Rice Volleyball soared to new heights in 2019, establishing themselves as a bonafide contender in the sport at the national level.
The 2019 Rice volleyball season was among the most memorable campaigns in school history. Program first’s were littered throughout the year. Rice earned its first Top 25 ranking in school history. They knocked off No. 3 Texas at Tudor Fieldhouse. They won their first-ever NCAA Tournament match. It’s hard to put such an incredible run into words. One video will have to suffice:
Defeat the #3 team in the nation, party with the students.
HISTORY. MADE. pic.twitter.com/PwDikJydcM
— Rice Volleyball (@RiceVolleyball) September 19, 2019
Yes someone with crutches is jumping for joy. Pure elation personified in 20 seconds of fervor.
“It was definitely a season that I’m not going to forget and I’m sure the players on the team won’t either, especially the seniors,” recalls head coach Genny Volpe, the winningest coach in school history. Rice has been a perennial power under Volpe’s direction, but the Owls took their success up a notch in 2019.
Rice has lost fewer than 10 matches six times in Volpe’s tenure, an impressive feat considering seasons average roughly 30 matches. The 27-4 record was Volpe’s best yet. 20 of their 27 wins were three-game sweeps. Of their four losses, three of them came down to the final game.
None of it surprised Volpe, who saw the focus in her team from the start. “When I saw that preparation, the expectation was to do a lot of things that we did.”
Expectation is one thing. Turning that into reality is a process that turns hope into the things of legend.
“To finally put our stamp on a couple of signatures wins [was huge]. We’ve been close so many times,” she said. “This year we were consistent in our execution, our practice, our approach to all the little things that matter.”
On some level, the 2019 season and win over Texas marked the arrival of the zenith of a decades-long journey for the Rice volleyball program. The Owls had been a local power, but things feel slightly different now. The top programs in the state and around the country must look at Rice as an athletic peer. For a university that boasts an alumni base smaller than the on campus population of other state schools, that distinction carries a weighty significance.
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