2012 Season Recap: Houston Volleyball

Nov. 26, 2012

HOUSTON -- 2012 marked a new era for Houston Volleyball as first year Cougar head coach Kaddie Platt took over the helm, trying to solidify a group of talented newcomers, while facing an extremely stout schedule. High hopes are set for the future of this program and with that, Houston looks at this year as a building block for 2013 and beyond.

Having served 17 seasons as head coach at Houston Baptist, her alma mater, Kaddie Platt took over the Cougar program in late spring to begin her first season at the helm of the program. Platt entered her first Houston game with an overall record of 499-157, one win shy of the impressive milestone. In Houston's sixth game of the season, Platt notched her 500th career win and first as a Cougar. The 3-1 win came against tournament-host Lipscomb, ending a 0-5 start to the season. Platt went on to lead Houston to a 9-19 record, which saw exciting wins Rice, Marshall, Southern Miss, Tulane, SMU, Memphis and Lipscomb.

Coming into the year, the focus was prepping the team for Conference USA play. With that, Houston opened the season playing six teams in eight matches that were ranked or received votes in the AVCA Top 25. At the time of Houston's respective matches, the Cougars faced No. 21 Ohio State twice, No. 20 Oregon, No. 11 Florida State and No. 18 Pepperdine, while Tulsa and Missouri each received votes during preseason play. Despite dropping all eight matches, Houston gained experience that ultimately helped them with a win during the C-USA Championship.

Houston was made up of nine newcomers this season, which included five freshmen. Of the nine, eight saw game action this year. Leading the way was freshman Emily Howard, who was named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team following a strong showing during league play. She was fourth-best on Houston's team in kills (144) and second-best in blocks (88). Also showing well in their debut season were freshman Olivia O'Dell (103 SP, 267 digs) and Shelby Vance (90 kills, 24 blocks), while redshirt freshman Courtney Smith (11 kills, 12 blocks) made a late-season impact, helping Houston to its C-USA Championship win over Rice with four kills and four blocks.

The senior class lived up to expectations as Katie Norris, Stephanie Nwachukwu, Chandace Tryon and Abby Simmons all played impactful roles this year for the Cougars. Norris led all players offensively in kills (405), kills/set (3.89) and points (455.0), while Tryon was second-best in kills (270) and first in blocks (113), block assists (93), block solos (20) and hitting percentage (.312). Nwachukwu finished the year with several of her best career performances, racking up 206 total kills for third-best on team and 60 blocks for fourth-best. Simmons paced the offense as the starting setter, compiling 962 assists and a team-high 20 service aces, while racking up 222 digs.

Head Coach Kaddie Platt: "All four of our seniors, Katie, Chandace, Stephanie and Abby have done a great job leading the team and their determination in a year of transition has landed us at the C-USA Conference Championship. I am thankful for their hard work. We have seen much improvement over the season and their commitment to improving every day is the foundation to the programs future."

Playing in three preseason tournaments, senior Katie Norris was honored as a three-time All-Tournament Team selection as the outside hitter was named to the Sports Imports D.C. Koehl Classic hosted by Ohio State, Lipscomb Invitational and the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup hosted by Houston. Also joining Norris on an All-Tournament Team was fellow senior Chandace Tryon, who was named to the Lipscomb Invitational Team.

Houston hosted three Top 25 teams in the second straight Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup in early September. Welcomed to Houston was Pepperdine, Florida State and Ohio State. The four-team, two-day event saw Pepperdine earn a 3-0 advantage and take the tournament crown back to California. Flo Hyman, considered one of the most influential volleyball players in University of Houston history, was a three-year letterwinner from 1974-76 for the Cougars. She was a 1998 Hall of Honor inductee after being named a three-time AIAW All-America honoree. She was also named AIAW National Player of the Year in 1976 and went on to represent to USA National Team capture a silver medal at the 22nd Olympiad in Los Angeles, Calif. with Houston teammates Rita Crockett and Rose Magers.

For her efforts in leading the University of Houston volleyball team to two weekend victories, including a road sweep at East Carolina and a 3-1 win over then-first place Marshall, senior setter Abby Simmons was named Conference USA Setter of the Week announced by the league's office the week of Oct. 15.

