By: Kenny Bybee (email@example.com)
Missouri 3-Rice 1 (PDF)
COLUMBIA, Mo. – Despite an efficient offensive outing against the Missouri Tigers in which they hit .336, the Rice Owls volleyball team was unable to slow down their counterpart in a 3-1 loss (25-15, 20-25, 25-21, 25-20) Saturday evening in the finale of the Tiger Invitational.
“Once again our team fought very hard but it really came down to us not controlling the ball on our side of the net at the level we needed to win this match,” Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. “Portia had an awesome match. She started off the tournament a little slow but I’m so proud of her for really coming on strong tonight and I look for her to continue to have impressive performances like this one.”
Okafor, a middle blocker from Lewisville, Texas, led all Owls with a career-high 14 kills on 24 attacks (.542) and a team-high four blocks. She was joined in double-figure kills by Chelsey Harris (13) and Leah Mikesky (12). Mikesky also had 11 digs for her second double-double of the season.
Rice (3-4), who earlier in the day defeated Illinois State in a thrilling five-set match, had difficulty slowing down a Mizzou (4-2) attack in which the Tigers hit .431 for the match.
The Tigers controlled much of the opening game and never looked back after taking a 7-6 lead en route to a 25-15 victory. However, the Owls came back with a vengeance in set two by hitting a blistering .423 while holding the Tigers to a match-low .310 clip. This time it was Rice who took a 7-6 advantage and made it stand thanks to 5 kills from Okafor. The Owls eventually won 25-20 to tie the match 1-1 heading into the break.
In the pivotal third set the two teams played to eight ties and three lead changes and it was Mizzou who closed on a 9-5 run to pull away 25-21. Rice looked primed for their second five set match of the day when they took a 20-18 lead in set four, but the Tigers clinched the match with a 7-0 run to win 25-20.
The Owls will return home to Tudor Fieldhouse to host the Rice Adidas Invite I Sept. 9-10, beginning with a Friday match at 6 p.m. against Oakland University. Rice will then host both Sam Houston State and USC on Saturday with those matches scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.
As always, fans can follow @RiceVolleyball on Twitter for more updates.