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Friday, September 30, 2022 — Houston, TX

Volleyball sweeps tournament for landmark win

By Paul Fitzgerald     9/25/08 7:00pm

After three years of trying without success to come out on top in an in-season tournament, the volleyball team finally reached their goal in Ohio at the Best Western Invitational last weekend, recording their first tournament win since 2005. In what was a big weekend for the Owls, Rice defeated Hofstra University 3-1 on Friday night and swept Saturday's matches over Bowling Green State University and Binghamton University by 3-1 and 3-0 scores, respectively. Rice looks to build upon last weekend's performance as they open the conference season against the University of Texas-El Paso on Friday at 8 p.m. in El Paso. Coach Genny Volpe plans to caution her team against looking ahead of UTEP to Sunday's match against Tulane University in New Orleans at 1 p.m.

"This will be a challenge for our team, not looking ahead to Tulane," Volpe said. "They have very nice athletes and they're looking for revenge against us. "

Rice's match against Tulane will be a great barometer for the team. The Owls have lost numerous close matches to Tulane in the past few years, including a five-game loss to the Green Wave last November. This weekend, they will finally try to get over the hump against the conference favorite.

The team captains, senior outside hitters Karyn Morgan and Jessica Holderness, have high hopes for the weekend, as they expect to go 2-0 against their conference foes. After the weekend's success, the team feels like they're finally getting rewarded for their efforts.

"We've always been really confident, and this proves how good we are and finally we're getting what we deserve for all our hard work," Morgan said.

In Rice's match against Hofstra, the two teams battled throughout the first game, trading points until Rice took a late lead and won 25-21. In the second game, Rice began with the lead until the Pride used a late surge to take the game win 25-20. The Owls were able to bounce back, however, winning the last two games 25- 23 and 25-12 to take a 3-1 match win. Volpe cited the performance of Holderness and Morgan as critical to the team's victory.

"Our outside hitters dominated," Volpe said. "They definitely outplayed Hofstra's outside hitters. They just didn't make a lot of mistakes."

The second match against Bowling Green turned into a battle of perseverance over skill. The match started similarly to the Hofstra match, with Rice winning the first game 25-21 and dropping the second 25-20. Not wanting to drop the match, Rice powered back in the third set, coming out with a 7-2 lead. BGSU came back within one at 9-8, but Rice pulled ahead to take the set 25-21. After pushing through the close third set, Rice took the fourth set 25-18 to secure the match.

The final match of the weekend went smoothly for the Owls, as they defeated Binghamton in three games, 25-18, 25-16 and 25-21. Rice might have lost its focus after the extended match against Bowling Green earlier in the day, but Volpe said she tried to maintain her players' concentration against the least challenging squad in the tournament.

"We tried to focus on being sharp and improving our numbers," Volpe said. "We wanted to make this a 3-0 win and not give them a set, and we didn't."

While the tournament victory proved to be a total team effort, the play of senior team captains Holderness and Morgan was outstanding. Junior middle blocker Natalie Bogan contributed considerably to the success of the squad as well.

Once again, sophomore libero Tracey Lam made an all-tournament team for her defensive play. Volpe was extremely pleased with the performance of one of Conference USA's best liberos as well as that of sophomore setter Meredith Schamun.

"[Schamun] is somebody that is a little underrated, probably the most underrated on our team," Volpe said. "She did a great job all weekend. She's 13th in the country in assists per game, and that's the highest-ranked setter we've ever had."

The Owls appeared eager to resume competition following the Ike-forced cancellation of the SFA Ladyjack Invitational in Nacogdoches, Tex. While one might assume the layoff would lead to a decline in the team's performance, Holderness viewed the Hurricane positively.

"We were eager to play because we hadn't played in so long," Holderness said. "We were sick of practicing and we had a really hard practice that week and we all just wanted to get out there and kill the ball. I think that made it a lot more fun.

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