Rice women's volleyball ended its nonconference season with three losses last weekend at the Active Ankle Challenge tournament in Louisville, Ky. The Owls lost Friday to Virginia Tech 3-0 and lost 3-0 to the University of Louisville Saturday afternoon. The Owls managed to take one set Saturday night against Bowling Green State University but ultimately fell 3-1, concluding their nonconference schedule with an overall record of 3-11.  

 Next weekend, Rice begins Conference USA play with a home game Friday night against Middle Tennessee State University. After that, the Owls will host East Carolina University on Sunday.

Head Coach Genny Volpe said the team heads into conference play on an upward trajectory despite the multitude of preseason losses.

 "This weekend, we did lose, but there were a lot of bright spots," Volpe said. "The team is definitely in a better place mentally and getting tougher and stronger. So we're just going to keep building on that."

Volpe said the team needs to polish up its fundamentals in order to continue to improve. She said she hope the wins will follow shortly thereafter.

"We're pretty athletic, and we do a lot of really good things, but sometimes our fundamentals can get away from us at key times," Volpe said. "So we're just going to focus a lot on our ball control and our serving and passing, and I think that that's going to keep us really composed and allow us to run the offense that we are capable of running."

Senior outside hitter Tyler Jenkins said she believes the team is capable of running a better offense and recording better results. She said the Owls will focus on making fewer errors.

 "We're going to work on getting more consistent and just turning all of our hard work into results," Jenkins said. "[We're] all working really hard; we're just not getting the results that we want."

According to Volpe, the team's morale is not deflated by its recent losses to talented teams. Rather, Volpe said the Owls are looking forward to conference play with excitement. 

"We're excited to get into conference," Volpe said. "It's been a rough preseason. We just played an extremely tough schedule. I do think in a lot of ways we are prepared for conference play because we've been definitely battle-tested. So I think that going into conference will bring some new energy."

Jenkins said she was enthusiastic about building a better conference record.

 "We're really excited to get started because our record doesn't reflect how much we've learned and how much we've grown as a team, not only in skill, but [also] as a team unit," Jenkins said.

Volpe said Middle Tennessee is a formidable first opponent, but she said it will be good for Rice to be challenged with steep competition.  

"We are starting off with Middle Tennessee, which is a very strong team," Volpe said. "That will be nice to play a team as strong as Middle Tennessee."

Volpe said the Owls are ready to face their challenges and to gain more victories than they did in the nonconference part of the schedule.

 "We'll be tested right away," Volpe said. "We're definitely looking forward to starting conference and basically getting a fresh start."