Rice Volleyball won its first NCAA Tournament match in school history in 2019. How will the Owls’ measure future success in light of that achievement?
How do you improve on the best season you’ve ever had? That’s the question hanging over Rice Volleyball this offseason. The Owls will lose several key pieces and ask new ones to help carry the load. The objective will always be to win, but the standard has been set higher than it’s ever been before.
Coach Genny Volpe has made the program’s expectations crystal clear.
“Getting to the NCAA Tournament is our expectation, and its been our expectation to continue to elevate and advance in the tournament, but for me, and more importantly, are we maximizing our potential? Are we improving when we get on the court daily? Because then all of those things fall into place.
In the midst of a world that focuses all too often on the end result, Volpe remains committed to the journey. Rather than use terms like optimist or realist, Volpe calls herself “a real process-oriented type of person.”
That mindset is apropos to the culture of Rice Athletics and it makes a lot of sense. It takes so many things to go right to reach the pinnacle of any endeavor. There can only be one national champion every year. Reaching that apex takes effort and focus, but it also takes a little bit of luck.
Volpe knows that she can train consistency and focus. If she does that, the Owls will be set up to capitalize on any breaks that do come her way. And they’ll be better prepared to navigate the obstacles that will inevitably appear as well.
Seasons are measured in wins and losses, but that’s not the metric Volpe deems most vital. “Are we maximizing our potential?” is the question that runs through her head over and over again.
Potential is much more difficult to quantify. It can’t be measured by a number, rather calculated through less tangible facets: culture, chemistry, buy-in and others.
Seamlessly integrating newcomers into a program that has already found a productive rhythm is a challenge, but one that will prove vital toward the Owls’ success on the court next fall. Volpe’s messaging is consistent in that arena as well. “Find what your role is, no matter how big or how small, and embrace it for the good of the team.” Compiling those roles into offensive and defensive strategies is the starting point for what Rice hopes will be another year of record-setting success.
“It’s going to take work. There’s no question we lost a lot of pieces to that puzzle,” Volpe said. But there was no hesitation in her voice. The talent to win exists on the roster. Her job is to assemble the pieces, something she’s excelled at in her decade-plus tenure at Rice.