Volleyball maintains recent winning streak
Cole and Murphy continue to help the Owls rack up victories
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 28, 2012 01:09
For the fourth straight week, junior Megan Murphy was named Conference USA Co-Setter of the Week, a C-USA record for the most consecutive Setter of the Week awards won by a single player.
Murphy was also the first Owl since 2006 to post a triple-double. She recorded 10 digs, 58 assists, and a career-high 10 kills on Sept. 23 in a win against the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
"It felt great to accomplish a triple-double against UAB, but honestly, I was just thrilled that my team pulled out that game to give us a 3-0 start to conference," Murphy said. "It wasn't the best game we have played all year, but we held our composure throughout the match and managed to overcome adversity to get t he win."
The win against UAB marks the fifth straight victory the Rice women's volleyball team has recorded. The winning streak started on Sept. 14 when the women's team defeated Houston Baptist University 3-1.
In that game, senior Laurie McNamara logged a career-high 21 kills, hitting .431 (a paler's hitting average is their kills less errors divided by total attempts). Senior Nancy Cole added 14 kills, while Murphy showed why she has been named Setter of the Week four weeks in a row with 50 assists. Both were named All-Rice Invitational II.
The second victory in the streak came against Texas Tech University in the last game of the Rice Invitational. The team won in just three sets. The second set was tied for the longest set in school history as the two schools fought until the Owls came out on top, 38-36.
Cross-town rival University of Houston was the third team to fall to the Owls. This game marked the beginning of C-USA competition, and the Owls started off well, beating the Cougars 3-0. Rice's defense dominated and was able to hold Houston to -.036 hitting, the Cougars' lowest mark since August of 2005.
The winning streak was extended to four with a sweep against Memphis University. Sophomore Jillian Humphrey led the way with 12 kills and a .688 hitting percentage. The winning streak hit five games against UAB, but the game proved tougher than others, taking five sets for Rice to win. Cole led the team with 20 kills and a hitting percentage of .361.
"We honestly don't even think about the winning streak," Murphy said. "We take it game by game and focus on what we can do to win that particular game. This team is so competitive and the standard we have for ourselves is so high that we expect to win every match we go into, especially now that conference has started. Our goal is to improve every match, and if we do that, the wins will keep coming."
Cole also said that she was happy with the team's development.
"I am extremely proud of my team at this point in our season," Cole said. "We learned a couple of lessons early on and got our bad matches out of the way."
The last time the women's volleyball team started 3-0 in conference play was in 2009. In that year, the Owls went on to win the C-USA Tournament and got a berth in the NCAA Tournament. This season could see the same or even better results.
"As a team, we have focused mainly on our side of the net rather than our opponents'," Cole said. "Looking closely at ourselves and revisiting our responsibilities on the court has helped us tremendously."
Murphy added that while the team is enjoying its fast start, its members know they need to stay focused to maintain its success.
"3-0 is definitely an exciting start to conference, but we also know we have a lot of work ahead of us," Murphy said. "This conference is so competitive, and anyone can beat anyone on any given day."
Though Cole and McNamara are the team's only seniors, Murphy noted the depth and great overall skill level of the team.
"The great thing about our team is that we have so much depth," Murphy said. "Everyone on the team is really stepping up, and it helps us get better every day in practice because we can compete so intensely in our own gym. Each and every person on this team has contributed something to help us get better this year."
Cole also said that new players have been helping the team succeed.
"A new face that our opponents haven't seen is Noelle Whitlock," Cole said. "She plays all the way around for us this season and contributes in more ways than one."
The team has 13 games left in conference play and is 10-7 overall.
"We have a lot of games ahead of us, and I think the most important thing is that as long as we keep improving every day, we are going to have success," Murphy said. "We expect to be competing at the end of the season for a spot in the NCAA tournament."
With these lofty goals in mind, the Owls remain focused on the road ahead.
"The rest of the season is tackling our conference one game at a time," Cole said. "Thus far, we are pleased with our record and believe we still have a lot of talent that has yet to be seen when put all together. WE are on the right track to peak at the perfect time of our season, and we are all invested."
The Owls' next two games are today at 7 p.m. against Southern Methodist University and Tulsa on Sunday at 1 p.m., both at home.
"We want as many fans as we can get. Please come and support us!" Cole said.