Dec. 5, 2013
HOUSTON – The University of Houston volleyball team wrapped up the 2013 season last week with senior night on Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Freshman Sarita Mikals and sophomore Kadi Kullerkann were named second team all-conference for the inaugural season of the American Athletic Conference. The two were selected by other conference coaches’ votes.
Houston was originally picked to finished eighth in the preseason conference poll but jumped UConn, Cincinnati and Temple to finish fifth in the league. The Cougars finished with an 18-15 record overall and a 10-8 record in the inaugural season of the American Athletic Conference.
Houston is 62nd in the national rankings and the top team in the conference for aces per set (1.41). The Cougars are also ranked 105th nationally in blocks per set (2.29) and 142nd in match win-loss percentage (.545). This season, the Cougars led the conference in service aces recording 175 (1.41 per set). Defense was key for the Houston Volleyball team as the Cougars allowed only 11.57 kills per set, the third lowest average behind Louisville and SMU.
Houston Volleyball started the season on a good note winning seven of the eight matches played in two tournaments. The Cougars were crowned champions at the Sawyer Camillo Memorial Tournament hosted by University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and junior libero Natalie Keck was named the tournament MVP Libero. After a five-match win streak, the Cougars dropped to top regional competition TCU, Ole Miss, Baylor and LSU.
Conference play began the following week and Houston came out on top. The Cougars won two on the road at Rutgers and UConn and followed with a third win hosting Cincinnati at home. Conference leader Louisville came in to Houston and swept the Cougars. Houston returned to the road for matches at Temple and Memphis. A win against Memphis sparked a three-match win streak as the Cougars went on to sweep UCF the following weekend. Back-to-back losses against USF and SMU closed the first round of conference play and pushed Houston to a 5-4 conference record. The Cougars mirrored the second round of play with a 5-4 record with repeat results in all matches but Temple and Memphis. Houston split the series 1-1 with both teams.
Mikals was the Cougars top performer this season. She finished with 393 total kills and 312 digs. The freshman had 12 double doubles this season and recorded double figure kills in all but eight matches this season. She is ranked 174th nationally in points per set (3.73) and scored 454.5 total points for the Cougars. With an average of 3.22 kills per set, Mikals was The American’s leading freshman hitter. She was acknowledged as The American Freshman of the Week three times and was placed on the weekly Honor Roll once this season for her performances. The well-rounded freshman was the teams leading server as she recorded 27 of the teams 175 total.
Keck also had a stellar season in the back row. As the Cougars number one libero, Keck recorded 549 digs this season. Her total in one season is the fifth best by a Cougar and was the second most in the league. In 124 sets played, Keck averaged 4.43 digs per set, ranking 112th nationally and fourth in conference standings. She was awarded a spot on the conference weekly Honor Roll for a 41 dig performance in two matches and marked a season high 29 digs against Temple. Keck has recorded double figure digs in 23 straight matches to wrap up the season. She now has 1,452 total digs for her career, good for 5th in school history and second in digs per set (4.26).
Sophomore Kadi Kullerkann returned to the court this season after suffering a knee injury last season. She was the Cougars most efficient hitter recording 309 kills, averaging 2.64 per set, with a .213 hitting average. She was also a huge asset defensively at the net as she had 84.0 total blocks (6-78) on the year. The 6’-4” Estonian led the team with a season high 16 kills in three sets over UConn (Nov. 1) and recorded a career high 21 kills against Texas Southern (Sept. 3). Kullerkann recorded a hitting average of .300 or better in 13 matches this season and had four matches with .400 or better. She was selected to the TCU Nike/Molten Invitational All-Tournament Team in September and the American weekly Honor Roll twice this season.
Junior middle blocker Kaiti Waters started to shine in the second part of the season. In just 82 sets played, She recorded 103.0 blocks (8-95), averaging 1.26 per set. Waters had the second best blocking defense in the league. She was named to The American weekly Honor Roll for her 13-block showing at SMU. The mark is tied for second in school history in individual match records. Waters also contributed to the Cougar offense at the net. She marked a career high of 12 kills at UCF with a .500 hitting percentage.
Junior right side hitter Cortney Warren was another key to Houston’s success this season. She put down 331 kills in 114 sets played and recorded 65 blocks (8-57) against opponents. Warren led the team, along with Mikals, against Texas Southern with a career high 22 kills. She had double figure kills in 17 matches this season and recorded a .300 or better in six matches, four coming with 10 or more kills. She was selected for The American weekly Honor Roll three times this season and was named to the Delta Zeta Classic All-Tournament Team by Texas State.