HOUSTON - The Rice Owls volleyball squad ran their win streak to five consecutive matches in style Saturday evening at Tudor Fieldhouse, defeating No. 23 Colorado in four sets (25-23, 25-17, 19-25, 25-21) to go a perfect 3-0 on the weekend and lay claim to the Rice Adidas Invitational title.
"The crowd was amazing tonight," Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. "Colorado is a great team and it was easy to get hyped up for the match. Getting a Top-25 win at home is great. We almost felt like this was a must-win because of some of the other victories in the league this season. The wheels kind of came off in set three but we kept our composure against a quality team."
The victory over a Top-25 program was the Owls' first since the 2009 season when they defeated then No. 17 LSU in three sets on Nov. 27.
Colorado (4-4) struggled all night serving, committing 15 service errors compared to only seven by the Owls. The Buffs also had three more attack errors, 22-19, than the Owls.
Rice junior outside hitter Leah Mikesky, who was named the tournament MVP, had a team-high 15 kills and 10 digs for her seventh double-double of the year. For the weekend Mikesky tallied team-highs in both kills (49 total, 4.08 per set) and digs (41 digs, 3.42 per set).
"This gives us a lot of confidence going forward," Mikesky said afterwards. "We know we can play with anybody. This gives us a ton of confidence and momentum towards the rest of the season."
Sophomore setter Madison McDaniel was selected to her second All-Tournament Team this season following a 41-assist, 10-dig performances against the Buffaloes. The transfer from The Woodlands tallied 136 assists (11.33 per set) on the weekend along with 39 digs. Joining McDaniel on the All-Tournament Team was junior right side hitter Chelsey Harris, who was second to Mikesky in total kills with 37.
Colorado had three players notch double-figures in kills, led by Alexis Austin's match-high 17 kills.
The two teams battled to 11 ties in the opening set and Rice trailed late, 19-18, before closing on a 7-4 run to win the first set 25-23. Harris earned the Owls' final three points with three of her four kills in the game. In the second set the Owls took control from nearly the get-go, grabbing claim to a 4-3 advantage and never looked back en route to the 25-17 victory. Rice hit a match-high .483 (14-of-18) for the set led by eight kills from Mikesky and 15 assists by McDaniel.
Colorado came out the aggressor in the third set hitting .455 while limiting the Owls to just a .188 clip. The Buffs broke an 8-8 tie and never trailed again, outscoring Rice 17-11 the rest of the set. The Buffs had control for most of the fourth set and opened up a 16-12 lead midway through but Rice was determined to pull off the upset.
After closing the gap and evening up the set 17-17, the Owls offense went through Mikesky, who delivered three consecutive kills to put Rice on top 21-19. Harris would add a couple of kills of her own and Rice would seal the 25-21 set victory on Colorado's 22nd attack error of the evening.
The Owls will be in search of their sixth consecutive victory on Tuesday, Sept. 15 when they travel to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to take on the Islanders. That match is set for 6 p.m.
Rice Adidas Invitational All-Tournament Team
(MVP) Leah Mikesky- Rice
Madison McDaniel- Rice
Chelsey Harris- Rice
Alexis Austin- Colorado
Gabby Simpson- Colorado
Jordyn Vaughn- Sam Houston St.
Stacy Reilly- Louisiana