The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Mustangs gunning for the top

The Mustangs, who have won 11 straight games at home, have not dropped a game at Moody Coliseum since 2008 and are on the brink of guaranteeing themselves a place in the Conference USA tournament.

But, their streak will be put to the test when they take on C-USA No. 1 Tulane University (14-6, 9-2 conference) and the University of Texas at El Paso (10-14, 3-8 conference) this weekend. The Mustangs are currently tied for fourth in C-USA and are 1 ½ games behind Tulane. The University of Houston is fighting to hang on to the final eighth seed and is two games behind the Mustangs.

Tulane is led by the No. 1 hitter in the entire conference, Visnja Djurdjevic, who averages 4.25 kills per set. Djurdjevic is also the leader in service aces, making her the Mustangs’ primary concern. The Green Wave’s offense could be considered the unstoppable force, which makes the Mustangs’ defense the immovable object.

SMU’s strongest and most consistent card is their defense, which could be considered the number one defense in the league. The front line is anchored by senior Kendra Kahanek, who is now the career leader in blocks at SMU after breaking the record set by Natalie Peters during the match against Rice. A welcome surprise for the Mustangs is freshman Courtney Manning, who is fourth in C-USA in blocks with 1.10 blocks per set. Kahanek is ranked second with 1.15 blocks per set. Sophomore Sidney Stewart is ranked fourth in the conference in digs with 4.62 digs per game. But, defense alone will not be enough against the Green Wave. The Mustangs will need their offense to show up as well.

“The most important thing for us is to have a nice balance,” Seifert said. “Yes, we have to be able to defend because they’re so strong offensively, but we have to be able to balance our defense with a transitional offense. And we have to be able to put balls away.”

When the two teams faced off earlier this season, Tulane edged the Mustangs in five-sets; though it was a loss for SMU, it also proved that they could stand against the top teams in the conference.

“We watched the match again today, and basically, we had blown opportunities,” Seifert said. “It was a really tight match and we did some really good things, but I think we’re a better team now.”

The match on Sunday against UTEP is equally as important as the Tulane match for SMU. On paper, the Mustangs have the overwhelming advantage against the Miners, but all that matters to SMU is the loss that the Mustangs suffered to the Miners earlier this season in which they were shut out completely, 3-0. During that match, sophomores Dana Powell and Kathryn Wilkerson, SMU’s top two hitters, were injured, but now they are healthy and ready to lead the Mustangs to the championship.

“We played good defense there but we just didn’t hit the ball,” Seifert said. “We hit .090 against them, and this past weekend we hit .256. So, if we continue to play the defense and bring some balance and match it with our offense – the offense that we’re holding now – it should be easier.”

UTEP is actually the only team in the conference that ranks ahead of the Mustangs in total blocks, averaging 2.57 blocks per set compared to the Mustangs’ 2.45 blocks per set. Cassandra Burruel is third in the conference in blocks, averaging 1.11 blocks per set.

In order for the Mustangs to come out victorious this weekend and make a push for the conference championship, they will need their offense to come to life. SMU has been erratic on the offensive side of the ball, sometimes coming out with a bang and other times, not even showing up. But, in order to take down the top, the Mustangs will need to be running flawlessly on all gears.

“I think we’re just starting to peak,” Seifert said. “Our offense is starting to match our defensive play. But we’re not there yet. We’re ready to get in, to be one of the eight teams. Are we ready to win it? I think I’ll be able to answer that question better after Friday night.”

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