By: Kenny Bybee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rice 3-Oakland 0
HOUSTON - The Rice Owls volleyball team cruised to their third sweep of the season with a 3-0 victory (25-16, 25-21, 25-20) over the Oakland Golden Grizzlies Friday evening on the opening day of the Rice Adidas Invite I.
Rice (4-4) improved to 2-0 at Tudor Fieldhouse with a strong defensive effort, limiting the Golden Grizzlies (4-4) to just a .114 hitting percentage and accumulating 12.0 team blocks. It marked the fifth time already this season the Owls posted 10 or more team blocks in a single match.
"I thought our blocking at first was a little bit sloppy but we definitely focused on it and picked it up," Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. "Our middles really did a good job and Chelsey Harris was awesome. Our blocking really got us energized. To have that many blocks in three sets is very encouraging."
Harris led all players with 8 blocks, followed by 6 from freshman middle blocker Grace Morgan and 5 from junior middle blocker Portia Okafor.
Rice junior setter Madison McDaniel picked up her team-leading fifth double-double of the season with 28 assists and 10 digs while senior outside hitter Leah Mikesky earned her third double-double of the year by tallying a team-high 10 kills and 14 digs.
The Owls led nearly the entire match, exchanging the lead with Oakland on only two occasions early in the second set. In each game, Rice jumped out at least a 3-0 lead, including a 5-0 start in set three. The fast starts are something Volpe and the Owls have stressed the importance of.
"We've talked a lot about trying to get off to a solid start and not let the other team set the tone of the match," Volpe said. "Our team has really grown in that area and it's a big focus of ours. Tomorrow morning it's going to be really important for us to start fast against a very good Sam Houston St. team who plays amazing defense and have some great attackers. We're definitely going to have to come out focused and with a lot of energy ourselves."
Offensively the Owls hit .268 as a team and had a sideout percentage of 67 percent.
The Owls will be back in action on Saturday for a pair of matches, beginning at 10 a.m. against Sam Houston St., followed by a 7 p.m. showdown versus No. 24 USC.