Rice volleyball wins C-USA Championship


Sydney Shelton

The Rice volleyball team poses with the Conference-USA Championship trophy after defeating FIU 3-1.

The Rice University volleyball team won the Conference USA Championship Sunday with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 26-24) defeat of FIU at the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington.

Rice established a 24-6 overall season win-loss record (12-2 C-USA) and was the No. 1 seed coming into the tournament. Rice beat Charlotte in the quarterfinals and then North Texas in the semifinals.

“I’m real proud of the team,” Rice head volleyball coach Genny Volpe said. “It was a great match I think we came out pretty strong and set the tone pretty early in the match.”

Rice went on a five-point run to start the first set and sophomore Kassidy Muse collected two kills and junior Grace Morgan collected one kill and an ace. Rice led 6-0 to start the set. A missed serve gave FIU its first point of the game.

FIU cut the lead to three with a kill by senior Nina Petranovic, a block by redshirt junior Chelsea Hudson and a service ace by Petranovic.

Rice had two back-to-back blocks, the first by junior outside Tori Woogk and freshman middle Anota Adekunle and the second by redshirt sophomore outside Shelby Livingstone. Rice led 10-5 after the sequence.

Later down in the set, FIU cut the lead again with kills by Petranovic, Hudson, and Klinger. Rice had a 17-16 lead. Rice then went on a 7-3 scoring run to win the first set to extend its lead and win the set. Morgan and Muse each had two kills in that run along with sophomore outside Nicole Lennon’s one.

Rice took the final point of the match on a FIU missed serve to win 25-21.

Rice took an early 8-3 lead in the second set and never allowed FIU within three points until an FIU kill and a Rice error left Rice with 21-18 lead. An FIU error lifted Rice 22-18, but a Rice error and Bianchin kill cut the Rice lead to two.

A kill by Muse and a hitting error gave arise set point. However, a Rice missed serve and hitting error kept FIU alive, 22-24 Rice. Rice took the second set, 25-22, win on a Morgan kill.

The third set was a closer contest, and neither team had more than a three-point lead. The set started with a kill from Rice’s Muse, Adekunle, and Lennon along with a service ace by freshman setter Carly Graham gave Rice the 4-1 lead.

FIU took its first lead of the game on a Petranovic kill to make the score 12-11 in favor of the Panthers. Rice tied the set with a Livingstone kill. A Rice service error gave FIU the next point and a 13-12 lead. Then, a Lennon kill tied the set for Rice. The back-and-forth action continued until a kill by Muse and Morgan, along with two FIU hitting errors, gave Rice the four-point run it needed to win the set and match.

“We have been in that situation a lot,” Volpe said. “We have a lot of experiences in some really tough matches and we were battle-tested every single time we played. With that comes a lot of confidence and trust.”

Rice’s Adekunle was named tournament MVP. She had eight kills and three blocks in the match.

”It is an amazing feeling,” Adekunle said. “Just being with my team and being able to celebrate this is a wonderful feeling.”

For Rice, Morgan, Muse, and Lennon each had 10 kills. Morgan also had eight blocks. Livingstone had 11 digs and junior setter Adria Martinez has 25 assists.

For FIU, Bianchin, Petranvic, and Klinger each had 10 kills. Freshman setter Abbie Hughes had 28 assists.

Sydney Shelton can be contacted at [email protected].