Owls Take Down Mean Green In Four Sets
Oct. 1, 2014
DENTON, Texas – The Rice Owls volleyball team bounced back from a heartbreaking five-set loss on Sunday at Western Kentucky to defeat the North Texas Mean Green in four sets (14-25, 32-30, 25-21, 25-20) Wednesday evening at the North Texas Volleyball Center.
“That was a battle tonight,” Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. “I was a little concerned with the mid-week travel match and how we would respond. We didn’t start well and UNT attacked us fast and we weren’t ready for it. They were aggressive and dominated that opening set. Once we settled in and really focused on our passing and defense, we executed.”
Rice (12-5, 2-1) had three players register double-digit kills, led by a team-best 14 from senior Jillian Humphrey, who hit a match-high .619 (14-of-21) while going over the 1,000 career-kills plateau. Leah Mikesky followed with 13 kills and Chelsey Harris chipped in 10. Mikesky also had 11 digs to notch her team-leading 10th double-double of the season.
The Owls outhit North Texas (10-6, 1-2) .248-.205 and took advantage of 31 attack errors from the Mean Green. Harris, Humphrey and Portia Okafor all played a role in disrupting the North Texas attack with five blocks a piece. Sophomore Sara Blasier finished with 47 assists and Kimberly Vaio led all players with 20 digs.
The Owls dropped the opening set, 14-25, after hitting a match low .269 compared to a blistering .515 (18-of-33) from the Mean Green. North Texas led throughout and had 18 kills to just nine by the Owls.
Rice responded in a big way in set two, outlasting North Texas to a 32-30 epic win to tie the match 1-1. After 14 ties and three lead changes, the Owls got to match point a total of seven times before Leah Mikesky delivered the game-winning kill.
“Set two was an epic battle and we have been in a few of those and ended up on the losing side,” Volpe said. “We talked about using those past experiences and fighting harder. I was glad to see we did that.”
The Owls won the all-important third set, 25-21, breaking a 17-17 tie by outscoring the Mean Green 8-4 the rest of the way. Rice then sealed the victory with a 25-20 win in set four after trailing for much of the set. The Owls managed to tie the set 17-17 just as in the third set and outscored North Texas 8-3 from that point on. During that stretch Noelle Whitlock contributed a couple of key kills.
Rice finally returns back home to Tudor Fieldhouse this weekend beginning with UTEP on Friday at 6 p.m., followed by a 1 p.m. home match against Charlotte on Sunday.