STORRS, Conn. – The University of Connecticut volleyball team extended its winning streak to four games after defeating Houston in straight sets (25-21, 25-19, 27-25) in a American Athletic Conference match-up on Sunday afternoon at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.
With the win, the Huskies move to 11-10 (5-5, The American) while the Cougars drop to 15-7 (5-5, The American).
Junior Jade Strawberry (Tallahassee, Fla.) notched her seventh double-double of the season with a team-high 10 kills and 13 digs on a .308 hitting percentage. Sophomore Kenya Cason (Columbus, Ohio) just missed the mark with nine kills and 10 digs. Senior captain Erika Thomas (Ocoee, Fla.) and sophomore Danielle Cabel (Bettendorf, Iowa) tallied six kills apiece. Junior Rebecca Rivera (Mississauga, Ontario) dished a match-best 20 helpers while freshman Emma Turner (Winter Park, Fla.) had 10 assists. Classmate Kennedy Arundel (Chicago, Ill.) posted 10 digs on the afternoon.
The first set began with both squads trading points until the Cougars took a 10-7 lead thanks to consecutive blocks. Kills from Cabel and Thomas helped the Huskies tie the score at 11-11. UConn kept the momentum going with three-straight kills from three different players and a service ace by Cason to take a 15-12 edge and force Houston to burn its first timeout. The Cougars tried to rally, pulling within two as the Huskies led 19-17 but Cabel added two kills to extend the advantage to 21-17 and send Houston back to its bench. Cabel drilled two spikes to give UConn a set point opportunity before Cason added the final touch to give the Huskies the set, 25-21.
The second set started much like the first with Houston jumping out to a 9-7 edge after the score had been tied five times. Strawberry caught the back line to knot the set at 11-11. Sophomore Tosin Adeniyi (Springfield, Ill.) followed up with a spike before joining Thomas at the net for the block. The Huskies went on an 8-4 run that featured four Houston errors, another ace by Cason and a solo block from senior Immanuella Anagu (Culver City, Calif.). Two more errors by the Cougars put UConn up 22-17 as the visitors headed to their bench. Out of the break, Thomas clipped one off the fingertips of a Houston defender. Anagu and Strawberry got together to stuff the ball back for the block before Strawberry laid down the kill to take the set, 25-19.
The real battle came in the final set, which opened with Houston being assessed yellow and red cards, giving UConn a free point. The Huskies took off, going on another 8-4 run to make the Cougars call for time. Kills by Cason and Thomas got Connecticut out to a 17-12 lead but Houston wouldn’t be denied. The Cougars pulled within two to force the Huskies to spend their own timeout. Back on the court, three UConn errors allowed Houston to go ahead, 20-19, and the home team used its final timeout to reassess its approach. Cason delivered a crucial spike and ace but the Huskies still trailed, 21-23. Strawberry was clutch, notching back-to-back kills to lock the score at 24 and forcing Houston to burn its last timeout. An attack error by the Cougars and service error by the Huskies knotted the set again at 25-25. Thomas sent one straight down the middle to give UConn a one-point lead. The sophomore duo of Adeniyi and Cabel teamed up to earn the block to end the set, 27-25.
The Huskies will get on the road to begin the second half of the home-and-home series, starting with Memphis on Friday, Oct. 30 at 8 p.m.