First in Conference USA with 265 total kills after 17 games. Those are not numbers you might expect from a freshman, but that’s exactly what Nicole Lennon has produced for the Rice volleyball team in her 17 starts this season.

“The season is going really well,” Lennon said. “We’re working great as a team.”

Rice has had to rely on freshmen because of its young roster, and Lennon has taken advantage of the opportunity. Earlier this year, she totaled 64 kills and 37 digs as the Owls beat three different teams in two days in the Rice Adidas Invitational II. She was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Head coach Genny Volpe credited Lennon for much of the team’s success after the invitational.

“Lennon certainly has been a strong factor for us all season,” Volpe said.

Lennon first played volleyball at the YMCA when she was 7 years old, and began playing competitively at the age of 13.

“I just really loved competition and volleyball was a good outlet for me,” Lennon said.

Before coming to Rice, she attended Cinco Ranch High School in Katy, Texas, where she totaled 817 kills in three years as a varsity volleyball player. As a student, she was a member of the National Honor Society, National Science Honor Society and the National Spanish Honor Society. When asked what drew her to Rice, Lennon touted the academics and volleyball team as primary reasons.

“The academics are just amazing,” Lennon said. “I wanted to come here and get a good degree. In addition to that, I love the coaches and the environment of the volleyball team.”

So far, she has led the team to a 12-5 record. Lennon said she has been enjoying her time on the court and her time in the classroom.

“I love Rice. I love the people here,” Lennon said. “Everyone here is so caring. I love a challenge. I have been challenged in my classes but I’m not complaining.”

Lennon said the team’s camaraderie has led to on-court success.

“We’ve been having fun and that leads to us doing well,” Lennon said.

Lennon will look to continue her rate of 3.73 kills per set as the Owls march further into conference play. She will look to help the team win its first conference title since 2009.