Owls Fly Past Golden Eagles, Win 3-2

Laurie McNamara.

Sept. 25, 2011

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Houston - Laurie McNamara pounded a match and career-high 18 kills to rally the Rice volleyball team to a 3-2 Conference USA victory over visiting Southern Miss Sunday afternoon.

Volpe called on her experienced warriors and they responded.

"I had asked our veteran players Nancy Cole, Megan White, and Laurie McNamara to step it up," said Rice head coach Genny Volpe. "This was the kind of match where you guys with a lot of experience need to step it up and they did. Megan made some phenomenal saves and Nancy was getting some great blocks and some good looks offensively. But, Laurie took her game to another level and they just couldn't stop her. Megan Murphy, our setter, did a great job of getting her one-on-one. It was a very good team effort."

The win moves Rice's record to .500 at 7-7 and 2-1 in C-USA, while Southern Miss is now 6-8, and 0-2 in league action. USM won sets one and three 25-20 and 25-19 for a 2-1 lead. Rice captured set two 26-24 and came back and won sets four (25-18) and five (15-18).

The Owls started slow and were a little flat in the beginning of the match.

"I think they were surprised on how tough Southern Miss' defense is," stated Owl head coach Genny Volpe. "Even though we scouted them and told them about how tough they were. Southern Miss just came out and were super aggressive with its defense and were just getting everything up that we were hitting at them and so I think that frustrated our team and shocked them a little bit.

"Once we settled in and realized that Southern Miss was pretty much going to dig almost everything that we could possibly come at them with we talked about being more aggressive and win the long rallies."

It was a match of attrition said Volpe who played every healthy Owl that was available. "I think we tired them out a little bit and we used every single player on our team today and they all contributed to the win. We showed a lot of depth and they had the same players in there most of the time. It was a long and fatiguing match and I think we had some options and were able to rest some players.

The Owls are now 2-4 in five-set matches. It was Southern Miss' second five-setter on the weekend after it had lost 3-2 to Houston on Friday.

Also in double-digit kills for the Owls were Nancy Cole with 13 kills and 9 blocks and Jillian Humphrey had 10 kills and 5 blocks. Setter Megan Murphy had a match-high 53 assists to go with 22 digs. McNamara also had 22 digs as did Megan White.

Amelia Hendrickson and Halie Ecker led USM with 12 kills, while Sarah Jane Bowden had 11 and Lauren Sears added 10 kills. The Golden Eagles hit .151 with 61 kills to Rice's 63 kills and .178 hitting percentage.

Golden Eagles Take Off First
Southern Miss kept the Owls off balance early on in set to forge a 6-3 lead. Rice cut it to 6-5, but the Golden Eagles then outscored the Owls 10 to 5 for a commanding 16-10 margin. USM won the set 25-20.

Southern Miss' Ashley Mell led the squad with 6 kills as the Golden Eagles hit .200 with 15 kills. Rice was paced by Jillian Humphrey's 7 kills and .636 hitting percentage as the Owls totaled 14 kills and a .157 hitting percentage.

Tied at 1-1
With the score tied at 4-4, Southern Miss distanced itself from Rice by scoring the next five points for a 9-4 lead. The Golden Eagles pushed it to 19-14, before the Owls rallied to tie the set at 21-21 and take the lead at 22-21 on a service ace by Nancy Cole. The set was tied a 24-24 when the Owls secured the final two points to complete their back for an improbable 26-24 win.

Tyler Jenkins came off the bench to spark the Owls with a set-high 5 kills in 11 attacks for a .455 hitting percentage. Rice hit .205 with 13 kills and three service aces, while USA posted 15 kills and a .143 hitting percentage. Amelia Hendrickson and Sarah Jane Bowden each had 4 kills for USM.

USM Up 2-1
Southern Miss snapped a 14-14 tie by scoring 6 points for a commanding 20-14 lead that it would not relinquish on its to a 25-18 win. Halie Ecker led the Golden Eagles with 4 kills as USM hit .333 with 15 kills. Rice hit only .167 with 11 kills.

Movin' to the Fifth Set
At 6-6, Southern Miss scored the next three points for a 9-6 lead. Rice regrouped and recaptured the lead at 14-13 and increased it to 16-14 on a kill by Laurie McNamara. Another kill by McNamara pushed the Owls' lead to 18-14 and forced a USM timeout. The Owls went on to win 25-18 to force a fifth set.

McNamara posted a set-high 8 kills for Rice as the Owls notched 19 with a .241 hitting percentage. USM hit .111 with 12 kills, with Ecker leading the way with 4 kills.

First One to 15 Wins
The fifth was tight in the beginning, but Rice snapped a 6-6 tie by scoring 9 of the next 11 points for a 15-8 win. The Owls were aided by three service errors by three different Golden Eagles who found the net.

Rice's McNamara continued her hot hitting with 3 kills in the deciding set to go with 3 block assists. The Owls had 4 team blocks in the fifth, with two of them coming on points 13 and 14 respectively.

On the Road
Rice plays its next four matches on the road. Next weekend the Owls will play at SMU on Friday (7 p.m.) and at Tulsa on Sunday (1 p.m.). In two weeks, Rice plays two matches at Marshall (Oct. 8 and Oct. 9).





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