The volleyball team opened the tournament with three wins in two days

Credit By Up Matters

The Rice volleyball team, undeterred by a doubleheader on Friday and an awful first set on Saturday, opened the season with three straight wins at the Louisiana State University Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge. The tournament opened with two consecutive wins before a 3-2 come-from-behind win over LSU to close out the weekend. According to head coach Jenny Volpe, the offence is still a work in progress, but all other aspects of the game were substantial.

Said Volpe, “Our offensive rhythm is still a work in progress, but I’m very pleased with our defence and serve-receive.”

The Owls’ first match, against the University of Houston, was a contest, as the two teams, typically less than four miles apart, faced off at the Maravich Assembly Center, more than 250 miles away. The first set was close throughout, with Rice never leading by more than five points, but the Owls managed to win 25-22. The first set was close throughout, with Rice never leading by more than five points, but the Owls won 25-22, the closest the Cougars came to winning a set. Rice won the second set 25-18 on five kills by fifth-year senior middle blocker Anota Adekunle. Adekunle’s five kills and fifth-year senior Carly Graham’s 15 assists also won the third set, giving Volpe her 350th career win.

Three hours later, the Owls took the court against Samford University. The Owls jumped to a 10-1 lead in the first set and went on to win 25-15. According to Adekunle, the team was prepared for this doubleheader and avoided its worst effects.

I wasn’t as tired as I thought I would be,” Adekunle said. We played our last game on Friday, and I felt perfect. I think the training I did in practice prepared me well.

The Bulldogs led 17-12 at one point in the second set, but the Owls managed to pull away with a late kill by sophomore outside hitter and light side Lola Foord. The Owls completed their second sweep of the day in the third set.

After taking the first six sets this past weekend, host LSU shocked Rice a bit by taking the first set 25-13 on Saturday. According to Adekunle, Rice was surprised by LSU’s quick start, but once they settled into the match, they were able to regain momentum.

Volleyball matches are often momentum games,” Adekunle said. LSU had a lot of momentum, and it took us a little while to adjust. Bad sets are standard; unfortunately, we were on that side.”

The Owls’ deficit did not last long, however. Rice won the following two sets by seven and nine points, respectively, to take a 2-1 lead. The Tigers had to battle back to a fifth set, but the Owls rallied from a 12-12 tie to score three points in the third to win their third in a row. After the comeback win, Volpe said the upset resulted from team composure rather than tactical changes.

We didn’t make any adjustments,” Volpe said. The team started flat, so we just focused on ourselves and believed we could get out of it. The group stayed composed and settled into their serving and passing game, which made a big difference.

Junior outside hitter Sahara Maruska led the Owls with 34 kills on the weekend, while Adekunle was a close second with 29. Setter Graham also had 102 assists, while libero Nia McCardell earned Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week honours with 46 digs in three matches. According to Mariska, she has taken on a more active role in both offence and defence this season.

Says Maruska, “Last year, my role was to get in the game and get as many kills as possible.” This year, I am playing defence in the back row and continuing to be a presence at the net on offence.”

Next up for the team is a trip to Eugene, Oregon, where they will take on UC Davis on Friday afternoon and No. 18, the University of Oregon, on Saturday night. The Owls, who received the No. 30 vote in this week’s American Volleyball Coaches Association rankings, are confident they will find their groove as the season gets underway, Malska said.

”I’m very confident in this team,” Mariska said. ‘I’m very confident in this team. I know we will be functioning on all cylinders in every game, and I think we have a solid season ahead of us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: