Rice 3-SFA 2 (PDF Box Score)
HOUSTON – The Rice Owls volleyball team closed out the non-conference portion of their schedule in style by defeating the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks in five sets (25-18, 21-25, 22-25, 25-19, 15-13) Saturday evening, claiming the Rice Adidas Invitational II with a perfect 3-0 record.
Rice (10-4) won their fifth straight match overall by rallying from a 2-1 match deficit and used a 6-2 run to close out the fifth and deciding set over the Ladyjacks.
“I’m obviously happy with the outcome, however it could have gone a different way tonight,” Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. “Both teams equally deserved to win just by how hard they played. I think that’s the hardest I’ve seen two teams work for the victory. We ended up on the ‘W’ side this time and we were very fortunate. I’m just really proud of how hard we played. Every single player deserves credit.”
Freshman outside hitter Nicole Lennon was named the tournament MVP following a 23-kill, 14-dig performance, her sixth double-double of the season. Lennon’s 23 kills were a season-high and it marked the fifth time this season she’s recorded 20 or more kills, including doing so in four straight matches. Lennon totaled 64 kills (4.57 per set) during the tournament while taking 172 total swings and led the Owls with 66.5 points.
Joining Lennon on the All-Tournament Team was sophomore setter Adria Martinez and sophomore libero Lee Ann Cunningham. Martinez recorded a double-double in all three matches this weekend, which included setting career-highs in assists (52) and digs (19) in the Owls win over SFA. In her three starts Martinez totaled 145 assists (10.36 per set) along with 75 digs (5.36 per set).
Cunningham collected 75 totals digs in 14 sets this weekend (5.36 per set) and backed up a career-high 35 dig performance versus Georgetown earlier in the day with 29 digs against SFA.
“We really had some outstanding individual performances tonight,” Volpe said. “Nicole has been a strong factor for us all season but stepped it up even more so this weekend. I think I was more impressed with her defense than anything else this weekend. She’s taken big steps in that area. Adria did a great job running the offense and added a lot of energy to the court and communication. And Lee Ann, I think this was her best weekend of her career. She really made plays and was consistent on the serve receive side.”
Rice posted a staggering 108 digs as a team in which five players recorded 14 or more digs. To go along with Cunningham and Martinez’s efforts, freshman Lauren Lee had 19 digs while Julianna Dole added an additional 18 digs.
The Owls will open the Conference USA season next weekend when they hit the road beginning with a match at UTEP on Friday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. (CT). Rice will then travel to Louisiana Tech on Sunday, Sept. 24 at 1 p.m.
Rice returns to Tudor Fieldhouse on Sept. 29 when they host Middle Tennessee in the C-USA home opener.