend the entire season because I know the season was just to seed us in the tournament, (which) really determines who wins (the conference)," Farmer said. "I'm going to put it all out there (tonight) and hope to come out with a victory." 

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