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Friday, September 30, 2022 — Houston, TX

Volleyball defeats Conference USA leader UAB

By Paul Fitzgerald     11/13/08 6:00pm

The volleyball team notched their biggest victory of the season on Friday afternoon, defeating University of Alabama-Birmingham in a five-set thriller. The Owls followed up their victory with a three-set win over the University of Memphis, giving the Owls a pair of important conference victories. The Owls wrapped up their regular season last night against the University of Houston, which sat directly behind Rice in the Conference USA standings. The Owls had already defeated the Cougars once before this season in four sets.

Now, Rice turns its attention to the upcoming C-USA Tournament, running Nov. 20-23 in Memphis, Tenn., with the championship game to be televised on the CBS College Sports Network. Depending upon the outcome of the final weekend of C-USA play, the Owls will be seeded first, second or third, giving them a first round bye.

Rice began its weekend against C-USA leading UAB. The Owls and Blazers began the first set trading points, with neither team gaining an advantage of more than three points until the Owls pulled away late in the set. With the scored tied at 19, the Owls went on a 6-1 run for the 25-20 victory, capped by a kill by junior middle blocker Natalie Bogan. Sophomore setter Meredith Schamun's 15 assists were integral in the first set and were part of her earning the C-USA Setter of the Week award for the second week in a row and third time this season.



The second set started similarly to the first, with the Owls and Blazers staying close to one another. After a kill by senior outside hitter Jessica Holderness tied the score at 23, two straight points by UAB gave the Blazers a 25-23 win.

The Owls began the third set with an 8-3 run, but were unable to fend off UAB which took a 28-26 victory and a 2-1 set lead. Facing defeat, the Owls opened the fourth set by grabbing a 7-4 lead of their own. While UAB attempted to battle back, a Bogan kill gave the Owls the set with a 25-22 win.

Rice opened the deciding fifth set taking a 5-2 lead over UAB. A kill by the Blazers brought UAB to within one point, but the Owls would take over after that. Rice ended the match on a 5-1 run, giving them a 15-10 win in the fifth set and 3-2 set victory overall. Morgan's five kills in the crucial final set proved too much for the Blazers to overcome. She recorded 26 kills overall in the match, one shy of her career high of 27. Head coach Genny Volpe cited Morgan's play as instrumental to the Owls' strong performance this weekend.

"Karyn Morgan had a phenomenal weekend," she said. "She was the offensive player of the week, the first time we have had one all season, and UAB really had a hard time with her."

Coming off Friday's emotional victory, Rice continued their momentum through their match against Memphis, which sat in the middle of the C-USA standings. Rice began their first match of the season against the Tigers with a 7-6 advantage. Memphis fought back to take a 12-11 lead in the closely contested first set. Memphis took a 19-15 lead, but the Owls refused to give up, battling back to tie the set at 23 on a service ace by Holderness. After trading points, the Owls won the first set on a team block by freshman outside hitter Ashleigh McCord and sophomore middle blocker Caroline Gill that gave them a 30-28 advantage.

Rice opened up the second set with an early 10-6 advantage. The Owls widened their lead to 18-13 on a kill by Holderness and another 4-0 run gave them a 22-13 margin from which Memphis could not recover.

Rice came out in the third hungry for a sweep. With the score tied at nine, the Owls went on a 10-5 run to take a 19-14 lead, but the Tigers fought back to within one point at 22-21. The Owls scored the next three points on a Bogan kill and two attacking errors by the Tigers, giving them a 25-22 victory in the third set and a 3-0 set victory.

Volpe pointed to the team's strong defense when asked about the key to Sunday's victory.

"We really hurt them with our first touch," she said. "Our defense allowed us to run over the middle, and our lack of errors were also a big part of the win."

The win over Memphis gave the Owls their 12th conference victory of the season, their most since joining C-USA in 2005, and a 21-5 overall record, the team's best since 2004. With one more regular season match and the ensuing conference tournament remaining, the Owls have an opportunity to improve their win totals. Volpe and the team know they still have much to accomplish this season.

"We know if we win the conference tournament, we go to the NCAA Tournament, which has been our number one goal the entire year," she said. "A NCAA Tournament appearance would only be the second in the school's history, and it would mean a lot to the team to have our seniors achieve that."

Coming off Friday's emotional victory, Rice refused to overlook Memphis, which sat in the middle of the C-USA standings. Memphis fought back to take a 19-15 lead, but the Owls refused to give up, battling back to tie the set at 23 on a service ace by Holderness. After trading points, the Owls won the first set on a team block by freshman outside hitter Ashleigh McCord and sophomore middle blocker Caroline Gill that gave them a 30-28 advantage.

Rice opened up the second set with an early 10-6 advantage. The Owls widened their lead to 18-13 on a kill by Holderness and another 4-0 run gave them a 22-13 margin from which Memphis could not recover. The Owls won the second set 25-15.

Rice came out in the third hungry for a sweep. With the score tied at nine, the Owls went on a 10-5 run to take a 19-14 lead, the Tigers fought back to within one point at 22-21. The Owls scored the next three points on a Bogan kill and two attacking errors by the Tigers, giving them a 25-22 victory in the third set and a 3-0 set victory. Volpe pointed out the team's strong defense when asked about the key to Sunday's victory.

"We really hurt them with our first touch," she said. "Our defense allowed us to run over the middle, and our lack of errors were also a big part of the win."

The win over Memphis gave the Owls their 12th conference victory of the season, their most since joining C-USA in 2005, and a 21-5 overall record, the team's best since 2004. Volpe and the team know they still have much to accomplish this season.

"We know if we win the conference tournament, we go to the NCAA Tournament, which has been our number one goal the entire year," she said. "A NCAA Tournament appearance would only be the second in the school's history, and it would mean a lot to the team to have our seniors achieve that.



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