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Volleyball beats No. 3 UT for the first time in history


By Michael Byrnes     9/18/19 9:47pm

In a thrilling five-set match, and in front of a Tudor Fieldhouse record crowd, Rice volleyball defeated No. 3 University of Texas for the first time in program history, 3-2. 

Rice jumped out to a 12-8 lead in the first set, led by strong blocking and timely kills by junior outside hitter Nicole Lennon, leading to a UT timeout. Rice’s lead was driven by the team’s ability to get digs off powerful hits from Texas’s outside hitters. The Owls led 22-17 before Texas stormed back to take four of the next five points, prompting a Rice timeout. But the Owls then took three of the next four points to win the first set.

Rice took another early lead in the second set, helped by a drawn-out rally on the third point that saw Rice on their heels until a timely Owls block won them the point. Rice then broke open the set, taking a 22-12 lead, helped greatly by the dynamic play of Lennon and sophomore middle blocker Anota Adekunle. After the Longhorns mounted a small comeback, Rice finished off Texas in the second set to take a 2-0 lead.

But the tide turned quickly in the third set. Texas started the period up 9-5, helped by a number of Owls unforced errors on Rice’s part and kills from the Longhorns’ outside hitters. UT continued to go on the offensive, with their blocking and digging -- much improved from the first two sets -- thwarting Rice’s offensive attack. Head coach Genny Volpe took her second timeout after the Longhorns took a 14-7 lead, but the Owls were unable to recover, losing 25-13. In the fourth set, Texas again broke out an early lead before Rice played them even in the middle third of the set. But UT again turned on the jets, to close out the set with a convincing 25-14 win.

The fifth and final set was a nail-biter, with Rice and Texas trading points until a Lennon kill gave the Owls a 14-12 lead. On the second match point, Lennon delivered a 23rd and final kill to send the Tudor Fieldhouse-record crowd of 3,012 into a frenzy. It’s the first time in 37 historical matchups that Rice has beaten Texas in volleyball.  

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