Owls Advance to C-USA Semifinals with Sweep
Nov. 21, 2014
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The Rice Owls volleyball team advanced to the Conference USA Volleyball Championship Semifinals with a convincing 3-0 sweep (25-18, 25-17, 25-17) of the Marshall Thundering Herd Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals at Reed Green Coliseum.
Rice (22-9) advanced to the C-USA Semifinals for the first time since 2009 by outhitting the Herd (16-16) .398-.154. Owls' sophomore outside hitter Chelsey Harris led all players with 15 kills while sophomore setter Sara Blasier orchestrated the offense with 41 assists (13.6 per set), one shy of her season-best for a three-setter.
Sophomore outside hitter Leah Mikesky was also superb with 11 kills while hitting .375. Senior middle blocker Jillian Humphrey posted eight kills and had seven blocks to become only the second player in Rice history with 1,000 kills and 500 blocks, joining Tessa Kuykendall.
The Owls will now face No. 1 seed UTSA, who will play for a third time this season at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The C-USA champion Roadrunners (20-8) defeated Rice twice during the regular season and advanced to the semifinals with a 3-0 sweep of No. 8 Charlotte in the first match of the quarterfinals on Friday.
Rice had entered the tournament after losing back-to-back matches for the first time all season and three of their last four overall but were able to flip the proverbial switch when it mattered most.
"That was a great, solid team effort today," Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. "Everybody was focused and really executed the game plan well. I'm proud of our composure when Marshall was stressing us. That's something you have to have in a championship environment. Every single player had a huge role in today's win and I'm so proud of the team. We will enjoy this for a little bit and then get right back to work to prepare for UTSA."
In the opening set the Owls fell behind 7-5 before eventually taking an 8-7 lead and outscoring the Herd 17-11 the rest of the way to a 25-18 victory. Harris and Mikesky dominated the set, recording 10 combined kills (5 apiece) while hitting .571 and .556, respectively. Blasier registered 13 assists and Arenas led the defense with six digs. Rice held the Herd to a hitting percentage of just .081 and Marshall had seven attack errors.
Rice fell behind 8-4 in set two before going on a 7-0 run led by Humphrey (4 kills) and Bawcum (3 kills) to take a 12-9 lead over the Herd. The Owls never looked back following that run, winning the second set 25-17 to take a commanding 2-0 match lead. Rice hit a phenomenal .412 (18-of-34) for the set and Blasier added 16 more assists.
The Owls never trailed in the third and final set, winning 25-17 to sweep the match from the Herd.
Rice went 0-2 in the regular season against UTSA, dropping the first meeting in a heartbreaking five-set loss (26-28, 25-14, 25-13, 19-25, 11-15) at UTSA before falling to the Roadrunners at home on Senior Day in three sets (19-25, 21-25, 22-25).