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Houston Stifles UConn Comeback Bid In Five Set Thriller

Freshman Jade Strawberry had an 11-kill, 10-dig double-double, her fourth of the year, for UConn in the setback

Sept. 29, 2013

Final Stats

STORRS, Conn. - The UConn women's volleyball team (8-8, 0-2 American) came back  from a two-set deficit against the Houston Cougars (9-7, 2-0 American), but HU ultimately prevailed in five sets (21-25, 21-25, 25-20, 25-23, 12-15) on Sunday afternoon at Gampel Pavilion.

The defeat marks the first time this season the Huskies have fallen coming off a loss. It was the first ever meeting between Houston and Connecticut.

UConn got double-digit kills from four players in the contest, led by 13 from junior Karson Ratliff (Wake Forest, N.C.). Rookies Camille Evans (Chicago, Ill.) and Jade Strawberry (Tallahassee, Fla.) notched 12 and 11 kills, respectively, while Erika Thomas (Ocoee, Fla.) added 10 on 18 swings. Strawberry also added 10 digs for her fourth double-double of the year, and Thomas led all players with nine total blocks.

Sophomore Marissa Prinzbach (Cincinnati, Ohio) turned in a solid performance as well for the Huskies, leading all players with 48 assists and chipping in nine digs and seven block assists. Junior captain Brianna Datti (Durham, N.H.) led UConn with 27 digs, and classmate Sage Esposito (Milford, Conn.) added nine. Freshman Hayley Cmajdalka (College Station, Texas) added four kills and six total blocks, while fellow first-year Sophia Mar (Oakland, Calif.) scooped nine digs.

The Cougars were led by a 15-kill outing from Sarita Mikals, while Cortney Warren and Kadi Kukkerkann each added 13. Natalie Keck led all players with 28 digs for Houston, and Sophie Paine dished out 44 assists to go along with a match-high three service aces.

UConn got off to a 5-3 start in the first set, with some good blocking by Prinzbach and Anagu. Errors hindered both sides' momentum, allowing for a close game going into the middle of the set. Back and forth ball only allowed UConn go lead by as much as three, but a run by the Cougars tied the game at 11, leading to a Huskies timeout.

An 8-1 run by the Cougars allowed them to take the lead for the first time in the set, causing the Huskies to use their final timeout of the first set, with the score 17-12 in favor of Houston. Kills from Anagu and Thomas, in addition to some Houston errors brought the Huskies within three, causing a Cougar timeout with the score at 24-21. However, a block by the Cougars allowed them to hold on and take a match lead 1-0.

The Huskies opened the second set with a strong start, getting out to a 6-3 lead off of some impressive all around play by Thomas. UConn capitalized off of the Cougars' errors to take a lead by as much as four, but a 5-0 run gave Houston the lead, resulting in UConn's first timeout, with the score 10-9 Houston.

The Cougars extended the run to 12-2, putting the score at 16-11 and forcing the Huskies to take another timeout. Three kills by Thomas helped pull the Huskies within two and made the Cougars take their first timeout at 18-16. The game remained close for the rest of the set, with UConn cutting the lead to one, but Houston held on to win the set 25-21.

UConn stormed out to a 9-3 lead in the third set, with kills by Ratliff, Thomas, and an ace by Prinzbach. Houston struck back with a 4-1 run to cut the lead to 3, but the Huskies refused to back down, making for some close play.

After several lead changes, the Huskies went up 19-17, and the Cougars has to use their first timeout of the set. UConn continued to build their lead, making the score 21-18 and forcing Houston to use their final timeout. A kill by Evans sealed UConn's first set win of the game, final score 25-20.

The Huskies jumped out to a 5-2 start in the fourth set off of key performances by Evans and Thomas. An Evans kill put the Huskies in the lead by a score of 7-3, resulting in a Cougars timeout. UConn increased their lead to six with some big plays by Cmajdalka, forcing Houston to take its final timeout early in the set, score 14-8 UConn.

A late Houston 3-0 run forced UConn to take a timeout, and the Cougars extended their run to 7-0, and cut the lead to three, making UConn take their final timeout, with the score 21-18. UConn managed to hang on to win the set 25-23, tying the match at 2-2.

The fifth set began evenly matched, with the scored tied early at four. A quick 2-0 run by the Cougars made UConn take its first timeout, but with two kills by Anagu, UConn stormed back to take the lead off of a 4-0 run, forcing a Houston timeout. The Huskies continued to hold on to a slim lead late in the set, but Houston caused a UConn timeout after tying the set at 11. The Cougars were able to then score the final three points of the match, taking the fifth 15-12 and the match 3-2.

Up next, UConn hits the road for its first two conference road games. The Huskies will the Sunshine State for Florida match-ups with UCF and USF on Oct. 4 and Oct. 6.