Rice 3-Southern Miss (PDF Box Score) | Updated C-USA Championship Bracket
HOUSTON – The Rice Owls volleyball team got a bit of vengeance by defeating the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in a nail-biting five set (25-19, 25-17, 26-28, 23-25, 15-5) thriller Saturday evening in the semifinals of the C-USA Championship at Tudor Fieldhouse.
The No. 6 seeded Owls (20-11) advance to face nationally ranked No. 20 WKU (29-2) in a rematch of the 2014 C-USA Championship title game, which the Lady Toppers won 3-2 in heartbreaking fashion for Rice. Sunday will be the Owls’ third appearance in the C-USA title match.
With Saturday’s victory, the Owls became the lowest-seeded team to ever advance to the C-USA Championship title, which will begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
“Obviously we’re excited to be in the position that we’re in,” said Rice head coach Genny Volpe, who with the win recorded her fifth 20-win season while at Rice. “We’ve been battle-tested this entire tournament. Marshall gave us a really tough match yesterday and today was no different and even longer. We’re just excited to be representing Rice while we’re hosting this tournament and we love the support we’re getting and just hope it continues tomorrow and we can get as many fans here as possible.”
Saturday’s match followed nearly the same pattern as the Owls and Golden Eagles match three weeks ago in Hattiesburg when Southern Miss rallied from a 2-0 deficit to stun Rice in five sets. However, this go around it was the Owls who prevailed in the fifth and final set and did so in convincing fashion, 15-5.
At night’s end the Owls had three double-double performances, including a 15-kill/14-dig double-double from junior Shelby Livingstone. Junior setter Madison McDaniel distributed 52 more assists and had 16 digs while senior outside hitter Leah Mikesky recorded 12 kills and 22 digs for her second double-double of the tournament.
Sophomore middle blocker McKay Kyle was unstoppable up front, converting 15-of-22 attacks for a staggering .636 percentage. As on Friday against Marshall, Chelsey Harris led all players with 18 kills and 20.0 total points and freshman libero Lee Ann Cunningham posted a match-high 23 digs.
In the first set Rice started off quickly and jumped out to a quick 7-3 lead.
The Owls maintained a comfortable lead in the frame, never leading by less than three points. Livingstone paced the Rice offense with 6 kills at a .667 hitting percentage in the frame. The second set saw much of the same with Rice taking a 6-5 and never trailing the rest of the set, leading by as much as eight at one point.
The tide began to turn in the Golden Eagles’ favor in the third set, when they won a tight 28-26 contest. C-USA Freshman of the Year Catherine Repsher kept the Golden Eagles’ hopes alive with seven kills in the frame. In the fourth set, Southern Miss’ Stephany Purdue went on a four-point individual run that gave the Golden Eagles a 23-19 lead and eventually the set at 25-23.
In the do-or-die fifth set, Rice jumped out to a commanding 9-4 lead fueled by an energized Rice crowd. Harris sealed the victory for the Owls with her match-high 18th kill of the evening.
Sunday’s championship match will be streamed on CUSAtv.
Stay tuned to RiceOwls.com and ConferenceUSA.com for more info.