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Friday, September 30, 2022 — Houston, TX

Volleyball extends win streak to six

By Paul Fitzgerald     10/23/08 7:00pm

The Rice volleyball team headed into the weekend expecting to take two matches from the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Central Florida, but they did not expect to win both matches in three sets. The relatively painless pair of conference victories extended the Owls' win streak to five matches. Rice continues its home stand on Friday night against the Tulane University, which is second in Conference USA with a 7-1 conference record. The match begins at 7 p.m. and promises to be a big test for the streaking Owls. The squad then faces the University of Texas-El Paso at 1 p.m. Sunday. Rice has already defeated UTEP once this year and looks to finish the season sweep of the Miners, which are currently in eleventh place in C-USA. Despite UTEP's record, head coach Genny Volpe expects a challenging pair of matches.

"It's really going to be a competitive weekend," she said. "We know we can compete with Tulane, but we really have to take it to the next level and fire on all cylinders to beat them."

The Owls began last weekend by defeating Southern Miss in three sets (25-16, 25-12, 25-20). Rice started the match by jumping out to an early 6-3 lead after a kill from senior outside hitter Karyn Morgan. After trading points, the Owls went on a 13-5 run punctuated by a kill by junior middle blocker Natalie Bogan. Rice finished the first set on a kill by senior outside hitter Jessica Holderness.

USM jumped out to a 4-2 lead to begin the second set, before the Owls responded with an 8-3 run. After Rice took a 16-9 lead, Southern Miss never again got within seven points in the set.

Rice started slowly in the third set, as well, falling back 12-8 early after a service ace by USM before going on a 6-2 run to even the score at 14-14. The Owls gradually built an advantage before finally dispatching the Golden Eagles on another kill by Holderness, her ninth of the match.

Volpe said she could not cite only one player as key to the Rice win.

"It's tough to choose one player because we really have a lot of key players," Volpe said. "We came out focused and executed our game plan as a team."

The Owls defeated UCF (25-14, 25-16, 25-12) on Saturday night at Fox Gymnasium. Rice jumped out to an 8-5 lead on a kill by freshman outside hitter Ashleigh McCord in the first set of Saturday's match. The Owls would then go on a 9-3 run that ended with a block by Bogan. McCord had five kills in the first set.

Rice and UCF traded points to start the second set. The Owls could not break away by more than three points, and UCF closed the deficit to 14-13. Determined to maintain distance, the Owls pulled away with an 11-3 run began with a kill by Morgan and ended with another kill by McCord that gave Rice the 2-0 match lead.

Once again, UCF and Rice started out the third set by trading points. But after the Knights pulled even at 7-7, they ran out of steam and the Owls continued unscathed. An 8-1 Rice run was keyed by a string of three consecutive kills by McCord. UCF never challenged after the Owls pulled ahead in the third set, and a service ace by Bogan capped off the big conference victory for the Owls. Junior outside hitter Jennifer McClean cited the team's game plan as a key to the Owls' victory.

"The coaches put together a great game plan for us," McClean said. "We were very prepared and knew exactly where to set up to stop their service game. We had an answer for everything they did."

After Saturday's match, the Owls' record stands at a healthy 15-4. Their 6-2 conference record puts them in third place in the conference, behind University of Alabama-Birmingham and upcoming opponent Tulane. More importantly, however, the Owls are one of the hottest teams in the conference. Since a heartbreaking loss to Tulsa on Oct. 5, the Owls have won five straight matches and have not lost a single set in any of those matches. Volpe cited a multitude of factors that have contributed to the team's stellar play.

"The consistency of the team has been excellent," she said. "Our focus has been there, and we've really been paying attention to the game plan. The team has their eyes on the prize. They really want to win the conference and make it to the NCAA Tournament.

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