Rice volleyball will retool their roster as they enter the 2020 season, supplementing a talented returning roster with key additions and elevating some players into bigger roles.
The standard is high at South Main. That’s to be expected on the heels of three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Getting to the tournament is one thing, returning year after year is another. That’s the next net Rice volleyball hopes to leap.
To stretch their streak to a fourth consecutive NCAA spot, the Owls are going to have to reload on the fly. The roster had a healthy mix of younger and more veteran players, but several of those key building blocks will be out of eligibility after this year. Rice must replace those seniors effectively to maintain their current trajectory.
Thankfully the Owls aren’t starting from scratch. Head coach Genny Volpe has been keeping tabs on the up-and-coming talent during the season and into the spring. Among those weren’t part of the usual starting contingent, Ellie Bichelmeyer and Carly Graham each drew specific praise from Volpe.
Bichelmeyer’s development was evident throughout the season and carried over into spring practices. “I see her really growing in confidence,” Volpe said, “She showed significant growth… even from the beginning of the season to the end of the season.”
Even coming off the bench, Bichelmeyer made her mark. She had 188 points last year, fourth most on the team. Her 1.89 kills per set trailed only Nicole Lennon and Anota Adekunle, both of which were named to the Conference USA First Team last season.
Carly Graham also caught Volpe’s eye. She and senior Adria Martinez ran the offense together last season. With Martinez departing, Graham was left as the only setter in the gym this spring. “To see her really step up as a leader and run the show all by herself has been really exciting. I see big things for her ahead,” Volpe said.
And that doesn’t account for an exciting new wave of talent that hasn’t yet arrived on campus. The 2020 Rice Volleyball signing class is filled with players who have won at every level of competition in which they’ve participated. “They don’t really know how to lose,” Volpe remarked. She hopes to keep that winning tradition alive when the freshman get their feet wet this fall. Rice has done a lot of winning in recent years and they’ve no intention to stop now.
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