Owls Clinch Spot in C-USA Tournament

Katie Steel helped lead the Owls to a 3-1 win over FIU on Friday.
Oct. 31, 2014

Final Stats

Rice 3-FIU 1 Get Acrobat Reader

Season Stats Get Acrobat Reader

MIAMI, Fla. - The Rice Owls volleyball team clinched a spot in the C-USA Tournament with a 3-1 (25-18, 25-22, 29-31, 25-19) victory over the FIU Panthers Friday evening at the FIU Arena. 

Rice (19-6, 9-2) joined UTSA and WKU as the lone teams to already earn a spot in the league tournament set for Nov. 21-23 in Hattiesburg, Miss. The Owls will be trying for their 20th win of the season on Sunday, which would mark the 13th 20-win season in school history and the fourth in the Genny Volpe era.

The Owls hit .257 for the match while limiting FIU (6-19, 3-9) to just .149. Rice also had more digs (75-60), kills (71-52) and blocks (13-7) than the Panthers. 

"Well, it feels great to pull out the win," Volpe said afterwards. "FIU picked up their game and we got complacent. Chelsey (Harris) was practically unstoppable tonight and was clutch."

Senior middle blocker Jillian Humphrey led all players with 17 kills (.367) while sophomore right side hitter Chelsey Harris (16 kills) and sophomore outside hitter Leah Mikesky (14 kills) also had double-figures in kills. Mikesky earned her team-high 14th double-double of the year by also recording 13 digs. 

Freshman Katie Steel made her third consecutive start and shined once again, dishing out 56 assists to tie her career-high. Steel also was one of five Owls in double-digits in digs, pitching in 13 for her first career double-double. Junior outside hitter Noelle Whitlock had her best defensive match of the season with a season-high 16 digs. Humphrey inched ever-closer to 500 career blocks (485) with a match-high seven more on Friday.

Rice broke a 16-16 tie by going on a 9-2 run the rest of the way to earn a 25-18 in the opening set. During that stretch Humphrey recorded four kills while Bawcum, Harris, Mikesky and Steel delivered one apiece.  

FIU played the Owls tough again in the second before the Owls scored the final three points to break a 22-22 tie for a 25-22 victory. After back-to-back attack errors from the Panthers, Humphrey delivered the knockout kill on an assist from Steel. 

Rice had three match-point opportunities in the third set but were denied their 13th sweep of the season in a 31-29 loss to the Panthers. FIU rallied from a 29-28 deficit to score the final three points and force a fourth set. 

With Rice leading 4-2 in set four, the two teams then had to sit through a 26-minute fire alarm in which everyone in the arena was evacuated. The Owls returned to the court and scored three consecutive points and never looked back en route to a 25-18 match-sealing victory.

The Owls will wrap-up their Florida road trip on Sunday when they face Florida Atlantic at 11 a.m. (CT) in the final regular season road contest of 2014. 







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