Rice Athletics weekend updates
It was a busy weekend for the Rice Owls. Several teams were in action, from cross country to soccer to swimming to football. With this in mind, here are a couple of the Owls’ highlights.
FOOTBALL BLOWN OUT IN SHUTOUT LOSS
For the first time in almost 30 years, the Rice football team was shut out at home, losing to the University of Alabama, Birmingham, 42-0. The Blazers improved their season record to 5-1 (3-0 in Conference USA), while the Owls fell to 1-6 (0-3).
Rice’s offense was stymied by UAB’s strong defense, which ranks No. 6 in Division-1 Football Bowl Subdivision with just 283.8 total yards allowed per game and No. 5 overall with 14.2 points allowed per game. The Owls mustered just nine first downs (including a one-of-17 mark on third-down conversions) and 186 yards of total offense in their scoreless effort, a far cry from the 20 or more points they scored in each of their first five games this season. Senior kicker Jack Fox totaled more than three times as many yards (588) on his 12 punts as Rice did on its 65 plays from scrimmage.
The already-struggling Owls offense suffered an additional blow when graduate transfer quarterback Shawn Stankavage had to leave the game in the second quarter due to an undisclosed foot injury. Redshirt freshman Evan Marshman replaced him at quarterback for the remainder of the game.
Meanwhile, Rice’s defense continued to struggle, allowing 482 yards of total offense, including 208 rushing yards. UAB wide receiver Xavier Ubosi hauled in four catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns, including a 95-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
VOLLEYBALL WINS 10TH STRAIGHT MATCH
The volleyball team extended its winning streak to 10 matches wiith a pair of victories at Tudor Fieldhouse over the weekend. Rice squeezed out a five-set win over Marshall University on Friday and followed with a triumph in three sets over the University of North Texas on Sunday.
The Owls struggled early during Friday’s game, particularly in their defensive performance against the Thundering Herd’s aggressive outside hitters. Marshall took the first two sets (27-25, 25-22) before Rice narrowly beat them out in the third set, 27-25. It was only during the fourth set that the momentum began to palpably shift in the Owls’ favor, with sophomore outside hitter Nicole Lennon’s eight kills leading the team to a 25-14 victory. Rice then finished off the win with a 15-10 fifth-set tiebreaking clincher.
On Sunday, the Owls put their best foot forward from the very beginning, starting out with a 25-17 first-set win before polishing off the Mean Green with 25-21 and 26-24 victories for a 3-0 sweep. Junior libero Lee Ann Cunningham led Rice with 21 digs, helping her earn Conference USA’s Defensive Player of the Week award on Monday. The trio of Lennon, junior middle blocker Grace Morgan and freshman middle blocker Anota Adekunle registered 41 combined kills during the match.
The win streak of 10 matches is the third-longest in school history and the team’s longest since 2004. In addition, after the two wins, Rice now leads C-USA with a 7-0 conference record, one game ahead of the University of Texas, San Antonio. Despite the team’s success, Rice fell to No. 33 in this week’s RPI volleyball rankings, likely due to strength-of-schedule related reasons. The Owls are now 16-4 on the season.
More from The Rice Thresher
It was a good weekend for Rice Tennis, as both the men’s and women’s teams put on strong performances at home this past Sunday. The women breezed past the University of Louisiana 4-0, and the men got the better of Lamar University by a score of 6-1.
The Rice volleyball team opened their season this weekend with a two-match home-and-home series against the University of Houston. The Owls split the series with the Cougars, winning Saturday’s opener three sets to two, before dropping Sunday’s match in straight sets. The matches marked the Owls’ return to the court, following a long and uncertain offseason that saw the season delayed by nearly five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to head coach Genny Volpe, the team had been eagerly awaiting the chance to play again.
The Rice swim team defeated University of the Incarnate Word to win their fourth consecutive dual meet Saturday afternoon in San Antonio. The Owls won 10 out of the 14 events, easily defeating the Cardinals with a score of 182 to 79. In total, seven different Owls took home first place in individual races with numerous Owls finishing in the top 3. Rice also swept the 200-yard freestyle, securing each of the top-five places.