By Kenny Bybee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
AUSTIN, Texas - The Rice volleyball team dropped its season-opening match at No. 3 Texas in three sets, 25-12, 25-23, 25-14, Friday evening in Gregory Gym on the first day of the American Campus Classic in Austin.
Rice (0-1) struggled to get anything going offensively, hitting just .067 in the match to Texas' (1-0) .333. The Longhorns had 21 more kills in the match than Rice with 46, and six less attacking errors.
Junior Chelsey Harris led the Owls with nine kills to go along with six digs and three block assists. In her first start as an Owl, sophomore transfer Madison McDaniel registered 23 assists with seven digs, second only to Kimberly Vaio's team-leading 11 digs. Freshman middle blocker McKay Kyle led Rice with four block assists in her collegiate debut.
Texas was led offensively by Amy Neal (11 kills) and Molly McCage (10 kills). Chloe Collins orchestrated the offense with 32 assists while Morgan Johnson (six block assists) and Cat McCoy (15 digs) posed a strong defense.
"It took us a little too long to find our offensive rhythm and we came out passing erratically," Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. "We couldn't get our offense going. They outserved us and out-passed us, which made it problematic. In that second set we passed the ball much better and got some of the jitters out. We had a balanced attack going and when we do that we're pretty good, we played right with them. For us it's about being in that position more consistently. We've talked about being aggressive and I think we were we just needed a bit better ball movement. They took advantage of when we didn't handle the ball well but I thought Madison, for her first collegiate start as a setter, did a really good job."
The Longhorns came out the aggressor in the opening set, handing the Owls a 25-12 loss by hitting .433 (15-of-30) opposed to a .129 clip (9-of-31) from the Owls. Rice hung with Texas in the early going before the Longhorns used a 13-2 run to open up an 18-7 edge and never looked back.
In set two the Owls rallied from an early 12-6 deficit to pull even at 17-17 following a kill from Leah Mikesky. After Texas answered back by going up 21-17, Rice responded once again to tie the set 22-22 following a Longhorn attack error. However, Texas outscored the Owls 3-1 the rest of the set to win 25-23 and take a 2-0 match lead into intermission.
In the final set Rice played Texas to a 9-9 score before the Longhorns used a 16-5 run to complete the three set sweep and win 25-14.
Rice will be back in action on Saturday when they face the LSU Tigers (0-1) at 10 a.m. in Gregory Gym, followed by the UC Irvine Anteaters (1-0) at 5 p.m. Both matches will be televised on the Longhorn Network and available on the WatchESPN app.