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Tulane Downs Maryland to Sweep Sugar Bowl Classic

Friday, September 12, 2008

Senior outside hitter Sara Radosevic posted a double-double with a match-high 10 kills and a season-best 17 digs as the Tulane University volleyball team completed a three-match sweep of the 2008 Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic with a 3-0 victory over Maryland Saturday evening at Fogelman Arena.

Tulane won the first two sets with relative ease, 25-19 and 25-16, but had a dogfight on its hands in set three as the Terrapins jumped out to an early 11-4 lead. The Green Wave battled back to tie the stanza at 12-all courtesy of an 8-1 rally, but fell behind 17-14 seven serves later. After rallying to tie the score at 18-18 and 19-all, Tulane used a 6-4 run to end the contest and earn a hard-fought 25-23 victory.

The win was the third of the weekend for the Green Wave, who improved to 5-4 on the year with the Sugar Bowl Classic sweep. The win also extended Tulane's home winning streak to 16. Maryland, meanwhile, fell to 2-7.

"It was a good weekend for us overall," Tulane head coach Liz Kritza said. "Coming in 2-4, we obviously were not where we wanted to be. The concern was that perhaps we had lost some of our conference. But tonight, we proved to ourselves we are a quality team and all of those losses we took as a team on the road were not in vain.

"The team has gotten better. The teams we played this weekend are all quality opponents and they are only going to get better during the season. They will all do well in their respective conferences and that is why we invited them to play in this tournament. For us, it was a matter of balancing our record out a little bit, but also taking what we did on the road the last two weekends - against Top 25 teams - and proving that it was worth something. We were able to improve our own style of play."

Freshman outside hitter Visnja Djurdjevic was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player and was joined on the all-tournament team by Radosevic and junior right-side hitter Ksenija Vlaskovic, while junior Jenn Miller was named Libero of the Tournament.

Radosevic was the lone player to post double-digit kills in the match, but Vlaskovic added nine kills, Djurdjevic chipped in with eight, and senior middle blocker Jen Linder added seven. Radosevic tied Miller for match-high dig honors while Djurdjevic and senior setter Luna Rebrovic tallied 11 each. Linder bolstered the front-row defense with four block assists and sophomore middle Lindsey Shepard posted two solo blocks and one block assist.

"The more I play with this team, the more comfortable I've gotten with the setters and my role in the offense," Djurdjevic said of earning tournament MVP honors. "I feel a lot more comfortable. I've been here for two months now and I've spent most of my time here with the team. I've played better since the season started and hopefully, I can continue to do that."

Tulane fell behind 3-1 early in the match, but battled back to tie things up at 4-all. The two teams traded the next 12 points, but with the score knotted at 10-10, Tulane used a 3-0 rally to create some separation from the Terrapins. From there, the lead continued to grow to as many as seven at 19-12 and the Green Wave cruised to a six-point win.

Maryland scored the first point of the second set, but Tulane scored the next two points and did not trail again in the stanza. The Green Wave stretched the lead throughout the contest and led by as many as 10 at 24-14. The Terrapins got a pair of points on a kill and a Tulane ball-handling error, but the Wave scored the winning point on a Maryland service error.

The third set was a much different story, however, as the Terps tallied the first four points of the contest and led by as many as seven at 11-4. With Radosevic toeing the serving stripe, the Green Wave rallied for five unanswered points and eventually tied the set at 12-all. Maryland refused to go away and led by three midway through the set, but Tulane came back to scratch and claw its way to a straight-sets victory.

"I know our team, and I know that we are doing something wrong if we are down to any team by seven points," Kritza said. "I pulled them side and gave them a gentle reminder that they needed to be playing their type of volleyball. I am proud that they were able to pull it out. That was something I was really pleased to see - that we were able to come back.

"In a shorter game that now goes to 25 points rather than 30 points, that is a pretty big gap to overcome. It is a good sign that this team was able to keep it together, handle the pressure of it, chip away at the opponent's lead point by point and start outscoring the opponent at least 2-1. You have to. You have to outscore them at least 2-1 or 3-1 when you are down like that, and we did just that. We practice it all the time. We practice scoring at a higher rate than our opponent, they were able to transfer it tonight and we were able to come out with a victory in that third set."

Maryland's Katie Usher and Lisa Scott tied for team-high kills honors with eight apiece while Bethany Springer and Maggie Schmeizle paced the club's defense with 16 and 12 digs, respectively. Sharon Strizak and Hayley Hanson posted 13 assists each while Usher and Scott both tallied one solo block and six block assists.

The Green Wave return to action on Friday, Sept. 18, when the Green Wave open a three-match swing in the Buckeye State against Ohio in Athens at 6 p.m. From there, Tulane travels to Cincinnati where it will take on Xavier on Saturday at 6 p.m., and closes out the road trip with a Sunday showdown against Middle Tennessee at 11 a.m.

Tulane's next home match is slated for Friday, Sept. 26, when the Wave open the Conference USA portion of their schedule against Houston at 7 p.m. in Fogelman Arena. For ticket information, contact the Ticket Office at (504) 861-WAVE.

2008 ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL CLASSIC ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

MB - Chrissy Knuth, North Dakota State
MB - Lisa Scott, Maryland
OH - Brittney Whitten, Jacksonville State
OH - Sara Radosevic, Tulane
RS - Ksenija Vlaskovic, Tulane
S - Jennifer Lopez, North Dakota State
L - Jenn Miller, Tulane

Most Valuable Player - Visnja Djurdjevic, Tulane