By Kenny Bybee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
AUSTIN, Texas - The Rice Owls volleyball squad put the finishing touches on a 2-0 Saturday with a four-set victory (25-23, 27-29, 25-12, 25-22) over the UC Irvine Anteaters on the final day of the American Campus Classic.
Rice (2-1) used the momentum from a dramatic 3-2 victory over LSU Saturday morning into the evening match versus UCI (1-2), hitting .348 for the match while limiting the Anteaters to just a .211 hitting percentage. Junior outside hitter Leah Mikesky recorded a career-high 23 kills on 51 attempts (.412) and had only two attacking errors. The Schulenburg, Texas native also had 11 digs to notch her second double-double on the day.
Sophomore setter Madison McDaniel tallied an even 50 assists and came up one dig shy of her second double-double on the day as well. Junior Chelsey Harris chipped in 16 kills while sophomore middle blocker Portia Okafor was a threat at the net with 11 kills and five blocks. Senior libero Kimberly Vaio led the Owls with 14 digs.
"Overall it was a good weekend," Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. "We honestly came into the weekend with a lot of confidence and didn't let the Texas loss rattle us, nor did we allow an 0-2 deficit to LSU get us down. That comeback was key for this group. I knew this tournament would show us where we stand and what we need to work on. I'm proud of the mental toughness we showed, the fight, and just in general how hard everybody competed."
The two teams played a tightly contested opening set with five ties and two lead changes. Tied at 23-23, the Owls took claim to a 1-0 match lead following a kill from freshman middle blocker McKay Kyle and an ace from senior Noelle Whitlock.
In set two the teams played to 11 ties but it was the Anteaters that came away victorious, breaking a 27-27 tie with the final two points to knot the match.
Rice played perhaps their best offensive set of the season coming out of the break, hitting .565 as a team and almost led from start to finish en route to a 25-12 victory. The fourth and final set was much like the second frame, with both squads playing to 10 ties and three lead changes. Rice closed strong however by scoring four of the final five points, which included kills from Okafor, Whitlock and Harris.
The Owls will next return to Tudor Fieldhouse to host the Lamar Cardinals on Tuesday for the home opener. That match is set to begin at 6 p.m.