By: Kenny Bybee (email@example.com)
No. 13 BYU 3-Rice (PDF)
PROVO, UT – The Rice Owls volleyball squad pushed No. 13 BYU to the brink but their upset bid fell just short in a spirited five-set (20-25, 25-23, 26-24, 18-25, 8-15) loss to the Cougars Saturday afternoon at the BYU Invitational.
Rice (0-2) nearly snapped BYU’s (2-0) 27-match home win streak but the Cougars erased a 2-1 match deficit to improve to 54-1 at George Albert Smith Fieldhouse since 2011.
“That was a tough one,” Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. “We came in with a solid plan and I’m so proud of our team’s execution of that plan. We are doing a lot of things really well and the mindset is there. We have very little time to mourn the loss. We get right back on the court versus Utah Valley and must be composed. I’m excited by a lot of what I’m seeing in this group.”
The Owls had several individual standout performances, including junior setter Madison McDaniel’s second double-double (48 assists/13 digs) of the young season. Senior outside hitter Leah Mikesky posted a team-high 16 kills while fellow senior Chelsey Harris chipped in 15 kills.
Rice freshman libero Lee Ann Cunningham led all players with 28 digs in just her second collegiate match. Junior Shelby Livingstone also had double-figure digs (13) along with 8 kills. Freshman middle blocker Grace Morgan backed up her six-block performance on Friday with eight of the Owls 12 team blocks.
BYU outhit Rice .226-.158 while outdigging the Owls 81-68.
The Cougars controlled much of the opening set en route to a 25-20 victory and threatened to take a 2-0 match lead when they went up 18-14 in the second frame. However, out of a timeout the Owls responded with a 7-1 run to seize a lead for the first time since going up 8-7. After BYU rallied to tie the score 23-23, the Owls received back-to-back kills from Portia Okafor and Mikesky to win the set 25-23.
Rice carried their momentum into set three and battled back from an 11-7 deficit to win 26-24. However, BYU put the clamps down on the potential upset with a 25-18 set four victory and a 15-8 win in the deciding set.
The Owls still have one match remaining on Saturday versus Utah Valley (0-1) at 6 p.m. (CT) before returning back to Houston for their home opener on Tuesday against Houston Baptist.