Spring Recap: Volleyball Shines In Off-Season Competition

Noelle Whitlock was one of the Owls' standouts during the spring

April 19, 2013

Rice's volleyball team wrapped up its strong spring season last week, posting an 7-4-1 record against outside competition in three tournaments. The Owls won 18 sets in the spring, and only dropped 10.

The Owls posted notable wins over LSU, TCU and C-USA rival UTSA, and took defending national champion Texas to a tiebreaker set. The Owls performance excites head coach Genny Volpe, who expects big things from the team in the fall.

"I think that the basics, passing and serving, are going to be key to the success of this team. We have a lot of versatility, a lot of talent. I think the depth and competitiveness that we're going to have in the fall is really exciting," said Volpe.

The squad focused on improving their serving, which was the only statistical category that the Owls did not rank in the top 4 of C-USA last season.

"We really focused on our serving," said Volpe. "We reflected on the fall, and realized that our serving was pretty average. We're trying to serve tougher, more aggresively and without fear. Our serving really stands out as the most improved skill for the spring."

Noelle Whitlock, who posted 2.50 digs per set in her redshirt freshman season, showed promise on the front line, along with Lizzy Bache, who posted 2.07 kills per set in 2012, her sophomore campaign.

"Whitlock had an outstanding spring," remarked Volpe. "she improved physically, she's hitting the ball harder, more aggressively. She showed that she has the most shots of anyone on our team."

"We moved Lizzy to the middle this spring, and she flourished. She did a great job, and her hitting percentage was up with [departing senior] Nancy Cole's," added Volpe.

The backline saw 2013 junior Daniela Arenas and 2013 sophomore Kimberly Vaio play extremely well, helping solidify an Owl defense that ranked second in C-USA in 2012.



"Daniela Arenas and Kimberly Vaio both proved that they can handle the libero position and do it well. Daniela consistently passed better than she's ever passed before, and her digs were very accurate. Kimberly is a play-maker. She can play any of the back row positions without thinking twice."

While C-USA Setter of the Year Megan Murphy returns for her senior season in 2013, the spring was the first time redshirt freshman setter Sara Blasier faced outside competition while at Rice, in what looks to be a position of strength for the Owls in 2013.

"Our setting position is going to be extremely strong. Megan Murphy has proven herself, and I think her senior year is going to be her best," said Volpe "Sarah was amazing. It's hard to redshirt, and sit the entire fall and not compete. She's got that left hand and an ability to be very deceptive, and can attack the second ball. She's really offensive, and adds a different dimension."

Despite winning matches against teams from the Big 12, SEC and Conference USA, a narrow defeat by the national champions stands out as Rice's best fight in the spring.

"The Texas match the first weekend was the best overall performance from the team, even though we lost," said Volpe. "That was a good feeling for the team. They came off the court knowing they can block players hitting at a very high angle, we did some really nice blocking moves against them, and athletically, we were right with them. They'll remember that when we play some more ranked teams this fall."

Date Event Result
Mar. 23 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi W, 2-0
Mar. 23 TCU W, 2-1
Mar. 23 Baylor L, 1-2
Mar. 23 Texas L, 1-2
Apr. 6 Texas A&M L, 0-2
Apr. 6 UTSA W, 2-0
Apr. 6 Texas State T, 1-1
Apr. 6 Stephen F. Austin W, 2-0
Apr. 13 Blinn W, 2-0
Apr. 13 UL Lafayette L, 1-2
Apr. 13 LSU W, 2-0
Apr. 13 Sam Houston W, 2-0



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