DALLAS – The Rice Owls volleyball team won their second consecutive match with a four-set (20-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-20) victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs Saturday afternoon, earning the SMU Doubletree Invitational title in the process.
Rice (2-1) had three players named to the all-tournament team, including MVP honors to freshman Nicole Lennon, who was joined on the all-tournament team by senior setter Madison McDaniel and sophomore libero Lee Ann Cunningham.
Lennon recorded her second straight double-double with a match-high 20 kills and 10 digs, while McDaniel posted 51 assists and Cunningham had a season-high 23 digs. On the offensive end, Grace Morgan contributed 13 kills (.455) while freshman Lauren Lee had a big performance with 15 digs.
For the tournament, Lennon posted 52 kills on 169 attacks along with 32 digs and a team-best 58.5 points. McDaniel recorded 127 assists (10.58 per set) and Cunningham had 62 digs (5.17 per set).
“I’m really pleased with the grit our team showed today,” Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. “Lauren Lee really gave us a boost by making digs at critical moments and that propelled our defense. Lee Ann did an amazing job as well and together they took away a lot of opportunities for Mississippi State, who’s a really good team. We’re really happy with the direction our team is going and now we turn around tomorrow and play a great TCU team.”
After dropping the opening set 25-20, the Owls bounced back to even the match with a 25-22 victory in the second frame and limited the Bulldogs to a .032 hitting percentage. McDaniel dished out 12 assists in the second set alone while Lennon recorded six kills.
In set three, the Owls broke a 19-19 tie by taking advantage of five consecutive attack errors, followed by a combo block from Portia Okafor/Morgan and an Okafor kill to win 25-22 and take a 2-1 match lead. The Owls never trailed in the final set and hit a day’s-best .385 in the game, including a 6-of-8 performance from Morgan.
The Owls will be back in action on Sunday when they travel to Fort Worth to take on the TCU Horned Frog at 2 p.m. .