Sept. 3, 2011
Houston - The Rice Owls volleyball team rallied to win sets four and five to defeat Georgia Tech 3-2 in the Rice Invitational II held at Tudor Fieldhouse. Set scores were 21-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-15, and 15-11. The Owls improve to 3-2 on the young season with their third-straight victory, while the Yellow Jackets are now 4-2.
After being behind two sets to one, head coach Genny Volpe made some tactical moves that paid off in sets four and five.
"We changed the match-ups in set four and when we ran combinations with Jordan Meredith it hurt their blocks and Jordan did a really good job of hitting off of their block," said Volpe. "Getting our outsides going was the key, because our outsides were not a big enough part of our offense for the first three sets. We just took a chance to switch some things up and tried to get our outsides matched on different people based on their strengths and it seemed to work."
Indeed it did, as four Owls posted double-digit kills for the night. Freshman outside hitter Lizzy Bache led Rice with 15 kills and a .370 hitting percentage, while tournament MVP junior Nancy Cole had 14 kills and match-high .417 hitting percentage. Also, outside hitter Jordan Meredith had 12 kills, while Laurie McNamara and Jillian Humphrey each had 11 kills.
"Nancy (Cole) was stellar all weekend" stated Volpe. "She basically worked her but off to be available as a hitter, to make touches on the block, and her presence was huge. They had to follow her and focus on her, which allowed to open up other people. But, at the same time, when Nancy got the ball she found a way to do something positive with it."
Defensively, the Owls were led by play-making libéro senior Megan White who had a match-high 35 digs.
Stated Volpe on White's contribution to the victory, "Megan White, with 35 digs, made more plays today than I've seen from a lot of quality libéros. She's showing that she is one of the top libéros in the conference because of her ability to just make plays. Megan played really smart and made great reads and she's a big part of why we won tonight's match."
Owl setter Megan Murphy had 59 assists and 10 digs in directing a balanced attack against Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets were led by Monique Mead's 21 kills (.136) and Alexis Woodson added 10 kills and 6 block assists.
See Saw in Set One
The two teams battled and traded points to make it 10-10, but the Yellow Jackets carved out a three-point margin to go up 16-13, forcing the Owls to call timeout. A kill by Jillian Humphrey brought Rice to within one at 20-19, but GT countered with two kills of its own for a 22-19 lead that ended at 25-21.
Rice only hit .086 with 11 kills to Georgia Tech's .297 and 16 kills. Monique Mead led GT with 6 kills (.071), while Humphrey and Jordan paced the Owls with 3 kills apiece.
Set Two Much the Same
Set two was evenly played with the two squads trading points. At 15-15, GT went on a 5-2 run to make it 20-17, but a Humphrey kill tied it again at 21-21. Cole then accounted for three kills to lead Rice to a 25-23 win.
Cole hit .714 with 6 kills as Rice had 18 kills with a .419 hitting percentage. GT hit for .233 with 15 kills and was led by Courtney Felinski's 5 kills.
GT Controls Set Three
With the score tied at 4-4, the Yellow Jackets stung the Owls by outscoring them 10 to 5 for a 14-9 margin. Georgia Tech increased the margin to 23-12 before the Owls cut it to 24-19, but a kill by Mead gave set three to the Yellow Jackets.
The Yellow Jacket posted 7 team blocks in set three as Rice only .100 with 13 kills. GT did not fare much better at .186 with 14 kills. Jennifer Percy did the most damage in leading Georgia Tech with 6 kills, while Humphrey and Meredith had 3 kills apiece for the Owls.
Rice began set four strong with an early 6-1 lead. That strong start continued with the Owls forging a 15-8 margin that eventually ballooned to 24-12.
Owl freshman Lizzy Bache inflicted the most pain with a set-high 7 kills and a .600 hitting percentage. The Owls hit .455 with 18 kills, while GT hit only .093 with 11 kills
Match to Rice
The score was tied at 6-6 in the deciding fifth set when the Owls pulled away to outscore GT 6-1 for a commanding 12-7. Cole gave the Owls the win with her 14th kill of the match.
Rice continued the hot hitting from the fourth set with a.389 hitting percentage in set five with 9 kills, five of which were pounded by Laurie McNamara. The Yellow Jackets hit only .080 with 8 kills, 5 by Mead.
Rice now competes at Hawai'i's Tournament next week against Hawai'i (Sept. 8), Cincinnati (Sept. 9), and Pacific (Sept. 10). "I think the most important thing for our team was to learn how to battle back from being behind and come back and win," said Volpe. "The fact that we were able to do it tonight against a strong team like Georgia Tech give our team a lot of confidence for next week's competition."
Rice Invitational II All-Tournament Team
Nancy Cole, Rice, MVP
Megan Murphy, Rice
Megan White, Rice
Monique Mead, Georgia Tech
Jennifer Percy, Georgia Tech
Victoria Weatherly, HBU
Kelsey Jewasko, UTSA