The Golden Hurricane women’s volleyball team opened up their 2016 season by hosting Hurricane Classic, this year featuring Incarnate Word, Alabama, and South Dakota. This is the first of four straight tournaments for TU, which serve as a way to develop the identity of the team. The first week of play is especially important because it is the first time the team will see their new roster in action with the loss of last year’s seniors and the addition of the freshmen.
TU added Hayley Coulter, Mariah Pardo, and Taylor Horsfall to the roster this season, all of whom saw playing time this weekend during the tournament. Many of last year’s starters returned to the team this year with the exception of Nicole Newton, Ashley Hooper and Paige Panfil who graduated last spring. Libero Brooke Berryhill and outside hitters Erica Bohannon, Rebecca Reeve and Trinity Aluala all return as starters for the senior seasons, joined by Jaime Rahilly and Alyssa LaMont as the other seniors returning for their final season.
Adding new players to the team was not the only thing that the Golden Hurricane did this summer. Reeve competed with the Australian Women’s National Team this summer during the Women’s World Grand Prix in early June. Head Coach Ryan Wills was glad that Reeve had the opportunity. “The ability for her to represent her country on one of the biggest stages in the world is a great opportunity. Very few athletes are special enough to play in the World Grand Prix.”
Another senior outside hitter, Bohannon, was named to the American Athletic Conference Preseason All-Conference Volleyball Team over the summer. She finished last season ranked 13th in the nation in kills (515), 18th in points (567) and was named to First-Team All-AAC team for the second straight season. Bohannon will headline a team that is looking to bounce back after a disappointing 15–17 season which saw them finish in 4th place in the conference.
They started that bounce back by winning two-of-three games in their weekend opener, beating Incarnate Word and Alabama on Friday before falling to South Dakota on Saturday. In the opener against Incarnate Word, Tulsa won three sets-to-one, the seventh time they have opened up the season with a win in the past nine years.
In the first set Incarnate Word and TU traded points until the Golden Hurricane went on a 8–2, sparked by Pardo’s service ace late in the set. TU took the first set 25–18. The second set was much less eventful, with the Golden Hurricane jumping to an early lead 11–5 and winning comfortably 25–19. In the third set the Cardinals had a late advantage, blew it with three errors, but recovered to take a 25–23 win over the Hurricane. In the fourth and final set, both teams traded points until Tulsa, with the help of sophomore Rachel Miller’s three kills, went on a 8–0 run and won the the set 25–17, and the match 3–1.
Tulsa’s second game of the tournament featured a familiar face as Golden Hurricane faced the Crimson Tide coached by former Tulsa coach Ed Allen. Wills served as an assistant for Allen before returning to Tulsa in 2014 to take over the Head Coach position. Before the match started, Tulsa retired former Golden Hurricane Tyler Henderson’s number. Henderson led Tulsa to three straight conference championships and was named the Conference USA Player of the Year those same three years. She set five NCAA records in her time at Tulsa: single match kills (45), single-season kills (710), kills per set in a single season (6.23), career kills (2,525) and career kills per set (5.22). Henderson is only the second Golden Hurricane to have her number retired, joining Julia Silva.
The actual game was a five-set thriller between two evenly matched teams. That’s not an exaggeration, either. The final stat line for the game was: Alabama–83 kills, 7 blocks, 74 assists and 88 digs. Tulsa–79 kills, 9 blocks, 75 assists and 89 digs. Three of the five sets went into extra points, and the biggest points difference in any four sets was only four points.
Alabama won the first set after preventing two-straight match-points from the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa bounced back from in the second set 29–27 in another back-and-forth match between the two teams. TU took a big lead in the third set, thanks to Reeve, and won with a four-point margin, the largest of the night. Tulsa rallied back from five-point deficits twice in the fourth set, but ultimately fell 25–22. In the deciding match, Tulsa took the early lead but saw it fall away as Alabama tied the match at 15 apiece. But a Reeve kill and Crimson Tide error gave Tulsa the 17–15 set win and the game 3–2.
After the thrilling win on Friday night, Saturday’s game was a letdown, with a loss to South Dakota in straight sets. South Dakota, who had three of their players named to the Hurricane Classic All-Tournament Team, won 25–21, 25–19 and 25–19, all three games tightly contested.
After the loss, Wills had nothing but praise for the winning side.
“South Dakota is an extremely good volleyball team. I think one of the best players in the gym the whole weekend was their setter [Brittany Jessen]. She moves the ball around and creates problems for you offensively, because she can set the ball and also scores points herself. They can play really good volleyball. We didn’t come in with the energy and focus we needed. We had an emotional night last night, and we didn’t handle it the right way, and when you play a good volleyball team, that’s the result you’re going to get.”
Brooke Berryhill was named to the All-Tournament Team as the libero. Next up for the Golden Hurricane is the Texas State Invitational where they will face off against Kennesaw State, Stephen F. Austin and Texas State.