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Saturday, October 23, 2021 — Houston, TX °

Turn your attention to volleyball

By Thresher Editorial Board     9/21/21 10:57pm

After this past weekend, and football’s embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Longhorns, it’s possible that much of the Rice community is un-rhetorically echoing JFK and asking themselves: Why does Rice play Texas?

The answer, of course, is volleyball. Tonight, Rice Volleyball will take on No. 1 University of Texas, Austin at Tudor Fieldhouse; their third matchup in as many seasons. In 2019, the Owls defeated the then-ranked No. 3 Longhorns in front of a packed crowd at Tudor. Last year, they went to Austin and knocked off No. 2 UT volleyball for the second straight season. This is becoming one of the best — if slightly one-sided in recent years — rivalries in college volleyball, and another chapter will be written on this very campus in a few hours. 

Volleyball’s season is at a bit of a crossroads. They entered this season ranked No. 23 in the country, returning every player from last year’s team that entered the NCAA tournament with high expectations before being forced to exit due to COVID-19 protocols. With every member of last year’s relatively young team improved, the team expected big things this year. Unfortunately, a brutal non-conference schedule has not panned out for them so far. Due in large part to three games against top-15 ranked teams, the team is 5-4 going into their matchup against Texas, the final one of their non-conference schedule.

We’ve seen this before. Last year, the team started 1-3 in non-conference play before going undefeated in conference play and capping off their regular season with a win over Texas. If this year’s team wants to repeat last year’s turnaround, they could really use a statement win right about now.

And that’s where you come in. Last week, a sizable portion of the Rice population made the three-hour trek to Austin to watch our football team fail to muster a single point on Saturday night. This week, we have a game that promises to be one of the most important in the entire NCAA volleyball season in our own backyard. 

Volleyball is playing the top-ranked team in the country, with a legitimate shot of winning. Rice students have a chance to show up, create a hostile environment for UT, and impact the game. We owe volleyball every bit as much support as we gave football, if not more.

We can’t promise you they’ll win. We can’t even promise you a good game. But we can promise it’ll be better than 58-0.

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