HOUSTON -- The Rice Owls volleyball team responded to a difficult loss last Sunday at Louisiana tech with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-22) triumph over the Southern Miss Golden Eagles Thursday evening at Tudor Fieldhouse.
The Owls (17-8, 7-4) had three players post 10 or more kills and Madison McDaniel, the reigning C-USA Setter of the Week, notched her 14th double-double of the season with 39 assists and 15 digs. Rice outhit Southern Miss (21-8, 8-4) .279-.232 and posted more digs (56-49), kills (51-46) and assists (50-43).
"Today felt good, I knew we were ready to play right from our warmup," Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. "Every game is going to be a grind the rest of the way and we have to be ready to play every day and we did that tonight. I think our team had a sense of urgency at times tonight but when we didn't Southern Miss took advantage. That was a scrappy team we played and our entire league is that way. We had a balanced offensive attack. The outsides made solid decisions and made big swings, especially Chelsey."
Rice had three players record a team-high 14 kills, which included Chelsey Harris (.344), Leah Mikesky (.293) and Noelle Whitlock (.387). Mikesky also chipped in 11 digs for a double-double, her 13th of the season. Senior libero Kimberly Vaio led all players with 15 digs and also posted seven assists.
The Owls hit a match-best .405 in the opening set en route to a 25-22 victory. Rice outscored the Golden Eagles 7-4 down the stretch behind three kills from Whitlock to break open an 18-18 tie. In set two the Owls won (25-21) with defense, limiting Southern Miss to a .075 hitting percentage, getting seven digs from Vaio in the frame alone.
The two teams found themselves in another 18-18 tie in the third frame only for the Owls to outscore the Golden Eagles 7-4 the rest of the way. Whitlock had six kills in the set and hit a blistering .417 to help the Owls win 25-22.
Afterwards, McDaniel stressed the importance of bouncing back after a tough five-set loss at Louisiana Tech on Sunday.
"That's a huge win just because of where we've been the last week," Rice sophomore setter Madison McDaniel said. "The fact that we won a second game and were able to win in three was huge. It helps us take a step towards the big match Saturday."
Rice will next host No. 22 WKU on Saturday at 2 p.m. in a rematch of last year's C-USA Championship game, a thriller that the Lady Toppers won in five grueling sets.
"Western Kentucky is a great team, they're the one team in the league that has been consistent throughout," Volpe said. "We know what we're going to face on Saturday. We've got to go out there with a lot of confidence. Clearly there's a little bit of a revenge factor but more importantly we're trying to position ourselves to win the conference tournament and they're the next team on our schedule."