Last weekend, the Rice University volleyball team (23-10, 11-5 C-USA) lost in the final round of the Conference USA tournament in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
In Friday’s quarterfinal match, the fourth-seeded Owls swept Marshall University 3-0 behind sophomore setter Chelsey Harris’s 15 kills and sophomore setter Sara Blasier’s 41 assists. The next day, the Owls took on the tournament’s top seed, the University of Texas, San Antonio. The Owls, who had lost in both regular season matches against UTSA, began the game strong and never lost a set. With a 3-0 sweep of the Roadrunners, the Owls advanced to the C-USA Championship for the first time since 2009.
The championship match against the tournament’s second seed saw the Owls lose to Western Kentucky University (30-5, C-USA 15-1). After trading the first four sets, the Owls took a 13-11 lead in the final set. However, WKU capitalized on Rice’s errors and managed to pull ahead 14-13. After a kill by senior middle blocker Jillian Humphrey off an assist from Blasier, the score once again was tied at 15-15. However, WKU scored three of the final points and won the set 18-16. WKU, led by tournament MVP Heather Boyan, now advances to the NCAA Tournament held in Oklahoma City.
Despite the tournament loss, many Owls earned individual accolades over the weekend. Harris and senior defensive specialist Daniela Arenas were named to the All-Tournament team for their performances in the conference tournament. Humphrey was named to the All Conference-USA first team, while sophomores outside hitter Leah Mikesky, Harris and Blasier were all named to the second team. Freshman middle blocker Portia Okafor was named to the All-Freshman C-USA team.