The Rice University women's volleyball team ended its conference play on a high note, beating the University of Alabama, Birmingham 3-0 on the road Friday. The team continued its winning streak Sunday, sweeping Louisiana Tech University 3-0 to win its final road game of the season. The team concluded conference play at .500 with a record of 7-7.
The Conference USA tournament will take place in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where Rice is the 10th seed out of 12 teams. The Owls will face seventh seed UAB again Nov. 21, just six days after their win over the Blazers.
Head Coach Genny Volpe said the team has hit a high point in the season. The Owls are heading into the tournament aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and Volpe said she believes the team will pull off a win.
"I think the team is just coming into their own and playing the game freely and confidently," Volpe said. "We recognize that we are not perfect and we will make mistakes, but we are gritting it out and finding a way to win. I am so proud of how they are competing and fighting."
Senior outside hitter Mariah Riddlesprigger said that despite being seeded 10th, the Owls have lofty ambitions and a lot of confidence. The team is looking forward to the tournament with eager anticipation.
"We are very excited for the conference tournament," Riddlesprigger said. "We know our potential and are excited to see what we can accomplish in the tournament."
Riddlesprigger said the team is counting on its ability to upset higher-seeded teams. She said that if the team focuses on finishing games strong, the Owls might shock some teams in the tournament.
"We are going to work on finishing games," Riddlesprigger said. "We know we have the potential to upset people in the conference tournament, and we are going to prepare for that."
In practice this week, Volpe said Rice will review its recent game against UAB. She said they won the game handily, but there is still room for improvement. Volpe said that since UAB will be more knowledgeable about Rice's style of play the second time around, the Owls will be in for a battle.
"We don't have much practice this week," Volpe said. "But we are playing UAB first round, so we are evaluating that match and seeing what we did well and what we need to continue to do to improve our game and stay focused."
Volpe said the team will focus on its fundamentals, which can make all the difference in tournament play.
"I believe that all teams right now are focusing on the serving and passing game, as that is key to success, and that will continue to be a focus," Volpe said.
Volpe said that after an up-and-down season, Rice is glad to head into the tournament. She said this is what the team has been getting ready for all season.
"Our team is excited about the tournament," Volpe said. "We have been preparing for it for some time now, and it's really just about playing freely and being willing to grit it out over the four-day tournament."