Rice University women's volleyball lost two away games this past weekend in Conference USA play. The University of Tulsa beat the Owls 3-0 on Friday, and the Owls fell 3-2 to the University of Southern Mississippi in a close contest on Sunday, bringing Rice's conference record to 1-3. The Owls will now look to improve that record with their upcoming home games this weekend. They will play Marshall University this Friday at 7 p.m., then play the University of Charlotte Sunday at 1 p.m. in the annual Dig Pink event to support breast cancer.
Head Coach Genny Volpe said the biggest reason for the loss against Tulsa was the team's difficulty with finishing strong. Volpe said this has been an issue throughout the season.
"Against Tulsa, we were ahead most of the time and couldn't finish," Volpe said. "We had some key errors at key times, and this led to Tulsa gaining confidence and coming back to defeat us. We had a great game plan for Tulsa, and the team was executing it very well. We just didn't finish when we had the chance."
Volpe said the team did not take full advantage of certain opportunities against Southern Miss.
"We were given some opportunities that we didn't take advantage of," Volpe said. "We have to do this to win these tight matches."
Senior outside hitter Mariah Riddlesprigger agreed the team needs to build its ability to finish strong. Riddlesprigger said the team can play with the best.
"I think the biggest thing we need to work on is finishing a game," Riddlesprigger said. "I feel like this whole season we have all the tools necessary to win, but we just need to be able to go in there and finish. We were up by eight points at one time, and we weren't able to capitalize on that and finish the game, so I think our biggest weakness right now is the capability to finish a game."
Volpe said the team will face tough competition as conference play keeps going, but the team is focusing on itself rather the opponent.
"Marshall is solid and will play hard," Volpe said. "Charlotte, we have never played, but we are more focused on our side of the net than the other side to start practice this week."
Riddlesprigger said she is not deterred by recent losses and looks forward to next weekend with confidence. She said the team learned a lot this past weekend and has some advantages in the upcoming games. Riddlesprigger said that since the Owls have never played Charlotte before, they have no intimidating pre-existing notions of the team. She said she thinks a quest for redemption will invigorate the Owls against Marshall.
"I'm feeling pretty confident," Riddlesprigger said. "I think we learned a lot from this past weekend on what we need to work on in conference. Charlotte is a new opponent, so we have no clue what they look like. I think with Marshall, we've lost to them a few times in the past and we're out to redeem ourselves."
During the Charlotte game, the team will be collecting donations and selling T-shirts for its Dig Pink campaign for the Side-Out Foundation to support breast cancer. Riddlesprigger said this is a meaningful event for the team.
"Dig Pink is something really big to our team," Riddlesprigger said. "We've raised a lot of money for it in the past, and I think it's a great cause, and I'm happy we are continuing to do it."
The Owls head into this weekend with anticipation for success. Volpe said the team is on an upward climb, as indicated by the near-win against Southern Miss. The team's next goal is to finish a game with a victory under its belt.
"There certainly was progress made over the weekend," Volpe said. "But until these turn into wins, we won't be satisfied."