LIVE STATS: Houston | Tulane
VIDEO: Houston | Tulane
STORRS, Conn. – Off to the best start since 2007, the University of Connecticut volleyball program enters American Athletic Conference action beginning this weekend when it hosts Houston on Friday and Tulane on Sunday at Gampel Pavilion.
The Huskies (9-2) will host the Cougars at 7 p.m. (ET) on Alumni Day, followed by a Sunday afternoon match with the Green Wave at 12 p.m. (ET). Both matches can be watched on Husky Vision or followed via Game Tracker or @UConnVB on Twitter.
Out of 11 non-conference matches, UConn won nine – the most in nearly 10 years – and are coming off two wins in three matches at the West Point Invitational.
The Huskies defeated Army, 3-1, on Friday night and St. John’s, 3-2, on Saturday afternoon. The only loss came to Albany in the day match on Friday.
“Albany came out with a different style; I think we play better against the more physical teams than the scrappy teams in general,” said head coach Kris Grunwald. “This past weekend we learned about ourselves, especially in the St. John’s match when we went five sets and held on for the win.”
Grunwald added, “We were up 2-0 against St. John’s but lost the next two pretty handily, but we came back in the fifth set. We were behind the whole set, but came out on top at 15-13. That match was a big push for us.”
Redshirt freshman Kayla Williams and sophomore Elizabeth Kline were named to the West Point Invitational All-Tournament Team. Williams recorded 20 or more kills in every match, including a career-high 26 against Albany.
Williams was named to the American Athletic Conference Honor Roll on Sept. 19 after earning three straight double-doubles in kills and digs over the weekend. She now has five consecutive double-doubles, going back to the Dog Pound Challenge.
UConn ranks fifth in Division I with 14.82 kills per set and ninth with 13.67 assists per set. Williams is third in the American with 4.08 kills per set, while senior Hayley Cmajdalka is second in the league with a .413 hitting percentage.
Houston (5-6) is coming off two consecutive losses to Yale and Rice in straight sets in the Rice Adidas Invite II. Friday is the American opener for the Cougars, as it is for the Huskies.
Junior Sarah Afflerbaugh leads Houston with 127 kills in the first 11 matches. The Cougars rank second in the league with 1.72 service aces per set.
The Huskies are 2-4 all-time against the Cougars, including a split in 2015 with the home team winning in each match.
“Houston has some decent wins; they are a little up and down right now. Last year, we beat them here, but they beat us down there. Hopefully being at home helps us,” said Grunwald.
Tulane comes into the weekend at 8-4 and winners of five of its last six matches. Most recently, The Green Wave won two of three at the FAU Tournament and swept the Clemson Tournament.
The Green Wave leads the American with a .262 team hitting percentage, led by senior Sarah Strasner at .357. Eight of 15 player on the Tulane roster are juniors or seniors, making for an experienced group.
UConn is 4-1 all-time against Tulane, including a sweep of the 2015 season series.
“Last year, Tulane finished 11th in the conference, but they lost like eight matches in the fifth set. They were probably five points away in each set from being in the top three,” said Grunwald. “They didn’t lose anybody, so that will be a difficult match as well.”