Owls Drop Heartbreaker to WKU in C-USA Title Game

Sara Blasier, Portia Okafor and the Owls fell 3-2 to WKU in the C-USA title game.
Nov. 23, 2014

Final Stats

WKU 3-Rice 2 Get Acrobat Reader

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - One of the best season's in Rice Owls volleyball history fell just a few points shy of an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament with a five-set loss (18-25, 25-13, 18-25, 25-22, 16-18) to Western Kentucky in the Conference USA Championship title game Sunday afternoon.

Rice (23-10) rallied from a 2-1 deficit to force a fifth and deciding set in which the Owls led 10-7 at one point. However, WKU (30-5) closed on an 11-6 run before clinching the victory on a kill from Haley Bodway. 

"I couldn't be more pleased with our fight today," Rice head coach Genny Volpe said. "Anyone that saw that match saw a team with an intense desire to win and a huge heart. It's so crazy how evenly matched we are with WKU but so different as well. Congrats to them, they grinded it out with us and the volleyball fans saw what two teams with guts play like. I'm sad the seniors didn't get the glory of that win but they have had a huge impact. To think they won't wear a Rice jersey anymore is the hardest part. This is a championship team and this season will definitely set the bar for the remaining members."

The Owls had four players register double-digit kills, including sophomore outside hitter Chelsey Harris, who had an incredible match with a game-high 18 kills on 37 attempts (.324). Leah Mikesky (14 kills), Jillian Humphrey (14 kills) and Portia Okafor (10 kills) also had double-figure kills. Sophomore setter Sara Blasier finished with a game-high 54 assists while senior Daniela Arenas led the defense with 20 digs.

Both Arenas and Harris were both selected to the C-USA All-Tournament Team.

WKU also defeated Rice in five sets the only other time the two teams met back on Sept. 28 in Bowling Green, Ky.

Rice outhit WKU for the match, .248-.195, had more assists (65-63) as well as more digs (61-53). Freshman Alyssa Cavanaugh led the Lady Toppers with 17 kills while Bodway finished with 16.

In the opening set, in which WKU won 25-18, the Owls hurt themselves with five service errors and WKU limited Rice to just a .091 hitting percentage. After falling behind 9-4 the Owls managed to cut the deficit to 17-16 but WKU closed on an 8-3 run to win the set. 

Rice bounced back with a convincing 25-13 in set two in which the Owls led from start to finish. The Owls got a big boost from Okafor, who dominated the net with four blocks in the set and played a big role in limiting WKU to a -.111 hitting percentage.

WKU came out of the break to take the third set 25-18 by hitting a day's-best .432 and only trailed once (0-1).

The Owls kept hope alive by coming from behind to win the fourth set, 25-22. After trailing 10-7 the Owls rallied to eventually tie the set at 14-14 and then took the lead for good on a Humphrey kill. Rice had their best hitting percentage of the match (.343) in the set, converting 17-of-35 attacks. 

In the fifth and final set both teams refused to give in as the two played to eight ties and three lead changes. The Owls faced match point on three different occasions and were able to side out each time thanks to kills from Harris and Humphrey. However, with the scored tied 16-16, WKU scored back-to-back points on kills from Sydney Engle and Bodway to win the title. 






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