HOUSTON- Rice freshman outside hitter Nicole Lennon recorded her second 20-kill performance of her young career and collected 13 digs for a double-double in the Owls' 3-1 (25-21, 26-24, 23-25, 25-16) victory over the Houston Baptist Huskies Tuesday evening at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Lennon, from Katy, Texas (Cinco Ranch HS), took a match-high 51 swings on the evening, and tied her 20-kill performance from earlier this season against Mississippi State. Her 13 digs also matched a season-high, set back on Aug. 25 at SMU.
Rice junior middle blocker McKay Kyle followed Lennon with 10 kills (.368) while sophomore middle blocker Grace Morgan added an additional nine kills (.474).Senior setter Madison McDaniel just missed out on another Owls' double-double with 53 assists (13.25 per set) and nine digs.
The Owls (7-4) established a team season-high with 80 digs in the victory, of which four players notched 10 or more digs. Rice held the Huskies (7-2) to a .125 hitting percentage while succeeding at a .252 clip themselves. Freshman Lauren Lee led the defensive effort with a season-high 18 digs, followed by 16 digs from sophomore libero Lee Ann Cunningham.
"Honestly I didn't really feel like we were in control of the match," Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. "Even after getting up 2-0 in the match we were pretty shaky in some areas. HBU is a very good team and they do some really nice things. Kind of when our backs were against the wall is when we really started to focus and we've got to change that about ourselves. We can execute at a higher level earlier in the match. The team we saw in the fourth set was the disciplined team we need to see, just a little bit earlier going forward."
After 12 ties in the opening set, Rice closed strong with an 8-3 run to defeat the Huskies 25-21. In set two neither team was able to gain much separation and with the Owls holding set point 24-21 the Huskies responded with three consecutive points to tie it up 24-24. However, Rice got consecutive kills from Kyle and freshman Seyvion Waggoner to win 26-24.
HBU rallied from 20-18 deficit in set three to win 25-23 and force a fourth set, one in which Rice came out on fire and opened up a lead as large as 15-4. The Huskies made things interesting down the stretch, however, closing the gap to 15-11 with a 7-0 run. Rice didn't let things get any closer from that point on, benefitting from three more Lennon kills and three HBU errors to win 25-16 with a clinching fourth set.
Rice will continue their season-long seven match homestand this weekend when they welcome in Arkansas State, Georgetown and Stephen F. Austin for the Rice Adidas Invitational II.