Cougar volleyball team falls from undefeated ranks with loss to Billikens

Andrew J. Ferraro

Staff Writer

There was a celebration this weekend inside Hofheinz Pavilion, but it had nothing to do with a Houston Cougars' victory.

In what was perhaps the biggest win in the history of the University of Saint Louis volleyball program, the Billikens defeated UH by a score of 3-2 (15-13, 5-15, 3-15, 15-12, 19-17).

It was the hardest-fought match of the year for Houston, but in the end, the heavily unfavored Billikens wound up on top.

"Tonight, we have proven that we can play with anybody in this conference," SLU head coach Marilyn Nolen said. "Our team was a lot more determined than (the Cougars) and after we lost confidence in games two and three, we fought back."

After winning the first game 15-13, the Cougars flattened the Billikens 15-5 and 15-3 in games two and three, respectively.

It appeared that the Cougars were headed for their tenth straight conference win.

But with SLU superstars Julie Tretten and Ksenya Korshunova clicking on all cylinders, the Billikens were too much for the Cougars to overcome.

Tretten and Korshunova had 27 and 21 kills on the night, and hit .389 and .167, respectively.

"Coach Nolen was telling us to pick up our game after the lapse in games two and three," Tretten said. "We needed to get more aggressive, fight back and just go for everything."

With the loss, the Cougars fell to 9-1 in C-USA play and are now tied with South Florida for first place in the C-USA National Division.

Senior hitter Emily Leffers led UH with 21 kills and 16 digs, despite a .183 hitting percentage.

But it was Tretten and Korshunova's heroics in game five that secured the biggest upset in C-USA all year.

It all ended when Leffers' attempted kill went long of the baseline, preceding the Saint Louis jubilation.

"This feels really good," Tretten said. "It feels really good to be able to not only play with a team like Houston, but to beat them.

"Should we meet each other in the C-USA tourney later on, I'd have to say I'd be a little worried that they'll want to kick our butts."

Houston was able to salvage its weekend, however, with a convincing 3-0 (15-6, 16-14, 15-13) sweep of UNC-Charlotte.

The match took just an hour and half to complete. The Cougars used 18- and 16-kill performances from junior Debbie Vokes and Leffers, respectively.

Christy Galvin of the 49ers led all scorers with 22 kills in the afternoon.

With the win, the Cougars record improved to 13-8 overall and 10-1 in C-USA. The next match for UH is slated for 7:30 p.m. against the Rice Owls at Autry Court.

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