HOUSTON - The Rice Owls volleyball team dropped consecutive matches for the first time this season, falling in five sets (25-20, 21-25, 17-25, 25-22, 12-15) to the UTSA Roadrunners Thursday afternoon at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Rice (13-7, 3-3) established a school record by playing in their fourth consecutive five-set match, going 2-2 during that span, and seventh five-set match overall in 2015.
The Owls were outhit by UTSA (14-6, 5-1) .247-.198 despite outgaining the Roadrunners in total kills (66-60). Rice posted more digs (80-77) than the Roadrunners but made 11 more attacking errors (29-18) and four more service errors (10-6).
"The big difference today was they made less errors than we did," Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. "That hurts a team when you play someone as good as UTSA in five sets. I was proud of our fight but the team knows we've got to execute at a more consistent level if we're going to win those five-set matches, which we've proven we can do this season."
Three different Owls recorded double-doubles, including junior outside hitter Leah Mikesky's (18 kills, 15 digs) team-leading 11th of the season. Senior outside hitter Noelle Whitlock notched her sixth double-double (13 kills, 11 digs) of the year and fourth in her last five matches while sophomore Madison McDaniel posted 40 assists and 20 digs for her 10th double-double as an Owl.
UTSA was led offensively by outside hitter Dajana Boskovic, who recorded a match-high 19 kills (.245) and collected 17 digs. Kasey Kiefer and Kylie Schott pitched in 13 kills apiece.
The Owls had a balanced attack in the opening frame with four players posting three or more kills and hitting a match-high .356 for the set. Chelsey Harris led all Owls with five kills, followed by four from each Kyley Reed and Whitlock.
After earning a 25-20 victory in the opening set the Roadrunners flipped a switch defensively, limiting Rice to just a .184 clip en route to a match-tying 25-21 win. That momentum carried into and out of intermission with the Roadrunners leading nearly the entire third set on their way to a 25-17 victory.
The Owls fought back in the fourth frame by erasing an early 7-3 deficit and rallying to even the match and force a fifth set by winning 25-22. However in the fifth and final frame UTSA held the Owls' offense to just a .088 hitting percentage and sealed the match victory with a kill from Boskovic.
Rice will look to get back to their winning ways on Sunday when they travel to El Paso to face the UTEP Miners. First serve is set for 2 p.m. (CT).
"There's a lot of volleyball left to play," Volpe said. "We're going to keep fighting. We'll get back to where we need to be through hard work and focusing on the next opponent and getting back in the gym and getting better."