Volleyball Advances to First-Ever C-USA Semifinal With 3-1 Win at Tulane
Nov. 22, 2003
NEW ORLEANS, La. - The University of Memphis volleyball team (29-5) used a team effort and some career-best performances to book its first-ever appearance in the Conference USA semifinals with a 3-1 win (29-31, 30-26, 30-26, 30-24) at host Tulane (25-6), Saturday. Memphis, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, will face No. 8 seeded Houston, who upset No. 1 seed Cincinnati, 3-1, Saturday.
"This was absolutely the biggest win of this program since I've been here," Head Coach Carrie Yerty said. "We just turned in an overall team performance and every one of our players succeeded in their individual roles. This was a huge win too, Tulane is a great team and it took a huge night to get this win."
Senior outside Brittany Barnett (Dallas, Texas/Lake Highlands), a second-team all-conference honoree, led the Tigers with 21 kills, while Tiara Gilkey (Creve Coeur, Mo./Pattonsville), a third-team honoree, added 19 kills, 16 digs and five block assists.
It was a night of career performances for a number of Tigers. Tiger setter Heather Watts (Sandy, Utah/Skyline) turned in her second triple-double of the season, led by a career-high 11 kills, adding 59 assists and 14 digs. With the 59 assists, Watts, a third-team all-conference honoree, set a new Tiger single season record with 1,737 single season assists. Freshman middle Melissa Nance (Frankfort, Ind./Clinton Prairie) added a career-best 12 kills, while Nancy Nellans (South Bend, Ind./St. Josephs) added a career-best 25 digs. Sophomore Fehi Tuivai (Kent, Wash./Kent-Meridian) added a career-best five block assists, all of them coming in the last two games, and hit .250 in the win.
The two teams split the first two games. In game one, Memphis went up 4-0 early, but the Green Wave got over their opening jitters and pulled even at five all as a Neba overpassed dig was put down. Memphis regained the lead, but again could not separate themselves from the Green Wave, with the match knotting up all the way to 14 before Tulane went up 15-14 on a tooled kill off the Tiger blockers. This time, Memphis caught up at 16 before Tulane went on a 5-2 run to go up 21-18 as a Green Wave scramble off a return fell in the middle of the Tiger defense that was playing deep in anticipation of a downed ball. Memphis would rally back to 27 all on a Tulane attack error, but the Green Wave called time out and Kenon downed a big kill from the left hand side to take the lead 28-27. It appeared that the Tigers would miss their opportunity in game one, with Tulane at game point, but a Tulane attack error of an overpassed ball and a Watts tip off a Gilkey dig tied the match at 29 all. But the Green Wave rallied back with a Tiger attack error and a kill to win game one, 31-29.
Game two was another big Tiger lead with Memphis up 7-4. Tulane battled back, but Memphis managed to hold them off until a Nellans attack rolled back to the Tigers' side of the net for 26 all. Despite losing the lead, Memphis answered with a Watts dump on the second hit to go up 27-26. The Tigers' first block of the game was a timely one, as Gilkey and Neba downed a Tulane attack for a 28-26 lead. Tulane called time out, but Nellans came out and aced the Green Wave and a Tulane attack error gave Memphis game two 30-26.
The Tigers got in a hole early in game three, 5-0, and fell behind by as many as 7-2 before finally stringing together points. Memphis used a kill from Barnett to tie the match at 13 all, and took their first lead of the third game, 14-13, on a Gilkey and Tuivai block. In all, Tuivai would finish with three block assists in the third game alone, all of them in six points of one another. That step up in the Tiger blocking game put Memphis up 18-14, but Tulane was not done. When the Green Wave put a service ace on the board as the Tigers got called for overlapping and being out of rotation, it completed a Tulane run that knotted the game at 20 all. But the Tigers answered each and every Tulane point, using a pair of kills from Nance and a tip to the 10-foot line from Barnett to win game three, 30-26.
Game four was again another Tiger comeback, this time coming back from 5-1 down. The two teams battled and exchanged leads, as the fourth game alone featured nine ties. But at 18 all, Memphis went on a 4-1 run that put them up 22-19 and that was enough of a lead to put the Green Wave away, with the Tigers eventually closing out the game 30-24.
Anastasia Kenon led the Green Wave with 18 kills, while Deva Fowler added 14 and Lindsey Norman, 12, in the loss.