Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Friday, December 09, 2022 — Houston, TX

Volleyball sweeps FIU in first round of C-USAs, advances to semifinals

Katherine Hui / Thresher

By Cadan Hanson     11/19/22 11:44am

Rice volleyball took care of business in the first round of the Conference USA tournament, sweeping the No.7 seed Florida International University (26-24, 25-22, 25-18).  With the win, the No. 2 seed Owls advanced to the semifinals where they will face University of Texas at El-Paso. After the win, head coach Genny Volpe was happy with the sweep and moving on to the semifinals.

“We're excited to be moving on to round two,” Volpe said. “We're very happy to pull off a sweep, a very hard earned sweep. I thought FIU played great and presented us with a lot of challenges [but]... we finished the job and beat a good team.”

The Owls started the opening set of the tournament with a bang, going on a quick 7-1 run, sparked by three kills from junior outside hitter Sahara Maruska. However, the Panthers answered with a 7-0 run of their own to take the lead in the middle of the set. Late in the set, the Owl’s senior frontcourt took control with outside hitter Ellie Bichelmeyer and middle blockers Satasha Kostelecky and Anota Adekunle getting two kills apiece to take the first set in a 26-24 tiebreak.

Set two mirrored the first with the Owls jumping to an early lead which was promptly cut by a Panther’s counter-run. Late in the set, after a late Panthers run closing the Owls lead to 24-22, a Maruska kill claimed the set. Maruska, who hit .359 on the night, matching her season-best, said that her teammates’ efforts in the pass game set up her successful performance.

“I felt good today,” Maruska said. “But something that helped me the most was getting a pass. I really held on to my team and service who was able to get up a good pass and the middle [blackers] did a good job transitioning out early so that I could have a single block.”

With the smell of a sweep in the air, the third set was no different than the rest, with the Owls starting with a 5-0 run. After extending their lead to 9-2 the Panthers, who found themselves with their backs to the wall, fought back and took the lead 16-14. But that was the last time they would have the lead all night, with the Owls closing the match on a 9-1 run. Adekunle and Maruska combined for 10 kills in the third set. Volpe said that although the Owls didn't play to their full potential, she was proud of their composure.

“We didn't play the perfect game but I’m really proud of how we stayed composed and were able to finish the job,” Volpe said.

Now, the Owls move to the semifinals where they face No. 3 seed UTEP. The two teams have met twice this year, with the Owls taking their first match in five sets before sweeping the Roadrunners later in the season. The game will be played on Saturday at 2:30.

More from The Rice Thresher

SPORTS 12/5/22 1:51pm
Volleyball loses heartbreaker to Baylor in second round, ending season and NCAA tournament run

Rice volleyball’s season came to a close on Friday, as the No. 5 seed Owls lost a five set thriller to No. 4 seed Baylor University in the second round of the NCAA tournament (25-16, 22-25, 23-25, 25-14, 11-15). The loss ended the Owls tournament run and hopes at their first Sweet Sixteen berth in program history. After the game, head coach Genny Volpe was proud of her team despite the loss.

SPORTS 12/5/22 11:40am
Football to face Southern Miss in LendingTree Bowl

It might not have been how they planned it, but Rice football is going to a bowl game. The Owls will take on the University of Southern Mississippi in the LendingTree Bowl, in Mobile, Alabama on Dec. 17. After finishing the season 5-7, one win shy of the mark needed to secure eligibility, Rice got an invite anyway when not enough teams reached six wins to fill every bowl game. The Owls topped all five-win teams in the tiebreaker, an academic performance metric called Academic Progress Rate. 


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.