NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Rice Owls volleyball team saw their three-game win streak come to a halt Friday afternoon, falling in four sets (26-24, 15-25, 19-25, 26-28) to the UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos on the first day of the Yale Invitational.
"We didn't have a strong start and felt like we were coming from behind the entire match," Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. "We did that a lot last weekend as well and still found a way to come from behind and win, but not today. We had some solid effort out there by several players but it was too little too late."
Rice (3-2) was outhit by UCSB (3-1) .356-.222 and had 12 more attacking errors (23-11). The Gauchos also had a higher sideout percentage, 63.0-54.0 percent. Ali Barbeau led UCSB with 15 kills (.405) and 14 digs while Jaylen Villanueva also posted a double-double with 12 kills and 14 digs. The duo of Hanna Nielson (27 assists) and Annie Hasselmann (23 assists) combined for 50 assists.
Junior outside hitter Leah Mikesky led all players with 16 kills (.155) while freshman middle blocker McKay Kyle chipped in 11 kills of her own. Setter Madison McDaniel earned her third double-double of the season with 47 assists and 10 digs.
The Owls took the initial 1-0 match lead with a 26-24 set one victory, limiting UCSB to a match-low .275 hitting percentage. The two teams played to 10 ties in the set and there were five lead changes. Rice trailed 19-16 but consecutive kills from Portia Okafor, McDaniel and Noelle Whitlock evened things up at 19-19. With the set tied 24-24, Rice caught a break on a UCSB service error and then clinched the set on an ace from Mikesky.
Rice was limited to just a .061 attack percentage in set two and were never able to climb out of a 16-8 disadvantage, dropping the set 25-15. The story was much the same coming out of the break with Rice hitting .118 compared to a .355 clip by the Gauchos. Clinging to a 14-13 lead, UCSB broke away from the Owls with an 11-6 run to take a 2-1 match advantage and secure the second set 25-19.
The Owls posted their best offensive set (.375) of the evening in the fourth but it was not to be outdone by the Gauchos' .432 performance. After 11 ties and five lead changes it was UCSB that pulled away in the end, securing the final two points on a Rice ball handling error and a kill from Chanel Hoffman.
Rice will have a chance to get back in the win column on Saturday when they play a pair of matches, beginning at 10 a.m. (CT) against Rhode Island, followed by an evening showdown against host Yale at 6 p.m. (CT).
The Owls next return to Tudor Fieldhouse Sept. 11-12 when they host Louisiana-Lafayette, Sam Houston State and No. 21 Colorado in the Rice Adidas Invitational I. For ticket information, call 713-348-OWLS (6957) or visit RiceOwls.com.