After a brief two-game winning streak earlier this month, Rice University women's volleyball team lost its last two games. Rice attained victories over the University of North Carolina, Charlotte and Marshall University during its last homestand, but when the Owls traveled last weekend, their winning streak abruptly ended. Rice lost 3-2 to the University of Texas, San Antonio Friday and then fell 3-0 to the University of Texas, El Paso Sunday. Back-to-back losses have put the Owls at 3-5 in conference play.
Junior middle blocker Lizzy Bache said the Owls have an optimistic attitude and believe in their ability to rally.
"Our team is staying very positive," Bache said. "We have no doubt in our ability to turn things around."
Rice will get the chance to improve its record this weekend. This Sunday, Rice will play the University of North Texas at home.
Head Coach Genny Volpe said UNT plays similarly to the Owls. She said she expects the match to be close.
"[UNT] seems to be similar to us in many ways," Volpe said. "They can be very successful, streaky and are somewhat inconsistent. They are very athletic, like we are, and I anticipate the match to be very exciting, and it could come down to the team that plays the cleanest volleyball will win."
Volpe said the Owls show a lot of talent but they occasionally make mistakes.
"Our performance at UTSA had a ton of bright spots," Volpe said. "It was some of the best volleyball we have played all year, and we showed tremendous fight. We just made a couple of more mistakes in the end and lost a close one that could have gone either way."
Volpe said these mistakes and the Owls' lack of focus are the reasons for Rice's recent losses.
"Against UTEP, we did not have that focus," Volpe said. "We gave too many points away and did not rebound. You can't beat anyone like that, much less a team with veteran players like UTEP, [which] wanted to beat us more than we wanted to beat them."
Bache said the team will work on its discipline and on maintaining control of the game to prepare for its upcoming game against UNT.
"In practice this week, we will be putting a lot of emphasis on staying disciplined and keeping our focus especially when we are down," Bache said.
Bache said the Owls need to decrease the number of unforced errors they make in order to win against UNT.
"The biggest challenge will be to remain disciplined and reduce our unforced errors," Bache said. "When it comes down to it, especially in a conference with such evenly matched teams, the key is to clean up the little things and to make less mistakes."
Volpe said the Conference USA tournament is still in the team's sight. Volpe said that if the team can play a clean game and pounce on opportunities, the rest of the season will produce a bounty of victories.
"Our goal is to win," Volpe said. "We want to win the rest of our matches and get the best seed for the C-USA tournament. We know we have the talent and the C-USA tournament title is up for grabs. We just need to clean up some of our skills and minimize our errors. We need to capitalize on situations where opponents show weakness. When we do these things, anything is possible for us."