By: Kenny Bybee (email@example.com)
Rice 3-UTEP (PDF box score)
EL PASO, Texas – The Rice Owls volleyball team bounced back from a disappointing 3-0 loss at UTSA on Friday with a 3-1 triumph (22-25, 25-13, 25-14, 25-18) over the UTEP Miners Sunday afternoon at Memorial Gym.
With the victory the Owls clinched a berth in next month’s Conference USA Championship tournament, which will be held at Tudor Fieldhouse Nov. 18-20.
Rice (15-9, 7-2) used a balanced offensive attack in which four players tallied 10 or more kills while junior setter Madison McDaniel achieved her C-USA leading 16th double-double of the season with 40 assists and 15 digs. McKay Kyle (11 kills), Portia Okafor (11 kills), Chelsey Harris (11 kills) and Leah Mikesky (10 kills) all contributed double-figure kills while McDaniel came up just two kills shy of a triple double with eight kills.
The Owls outhit the Miners .268-.103 and limited UTEP (4-18, 2-7) to a sideout percentage of just 48 percent. The Rice defense also collected 14.0 team blocks, the second-most by the Owls this season.
“I’m very pleased with this win overall,” Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. “It’s difficult to bounce back after an emotional loss on Friday and travel to compete again against a tough opponent. We remembered the match we played against them last time, which went five sets. They (UTEP) don’t quit. I’m happy the way we maintained our composure after the first set loss. Madison did a really good job of moving the ball around and four of our players had double-digit kills, which is always good for us.”
Rice got off to a slow start, dropping the opening set to the Miners 25-22 by allowing UTEP to hit a match-high .306 for the set. However, the Rice defense clamped down on the Miners over the next three frames by now allowing a hitting percentage of .079 or better in any of the sets.
The Owls jumped out to a 7-2 lead in set two en route to a 25-13 victory in a frame in which they never trailed. The Rice defense stuffed out the Miners offensively by allowing a .000 hitting percentage in the set.
Rice dominated the pivotal third set and won 25-14 by hitting .316 (16-of-38) as a team. They would use that momentum towards a match-clinching 25-18 victory in the fourth set.
The Owls will return home next weekend for a pair of matches, starting Friday versus North Texas (6 p.m.) in the annual Dig Pink match.