HOUSTON - The Rice Owls volleyball team continued their stellar play in five set matches by rallying to defeat the UTEP Miners Sunday afternoon at Tudor Fieldhouse in five frames (25-8, 22-25, 20-25, 25-16, 15-12), running their season-high win streak to eight straight overall.
Rice (18-5, 8-1) avenged an earlier season five-set loss at UTEP (9/22) by winning their 10th straight home match and remains just a game back of first place WKU (23-2, 9-0) in the Conference USA standings.
"Every coach gets a little nervous after you defeat a team 25-8," Rice head coach Genny Volpe said of the Owls first set victory. "UTEP just had a hard time passing the ball and was caught out of system and couldn't get in rhythm. I knew that would change pretty quickly. They started challenging our defense a bit more and played really well. I definitely feel like we escaped with a win today. You wouldn't have known by today that UTEP was struggling to get wins. They play extremely hard and hungry and we have a lot of respect for them."
Rice sophomore middle blocker Grace Morgan recorded her second straight double-double on Sunday, tying freshman outside hitter Nicole Lennon with a team-best 15 kills to go along with a match-high 10 blocks. Senior middle blocker Portia Okafor complimented Morgan's game at the net with 14 kills of her own while hitting a match-high .591.
Senior setter Madison McDaniel achieved her eighth double-double of the season with 45 assists and 17 digs, while also picking up five blocks.
Rice posted 14.0 team blocks on Sunday, marking the ninth time this season they've eclipsed 10.0 blocks and the third straight match overall.
After falling behind 2-1 in the match, the Owls responded with their best offensive game of the afternoon in set four by hitting .353 as a team and never trailed in a 25-16 win. Rice fell behind 11-10 in the deciding fifth set but Rice closed with 5-1 run to clinch the victory, 15-12.
The Owls will hit the road next weekend beginning on Friday, Oct. 27 in a showdown at North Texas (20-2, 7-1) at 7 p.m. from Denton, before traveling to Charlotte on Sunday (12 p.m. CT).