Head Coach Kaddie Platt: "Abby is very deserving of this honor after leading us to two wins over the weekend. She did a fantastic job with the decisions she made pacing our offensive attack. She not only was successful on offense, but helped out our defense with a strong outing against Marshall."

6,679 fans made their way into the Athletics/Alumni Center this season, averaging 557 per home contest. Houston saw a season-high 801 fans on hand in a 3-1 win over cross-town rival Rice on Oct. 26. Eight of the Cougars' 12 home games featured over 500 fans, while the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup pulled in an average of 624 fans in Houston's three games against No. 11 Florida State, No. 18 Pepperdine and No. 21 Ohio State.

Houston wrapped up its final season in Conference USA play, finishing the year with a 7-9 mark in league play, earning the C-USA Championship's No. 7 seed, winning the tie-breaker over No. 8-seed SMU in the final weekend. The Cougars earned league victories over Memphis, SMU, Tulane, East Carolina, Marshall, Rice and Southern Miss. The highlight of C-USA play came in two 3-1 wins over No. 2-seed Rice and then-No. 1 seed Marshall. Of the seven league wins, five came in front of a home crowd.

Houston showed well in the C-USA Championship, sending No. 2-seed Rice home with an impressive come-from-behind victory over the Owls in a 3-2 win. Down 0-2, Houston rallied back to win the final three sets to advance to the Semifinals Round, where it eventually fell 3-0 to UCF. During the two-match event, Houston was led by Katie Norris' 37 kills.

Head Coach Kaddie Platt: "I thought we did a good job sticking to the game plan [against Rice]. Our defense showed a lot of energy and effort and in the end, that is what took us through the fifth set to win."

A trio of University of Houston volleyball players were honored for their on-court presence this season, being named to three C-USA All-Conference squads. Senior Katie Norris was a First Team selection, followed by senior Chandace Tryon on the Second Team and freshman Emily Howard on the All-Freshman Team. 2012 marks the third straight season that Houston has received a First Team All-Conference honor and second straight that a freshman has been honored on the All-Freshman team. Norris wraps up her career as a two-time All-Conference selection, while Tryon is a three-time selection for Houston.

Head Coach Kaddie Platt: "Katie, Chandace, and Emily have done a great job for us this season. Volleyball is a team sport and I know they would be the first to thank their teammates for their honors."

Honored for her work away from the volleyball court, University of Houston volleyball senior student-athlete Stephanie Nwachukwu was honored Thursday for her off-the-court success when she was named to the Conference USA Volleyball All-Academic Team for the second straight year, voted on by the league's Sports Information Directors. The All-Academic Team consists of student-athletes who have earned a 3.2 cumulative grade point average or better and are a starter or key reserve on their team. Nwachukwu, a native of Houston, was one of 12 volleyball players from across the league selected to this team. Earning a degree in chemistry and a minor in biology, Nwachukwu holds a cumulative GPA of 3.76 in her four-year career at Houston.

Head Coach Kaddie Platt: "We are very proud of Stephanie. This accomplishment doesn't come easy and she is committed to excellence in the classroom as well as on the court. Stephanie has stepped up and proven she is the definition of a true student-athlete."

Houston Volleyball continued building relationships within the community this season as the Cougars worked several times with Generation One, a local trans-denominational ministry located in the Third Ward of Houston that is committed to making sure that "the next generation Knows What Their Potential Is and Believes That They Can Achieve It!" From assisting them with studies, reading books, and coloring to playing indoor and outdoor competitive games, Generation One was a part of something big and Houston volleyball student-athletes exposed that opportunity to those who support them on and off the field as fans.

Junior Volleyball Student-Athlete and SAAC Secretary Meredith Ware: "It is extremely important for Houston student-athletes to get involved with our community. As Division I college athletes, many people in the community look up to us. Volunteering, especially with children, can help inspire those young kids to pursue their goals of getting an education and possibly even encourage them to play a sport at a higher level. To know that we are helping people obtain a better future is completely worthwhile."

Follow Houston Volleyball on Twitter @UHCougarVB and "Like" /HoustonCougarVolleyball on Facebook.



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