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It looks like Rice football’s intellectual brutality is finally paying off. The Owls appeared to miss out on the postseason when their 21-17 loss to the University of North Texas on Saturday left them at 5-7 for the season, one win shy of the threshold for bowl eligibility. However, losses by a pair of 5-6 teams later that night guaranteed there wouldn’t be enough six-win teams to fill all 41 bowl games. The remaining spots will now go to the 5-7 teams with the highest Academic Progress Rate – a metric that measures the academic performance of a school’s student athletes. Rice had the highest APR of any five-win team, and is now in line for their first postseason berth since 2014, assuming they accept.
When Rice moves to the American Athletic Conference next season, they’ll be one of three teams in the AAC named the Owls. If they opt to change their nickname to avoid confusion, might I suggest the Tortoises. The Owl football team has religiously followed the “slow-and-steady” model since head coach Mike Bloomgren took the helm in 2018, adding one win each year, with the exception of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
In 2019, the Rice volleyball team took on Western Kentucky University in the Conference USA final only to lose in a five-set heartbreaker. They got another shot at the Hilltoppers in the following year’s title game, and again in 2021, but both times WKU came out on top. Just ten days earlier, while not in the conference tournament, the Hilltoppers beat the Owls in a fifth-set tiebreaker to secure the C-USA regular season title.
Like clockwork, death, taxes, and whatever other cliché you want to use to describe mind-bending consistency, No. 22 Rice volleyball will face No. 20 Western Kentucky University in the Conference USA final yet again. The Owls secured a finals spot against the top-seeded Hilltoppers for the fourth consecutive year with a sweep of the University of Texas at El Paso in Saturday’s semifinal. According to head coach Genny Volpe, the Owls executed their game plan almost perfectly to punch their ticket to the final.
Whenever the Rice volleyball team plays Western Kentucky University, the two head coaches have a running joke.
The last time Rice volleyball lost a conference regular season game, back in 2019, it took Western Kentucky University two match points to knock off the Owls in a five-set battle that ultimately decided the regular season conference title. The two teams would meet again that year, this time in the conference championship game, but the result was the same: a five-set Hilltopper victory. Only three players from that Owls team are still with the program, but according to fifth-year setter Carly Graham, the losses still haven’t faded from memory.
ESPN’s Ryan McGee publishes a list of the ten worst teams in college football’s primary division. Rice has graduated from the rotation of teams regularly featured in his column, but their opponent last week, the then 1-7 University of North Carolina at Charlotte, hasn’t – they were the last ranked team in his most recent list.
Last year, Rice’s men’s basketball team saw their season slip through their hands as their injuries began to pile up.
Before junior quarterback TJ McMahon hit redshirt sophomore receiver Luke McCaffrey behind two Louisiana Tech University defenders for a 32-yard touchdown with just over two minutes before halftime on Saturday, Rice’s offense hadn’t scored a point in their last hour-and-16-minutes of game-time. But after going down 10-0, the Owls scored 42 points in the next 35 minutes to leave Ruston, LA with a one-point overtime win. According to McMahon, the touchdown kickstarted the offense going into halftime.
Their sport may be called cross-country, but the Owls long-distance runners traveled a fraction of that distance on Saturday when they made the hour-and-a-half drive to College Station for the Arturo Barrios Invitational. Rice’s women’s team took 14th place out of 37 teams, while the men’s team took 20th out of 41 at the Texas A&M University-hosted meet, their last before conference. According to men’s head coach Jon Warren, injuries kept his team from performing as well as he would have liked in their tune-up race.
The past few weeks have been as encouraging of a stretch as Rice football has had in a long time. First they beat the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to end what was then the longest active winning streak in college football. They then went toe-to-toe with a University of Houston team that started the season ranked No. 24. Finally, over the weekend, they beat perennial Conference USA contenders University of Alabama at Birmingham for the second straight year.
The idea that losing a key player can make a team better – often called “addition by subtraction” – has been at the center of many a hot take over the years. At first glance, the Rice volleyball team would appear to have a case of addition by subtraction on their hands this season. After losing their all-time kills leader, outside hitter Nicole Lennon, the team has somehow gotten better this season. Two games into their conference schedule, they’re 12-1 on the year and ranked No. 22 in the NCAA after beating then-No. 17 Creighton University. At this point last season, they were 8-5 — albeit against a slightly stronger non-conference schedule. In the past, head coach Genny Volpe’s teams have struggled against difficult non-conference schedules before fixing their flaws against overmatched conference opponents and hitting their stride at the end of the year. If this team is still a ways off of their peak, which is a big if, it would be the best team Volpe has had in years.
A new paid and audition-only student pep band will replace the Marching Owl Band at men’s and women’s basketball games and some volleyball matches, according to Rick Mello, Rice’s deputy athletics director. Mello said Rice athletics hopes to have a band of 30 students in place for the first basketball game in November.
Stahlé Vincent came back to Rice over the weekend. But this time, he got a different reception than he did when he first set foot on campus over five decades ago.
Up 13-12 in the fifth set against a then-undefeated Texas Tech University team, fifth-year senior middle blocker Anota Adekunle took the game into her own hands. First, the three time first-team all conference selection put an end to a long rally that saw Texas Tech threatening to tie with an emphatic kill to bring match point. Then, she rose above the net to stop a Tech attack in its tracks and seal the comeback win for the Owls. According to Adekunle, she knew that if she stayed at the net, she would find herself in the right place at the right time.
At least they might be the answer to a trivia question someday. The Rice football team lost their opener to No. 14 University of Southern California on Saturday by a score of 66-14. But if new Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley leads the fallen powerhouse back to its former heights as is widely expected, maybe some lucky fan ten years from now will win a round of shots for the table by remembering that his first opponent was the Owls.
The Rice volleyball team didn’t let a double-header on Friday or an abysmal first set on Saturday phase them, as they started their season with three straight wins over the weekend at Louisiana State University’s Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge. The team opened the tournament with a pair of sweeps before fighting back for a 3-2 win over LSU to close out the weekend. According to head coach Genny Volpe, while their offense is still a work in progress, the team was strong in all other facets of the game.
Pitcher Roel Garcia became the latest Owl to turn pro on Tuesday when he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in round 14 of the MLB Draft. According to Garcia, he barely remembers the moment he heard his name called because he was so overwhelmed with joy.
On Thursday, sophomore distance runner Grace Forbes proved to the rest of the country what her Conference USA opponents and Rice teammates have known for years – she’s one of the fastest runners in the country. Competing at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore. for the second consecutive year, Forbes, took second place in the 10,000-meter, the best finish by an Owl at the NCAAs in over a decade. According to Forbes, who missed the indoor season and the first month of the outdoor season due to extreme fatigue later diagnosed as an autoimmune disorder, the result was a testament to the work she’s put in to overcome an incredibly challenging year.
Five Owls will be heading to next week’s NCAA outdoor track and field championships, after qualifying at the NCAA West Preliminaries which ran May 25 through 28. Headlining the meet for Rice was sophomore distance runner Grace Forbes, who took first place in the 10,000 meters for the second consecutive year. Forbes will be joined in Eugene, Ore., by sophomore thrower Tara Simpson-Sullivan, junior thrower Erna Gunnarsdottir, senior thrower James McNaney and sophomore vaulter Alex Slinkman. Jon Warren, head coach of the men’s track and field program, said that he was impressed not only by the five qualifiers, but by all 13 Owls who participated over the course of the week in Fayetteville, Ark.