Coogs face cross-town rival Rice

Jason Caesar Consolacion

Staff Writer

The UH Cougar volleyball team hopes to continue another winning streak when it visits former Southwest Conference rival Rice at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Autry Court.

Following a pair of losses, to Notre Dame last Wednesday (snapping a four-game winning streak) and Saint Louis on Friday, the Cougars (13-8 overall, 10-1 C-USA) rebounded by making quick work of the UNC-Charlotte 49ers on Sunday 3-0.

Still discouraged about the two losses, Houston coach Bill Walton expressed his concern with the team.

"Right now, our side-out offense is in a bit of a slump," Walton said. "We've been extremely inconsistent on the receiving end of the serve."

Walton admits that the hectic schedule the Cougars have had in the past few weeks has affected the team.

"We used to have four or five days in between games. Now it's play a game, day off, play a game, day off.

"Unfortunately, it's led to a lack of preparation time for our team and I think it's affected the younger players who are not used to it."

The Owls (5-18 overall, 2-7 WAC) hope to get back on the winning track after losing to the SMU Mustangs 2-3 at home on Saturday.

Sophomore outside hitter Kelly Smith of Rice recorded 23 kills in the losing effort.

Smith continues to lead the Owls, averaging 4.31 kills per game, good for sixth place in the WAC standings.

Karolina Zelinka, also a sophomore outside hitter, followed with 18 kills and 13 digs in the SMU loss while junior middle blocker Tiffany Carrethers recorded 13 kills and seven blocks.

"UH is certainly a different team compared to the others we've faced in our schedule," Rice head coach Julio Morales explained. "They're a stronger, solid team that comes right at you."

Morales thinks the cross-town rivalry between Rice and Houston should be a good motivation for his players.

"The rivalry is great. It's not the Southwest Conference any more, but that's no reason to take away from this rivalry."

The Cougars have dominated Rice since the SWC days and own a 47-5 overall record against the Owls. Last year, UH defeated Rice 3-0 at Hofheinz Pavilion.

Walton admits he is worried about a possible letdown against the Owls.

"I hope we don't come out flat and not ready to play. We have to be mentally ready against them," he said. "It's a non-conference game for both teams, but a win would probably mean a lot more to them. We must come on to their court ready to play."

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