Dec. 5, 2008

DAYTON, Ohio - It was not always pretty, but for the Tulane University volleyball team, it sure was sweet as the No. 16 nationally-seeded Green Wave made their first trip to the NCAA Tournament a memorable one with a 3-1 win over Tennessee Tech Friday evening in the Frericks Center on the University of Dayton campus.

After splitting the first two sets, 25-21 and 22-25, the Green Wave fell behind 17-11 in the third stanza before outscoring the Golden Eagles 14-5 the rest of the way to take a 2-1 advantage in the match. The fourth set was a back-and-fourth battle, but Tulane withstood a furious Tennessee Tech attack to claim a 27-25 victory to send its fans in attendance back to their hotels happy.

With the victory, the Green Wave extends their school-record win streak to 17 to improve to 28-5 on the year. Tulane advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament where it will take on the winner of host Dayton and Western Michigan on Saturday at 5 p.m. Tennessee Tech, meanwhile, concludes its season at 19-13.

"We are very excited, obviously, to get the first tournament win in Tulane University history," Tulane head volleyball coach Liz Kritza said. "We will look for points of improvement (for tomorrow), but we are pleased to be able to come out of this with a four-set victory over a very strong Tennessee Tech team.

"Looking forward, we know that tonight's match prepared us for an even stronger match tomorrow. We had a few players that went down (with minor injuries) early on, so it made for some interesting challenges. But I am pleased with the performance overall and coming away with our first NCAA Tournament win. It is some additional history and milestones we made for the program tonight."

Four Green Wave players posted double-digit kill totals - including a team-best 14 by senior outside hitter Sara Radosevic - and junior libero posted a match-high 20 digs. Senior right-side hitter Bridget Wells, who missed a portion of the opening set after tweaking her ankle early on, was next for Tulane with 13 kills while freshman outside hitter Visnja Djurdjevic and junior right-side hitter Ksenija Vlaskovic both finished with 12.

Vlaskovic led all players with a .588 attack percentage after tallying just a pair of errors in 17 swings. Senior setter Luna Rebrovic paced Tulane with 29 assists, and sophomore middle blocker Lindsey Shepard headlined the Green Wave's front-line defense with one solo block and four block assists. A key part of Tulane's win came at the serving stripe where the Wave posted 10 aces, including a season-high five by Radosevic.

"When our offense is working well, we will have multiple players in double digits," Kritza said. "That is the way it is designed and that is the way it should be. We just did not go to that early enough. We were relying too heavily on a predictable, high, outside ball. When we started diversifying the offense, things started working for us. That is the only thing that allowed us to make those runs to come back.

"Vlaskovic had a very good performance for us with a high hitting percentage. Now, she needs to make sure that she is mirroring her defensive performance with her offensive showing. And I am fully confident that she will. This is an encouraging performance for her and we are going to look for her to continue leading us offensively."

The two teams traded the first eight points of the match and Tennessee Tech held a brief 6-4 advantage. Tulane rallied to tie the set at 7-all and later took a 10-7 lead it would not relinquish. The Green Wave advantage hovered around three for most of the stanza, but follow Golden Eagle error, Radosevic rattled off three straight aces to make it a 23-18 ballgame and Tulane held on for a four-point decision.

Tech scored the first five points of the second stanza and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the frame. Tulane rallied to cut the deficit to two at 11-9 but the Golden Eagles used a 7-1 rally to take a commanding 18-10 advantage. Down by eight a half-dozen serves later, the Green Wave made things interesting with runs of 6-0 and 4-0, but the early deficit proved to be too much to overcome.

It was the Green Wave's turn to take the early lead in set No. 3, scoring four of the first five points, but Tennessee Tech went on an 8-1 run to take a 9-5 advantage and force a Tulane timeout. The Wave cut the deficit to a pair at 10-8 and 12-10, but the Golden Eagles pushed down the stretch and held a six-point lead at 17-11. Unlike the third set, Tulane was able to come all the way back to take a 2-1 advantage in the match.

"We had problems with closing our block and playing defense around it," Radosevic said of the team's performance in the second set and early in the third frame. "That is what we said we had to do before the match and that is how we stopped them. We have a pretty good defense, but if we don't set up around the block, they are going to kill us. That was what they were doing up until that point when we figured it out."

The final frame was a slugfest as neither team could claim momentum until the very end. Tennessee Tech held a brief 7-3 advantage early on, but Tulane battle back to tie the score at 8-all. From there, neither team would lead by more than two the rest of the way. Tulane erased a 20-19 deficit to take a 21-20 lead, and while the Golden Eagles tied the score five more times down the stretch, they could never take the lead.

The Wave squandered a pair of match-point opportunities, but with the score knotted at 25-all, Djurdjevic found the floor for a kill to give the team another shot at the win. It was a Tennessee Tech miscue that proved to deciding point as setter Kappy Lang's dump attempt landed just outside the left sideline to spark the Tulane celebration.

"We knew they were going to come out hard (in the fourth set)," Miller said. "One thing that we learned as a team this season is how to stay together and come back from big deficits. We've shown consistently that we can do that and we did it again. I just wish that we didn't get into those ruts and we will obviously work on that for tomorrow."

Tennessee Tech's Amanda Lindgren led all players with 19 kills and was joined in the double-digit kill club by teammates Leah Meffert and Marie Peddicord with 14 and 13, respectively. Lang posted a match-high 50 assists and a team-best 12 digs, while Jessica Asplund had three solo blocks and three block assists.

"That's not the way anybody wants their season to end, but there's only one team, however, in the tournament that's going to finish with a win and it's not going to be us," Tennessee Tech head coach John Blair said. "It was an excellent effort by a game team, and I think that Tulane and the NCAA know who Tennessee Tech is now. I think we represented ourselves quite well, and I'm certainly proud of everybody on the team."

The winner of tomorrow's match will advance to the NCAA Second Round where the victor will take on the winner of host Dayton and Western Michigan on Saturday at 5 p.m. for the right to advance to the Sweet 16.

The Dayton, Ohio bracket is matched up with the University Park, Penn., bracket - which features No. 1 national seed Penn State, Long Island, Yale and Ohio - on Dec. 12 on the campus of Penn State University. The winner of that match will advance to the final eight and the winner there moves on to the NCAA Volleyball Championships in Omaha, Neb., from Dec. 18-20.