The Rice University women's volleyball team had a three-game winning streak after beating Houston Baptist University 3-0 in a nonconference game last Thursday but lost 3-1 to Tulane University at home Saturday. With the loss to the Green Wave, Rice's current record in conference play is 5-7.
This Friday, Nov. 15, Rice will travel to Birmingham, Ala. to play the University of Alabama, Birmingham. On Sunday, Nov. 17, Rice will play Louisiana Tech University in its last home game of the season. UAB's volleyball team is slightly ahead of Rice in the Conference USA standings with a record of 6-6. Louisiana Tech is at the bottom of the conference with a 1-11 record.
Head Coach Genny Volpe said that despite the loss to Tulane, the team's play had some admirable aspects to it. She said Tulane was a skilled team and Rice made too many errors.
"Tulane is a solid team [that] has won 24 matches this season for a reason," Volpe said. "They have a couple of stud hitters that really carry them. I thought we competed well and fought all afternoon. I'm proud of the fight. We just need to eliminate errors at key times."
Volpe foresees that UAB will not be an easy team to beat due to their impressive blocking. Despite this, Volpe said Rice could win. She said that if Rice can run an effective offense, they will have a strong chance of victory.
"UAB is a big blocking team and will pose a challenge for us at the net," Volpe said. "But I feel confident that if we pass well and control our side, we can create opportunities to stress their blocking and make their floor defense have to work hard."
Volpe said Rice does not intend to underestimate Louisiana Tech despite its weak record. Volpe said Louisiana Tech will come out hard this weekend.
"[Louisiana Tech] is struggling a bit, but we are fully expecting them to battle," Volpe said. "They are fighting for a spot in the conference tournament."
Junior middle blocker Jillian Humphrey said the players are maintaining a determined attitude about the final two games of conference play and will work on defense in practice this week.
"This week in practice, we are going to continue working on defending the ball," Humphrey said. "If our defense is on, then we win games."
Volpe said the Owls continue to look forward to the conference tournament with a will to win. Volpe said she would like the team to finish conference play this weekend on a high note. She said momentum would be beneficial for the team as it enters the tournament.
"I want us to finish the last two matches strong and confident," Volpe said. "Heading into the conference tournament, we want some momentum."
To Rice, the volleyball season is not over until the conference tournament ends. Humphrey said winning the tournament is and has been the team's biggest goal. She said the Owls can win the championship if they put forth their best effort.
"If we keep improving our standings in conference and keep getting better every day, we have a real chance at winning the conference tournament," Humphrey said. "We've just got to understand that we are a good team and play with confidence."