Volleyball downs Sam Houston, heads to Ole Miss
Last Friday, Rice University's volleyball team took on Louisiana State University at the Tiger Classic Invitational that was moved from Baton Rouge to Rice due to complications stemming from Hurricane Isaac hitting the Gulf Coast.
"Playing these matches is the most important thing, and the fact that we could host the event is amazing," Head Coach Genny Volpe said. "I cannot thank the people in the athletic department enough, mainly the facilities crew for helping make this happen. With football's home opener, they have been working so hard to prepare for that. So, their cooperation is very much appreciated. I'm so happy the other schools could work it out and make it down to Houston."
Rice played LSU at 10 a.m. on Friday and later went on to play Purdue University at 5 p.m. in Fox Gym.
Purdue, currently ranked at an impressive No. 7 in the nation, served as a formidable opponent for the Owls. Volpe made it clear prior to the start of the invitational that the focus would first be directed toward LSU.
"By playing the four matches we have played so far, we have learned a lot about ourselves," Volpe said. "We have learned that we have moments of top-25 performances, and then lose our focus at times during the match."
The Owls lost to LSU 3-0. The game against Purdue was close but the Owls trailed 3-2 by the end. Despite Purdue's national standing, Rice held its own and proved itself a formidable opponent.
Strong performances in this game came from seniors Nancy Cole and Laurie McNamara, juniors Mariah Riddlesprigger and Megan Murphy, and sophomores Jillian Humphrey, Daniela Arenas and Lizzy Bache.
Cole, who is well on her way to reaching a 1,000-kill milestone, added excitement to the game as she led the team with 15 kills, leaving her 46 kills away from her goal.
Murphy contributed 50 assists, which marked the first over-50 assist game for Rice in this season.
This achievement by Murphy was no doubt the reason she was named to the All-Tournament team. Humphrey also set a season-high with 14 kills. The final match of the Invitational was against Washington University, and the Owls lost 3-0.
"The team definitely feels like we can compete with the best in the country," Volpe said. "After the LSU loss, I challenged the team and some particular players to step up, and they did. Both matches against No. 7 Purdue and No. 12 Washington were eye openers, that we are able to compete at that level. We just need to learn how to sustain a high level of play throughout an entire match."
The Owls later rebounded on Tuesday to beat Sam Houston State University 3-0.
"I thought the team played relatively average, but still won in three straight sets," Volpe said about the victory.
"That just tells me what we are capable of. Nancy Cole continues to shine and lead our offensive charge, and she did that against Sam Houston. Liz Bache is also improving and had a good solid match as well."
Rice will travel to compete in Oxford, Miss. at the Magnolia Invitational hosted by The University of Mississippi.
Rice will face off against The University of North Dakota on the first day of the invitational at 10 a.m. and Ole Miss later that night at 7 p.m.
The final game of the Owls' weekend is tomorrow against Alabama A&M University at 10:30 a.m. For Nancy Cole, it is highly plausible that she will reach her collegiate career milestone this weekend at the Ole Miss Tournament. Currently, she is 21 kills away from that goal. "It is definitely a milestone that should be recognized by all, and I think it also shows how much of an impact she has had since her freshman year." Volpe said, "Not many players reach that number, and she is proving each and every day she is an elite player, amongst the best in the country."
According to Volpe, fans should also expect to see considerable improvement in both serving and attention to detail. If these adjustments stick, the team could be primed for a hot streak beginning this weekend.