Cougars Advance To Semi-Finals For Fifth-Straight Year
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Nov. 17) -- The University of Houston volleyball team hung-on for a three-games-to-none sweep of DePaul in the second round of the 2000 Healthy Choice Conference USA Volleyball Tournament Friday afternoon in Charlotte, North Carolina. With a 15-4, 15-11, 16-14 win the Cougars advance to Saturday's semi-final round where the team will play C-USA National Division Champion South Florida, a 3-1 winner over Saint Louis in the morning round.
The Cougars (20-8 overall) appeared determined to prove that an earlier regular season loss to DePaul last month in Chicago was indeed an upset. UH dropped a 3-2 match to the Blue Demons after losing the team's best player, senior hitter Jennifer Wittenburg, to a foot injury. With Wittenburg finally back in the lineup after missing almost four weeks, Houston had revenge as well as advancing to the tournament semi-finals on its mind.
UH used a balanced, all-around attack and dominating block to get the job done Friday. Wittenburg led all players in the match with 19 kills and 15 defensive digs, but senior middle blocker Michelle Frazier and senior outside hitter Bobbi Stewart were also a factor combining for 21 kills and a .333 hitting percentage. Senior setter Morgan Wallen directed the entire team to a composite .273 hitting percentage while junior hitter Gabi Carbone kept the Blue Demons out of sync with lively jump serve.
"I'm proud of the team's maturity and being prepared to play," said Houston Head Coach Bill Walton. "Because we have a lot of seniors, I let them get themselves ready - in hitting, the drills, everything. I thought we had a great warmup, and it kind of went from there."
The Cougars were in gear from the opening serve. The team built a 10-1 lead in game one and coasted to 15-4 final. Houston then got up 14-5 in game two before DePaul rallied for six points to close the margin to 14-11. In game three UH was ahead 14-11 again on the Blue Demons before DePaul rallied to force a 14-14 tie. Houston went back in front, 15-14, after a big block by Jane Anne Karasek. Stephanie Heiskell then spiked an overpass to give the Cougars a 16-14 win and preserve the 3-0 sweep.
Houston eclipsed the 20-win plateau for the fifth-consecutive season and 13th time in the last 14 years. The Cougars have reached the semi-final round of the C-USA Tournament in all five years as a league member.
The semi-final match between Houston and No. 1 seed South Florida will begin at 1:00 p.m. eastern time. The two teams split their two regular-season matches earlier this season with each team winning on the other's home court. The contest is also a coaching matchup up of Bill Walton and former Cougar assistant coach Nancy Mueller, now in her second-year as head coach of the Bulls.
Conference USA Tournament DePaul 4 11 14 Houston 15 15 16 Kill Leaders Jennifer Wittenburg (UH) 19; Bobbi Stweart (UH) 11; Katie Engel (DePaul) 17; Records Houston (20-8); DePaul (20-12);