Women's basketball has rough start to season
Despite such high expectations, the women's basketball team got off to a disappointing start, losing their first two games before beating Houston Baptist Univerity Wednesday night in Tudor Fieldhouse.
The season opener, at Prairie View A&M University, was never supposed to be a close game. The Owls, who led for a lot of the game, let Prairie View go on an 11-5 run in the closing minutes to squeak by 61-58. Sophomore forward Jessica Kuster, back after one of the best freshman seasons ever inside C-USA, led the way with 22 points and 18 rebounds. Senior point guard D'Frantz Smart contributed 11 points and four assists to the losing effort.
After the first game against a relatively unknown opponent, the Owls traveled to the Big 12 conference to take on Oklahoma State University. OSU, who is predicted to finish fairly in the middle of the pack in the Big 12, dominated the game.
They zeroed in on Kuster, giving her no room to work with the basketball. The score was a staggering 58-27 at the half, and it looked like Oklahoma State was on pace to score a hundred. The Cowgirls would fall just short, winning by a final score of 96-60. Forward Kendra Suttles led OSU with 27 points.
On Wednesday night, opponent Houston Baptist did not have the same luck that the Cowgirls had with Jessica Kuster, allowing her to score 31 points.
Kuster, who would also record 19 rebounds, led the Owls to a 75-42 win to open the season inside Tudor Fieldhouse. Rice dominated the first half, at one point having a 31-8 lead. In addition to Kuster's second double-double of the year, senior forward Brianna Hypolite added 16 points. Kuster was pleased with the team's performance.
"It was our first first home game and we wanted to show to our fans that we're fun to watch," she said.
The win was much needed for the Owls, who can get back to .500 with tonight's matchup at Chicago State University. The game will mark the return of Smart to her hometown.
The team stays inside the Midwest with a Sunday afternoon game against Valparaiso University. Then they open a home stand with a game against Alcorn State University next Wednesday.
More from The Rice Thresher
Stahlé Vincent came back to Rice over the weekend. But this time, he got a different reception than he did when he first set foot on campus over five decades ago. “[When I first got here] there was not an open-arm reception,” Vincient said. “There were people who never spoke [to me], people avoided me, I had professors who wouldn’t call my name at roll. There was an animus there that you could feel.”
During her 19-year tenure, Rice volleyball head coach Genny Volpe has led the Owls to seven NCAA tournaments, two conference championships, 14 winning seasons and, as of Aug. 26’s victory over the University of Houston, 350 wins. With the Owls back in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s top 25 as of Monday, those numbers seem poised to keep improving. This is a flooring amount of success for a program that had never even been to the tournament until Volpe was hired, but she is far from willing to take sole credit.
On Sunday, a flock of birds rose victorious above Tudor fieldhouse and it wasn’t a band of blue jays. After five intense sets, the Owls team took down No. 17 Creighton University on a second match point, capping off a tournament which started off with a reverse sweep of Big 12 opponent Kansas State University. After missing out on the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s Top 25 last week by one spot, the defining weekend was enough to jump the Rice volleyball team to No. 23 on the rankings.