CHARLOTTE, NC - The Rice Owls volleyball team bounced back from a tough defeat on Friday with a gritty, five-set victory (25-23, 23-25, 25-16, 18-25, 15-11) at Charlotte Sunday afternoon.
Rice (13-5, 3-1) limited the 49ers (5-11, 2-3) to just a .186 team hitting percentage while posting a .204 clip themselves. Junior right side hitter Chelsey Harris led the Owls' offensive attack with a team-best 15 kills, followed by Leah Mikesky's 14 kills and Portia Okafor's 13 kills (.462). Owls' freshman setter Julianna Dole registered her third double-double of the season with a match-high 55 assists and a team-high 18 digs.
Dole was one of five Owls who collected 10 or more digs, including senior Kimberly Vaio (17 digs), senior Noelle Whitlock (16 digs), Mikesky (13 digs) and sophomore Shelby Livingstone (11 digs).
"We pulled it out in five, it took a total team effort today to get the win here," Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. "There were times where we were pretty sharp and then times where we were not. We just have to play every set with the same intensity that we did in set number five today. I thought Portia (Okafor) played very well today and down the stretch we really relied on her to get some key kills. Leah (Mikesky) and Chelsey (Harris) had another solid day. But I think in the fifth set when Meghan Patterson came in and served she did a great job of stressing Charlotte's passing and made some key digs."
In set one the 49ers put the Owls in a 5-0 hole but Rice chipped away at the deficit and took the lead for good on a kill from Okafor to take a 12-11 advantage. Rice hit .273 for the set while limiting the 49ers to a .156 clip.
The 49ers bounced back to even the match 1-1 with a 25-23 victory in the second frame, holding the Owls to a match-low .061 hitting percentage. Out of intermission the Owls grabbed a 2-1 advantage and never relinquished the lead, hitting a match-high .294 for the set en route to a 25-16 win.
Charlotte led from start to finish in the fourth frame, hitting a day's best .316 (14-of-38) and winning 25-18 to setup the dramatic fifth set. In the fifth and final stanza Charlotte jumped out to a 4-1 lead but Rice was not to be denied, going on a 15-7 run to close the match.
The Owls will return to Tudor Fieldhouse next weekend for just a single match when they host Middle Tennessee on Sunday at 1 p.m.