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Friday, September 30, 2022 — Houston, TX

Volleyball beats long-time foe

By Paul Fitzgerald     11/6/08 6:00pm

Avenging three straight seasons of defeat at the hands of the University of Tulsa, the volleyball team overcame the Golden Hurricane in five sets on Friday night. The Owls followed that victory with another over Southern Methodist University on Sunday. The players now turn their attention to Friday's contest against the University of Alabama-Birmingham at 4 p.m. at the Fox Gymnasium. The game could have a big impact on the final Conference USA volleyball standings, since the Blazers are currently perched at the top of the ladder with a 12-1 conference record. Rice, which is currently third with a 10-3 record, can cut its two-game deficit in half with a victory over UAB. All that aside, however, head coach Genny Volpe said she wants her team to approach the Blazers as they would any other opponent.

"We have to understand that the match against UAB is as important as any other match," she said. "I expect a great match, and we have to play with consistency if we want to come out on top."

Rice continues conference play on Sunday at 1 p.m. against the University of Memphis, which is right behind the Owls in the C-USA standings. The Owls conclude regular season play the following Thursday against crosstown rival University of Houston, at 7 p.m. at the UH campus. The Owls have already defeated the Cougars once this season in four sets.

Rice began its weekend in Oklahoma against a Tulsa team that defeated the Owls in a five-set match early in October. This time, the tight match swung in the Owls' direction and they were on top after five sets.

Tulsa maintained the lead through the first set, and the Owls would never get closer than within six points, dropping the opener 25-15.

The second set started as a back-and-forth duel. After Tulsa took an 11- 10 lead with a kill, the resilient Owls responded with a 5-0 run punctuated by a kill from sophomore middle blocker Caroline Gill. Tulsa cut the Rice lead to 17-15, but the Owls would not let the Golden Hurricane get any closer. A kill by sophomore libero Tracey Lam ended the second set, which Rice won 25-19.

The third set was also marked by close play. Tulsa took a 5-2 lead, but the Owls fought back to take a 9-8 lead of their own on the way to winning it 25-21. Sophomore setter Meredith Schamun, C-USA setter of the week, had eight key assists in the set.

Facing a 2-1 deficit, Tulsa refused to quit. The Owls and the Golden Hurricane traded points for the entire fourth set, with neither team taking a decisive lead before a Tulsa kill secured a 25-22 win. Just as they did in October, Rice and Tulsa headed to a decisive fifth set.

This time the Owls were able to pull out a victory. Three kills by senior outside hitter Karyn Morgan spurred the Owls to a 6-1 lead to open the fifth set. A kill by fellow senior outside hitter Jessica Holderness, her 17th of the match, gave the Owls the needed 15th point for five-set victory over Tulsa. Morgan tallied an impressive six kills in the fifth set. Volpe said she felt that the win was big for the seniors.

"The seniors remember that we had not beaten Tulsa since 2004, and that we had lost in five sets the past three seasons," Volpe said. "This was a big win for all of us, but more so for the seniors, because it was about payback for them."

Following their emotional victory on Friday, the Owls traveled to Dallas to face an SMU team they defeated in three sets earlier in October. Rice was able to overpower SMU easily, winning in four sets.

The Owls began the match by taking an 11-5 run on four kills by freshman outside hitter Ashleigh McCord. The Owls and Mustangs went back and forth for most of the first set before the Mustangs pulled to within three points at 21-18. However, a quick 4-0 Rice run ended the first set, with the Owls winning 25-18.

A kill by Bogan gave Rice a 9-4 lead to open the second set, which the team rode to a 25-20 win and a two set to zero advantage.

After a Mustang rally stole the third set from Rice, the Owls opened the fourth by taking a 9-4 lead, keyed by three Morgan kills. SMU scored the next three points to make the score 9-7 and eventually cut the deficit to one point at 14-13. A quick 4-1 run gave the Owls a four point advantage, which the Owls maintained for the rest of the match. Holderness' kill ended the fourth set and gave Rice the win. Volpe cited Holderness' play as key for the team this past weekend.

"Jessica led the team the whole weekend," Volpe said. "She was playing to win in both matches. A great weekend all-around for her."

The weekend sweep allowed the Owls to maintain their third-place position in the C-USA standings. Rice currently has a 19-5 record overall and a 10-3 record in conference. Only Tulane and UAB sit ahead of the Owls, and with only three matches remaining, the team must win out in order to have a chance at C-USA's regular season title. Despite the challenge ahead, Volpe said she has high expectations for the remainder of the season.

"We expect to win the rest of our matches," Volpe said. "We want to get better so we can play our best volleyball in the conference and NCAA tournaments.

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