Rice volleyball will not participate in the NCAA Tournament. The Owls’ opening-round game has been canceled because of COVID-19 protocols.
When the brackets were announced, Rice volleyball erupted with elation. Despite falling in the Conference USA Tournament Championship Game, the Owls’ body of work had earned them an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Months of hard work had paid off with the chance to compete for a national title.
And then late Wednesday night, that chance was unceremoniously ripped away.
A positive COVID-19 test within the Rice program forced the cancelation of the Owls’ opening-round game against N.C. A&T. The Division I Women’s Volleyball Committee released a brief statement shortly after the scheduled start time of the match.
“The NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Committee has declared the Rice-N.C. A&T match for Wednesday night at the CHI Health Center Omaha convention center a no-contest because of COVID-19 protocols. As a result, N.C. A&T will advance to the next round of the tournament. The NCAA and the committee regret that Rice student-athletes and coaching staff will not be able to play in a tournament in which they earned the right to participate. Because of privacy issues we cannot provide further details.”
Rice arrived on Sunday for pre-match practices. Given a favorable draw and a head-to-head win over Texas already under their belt, the Owls had high expectations entering the week. Unfortunately, those hopes will not be realized this season.
Rice has since released a pair of statements:
“I’m heartbroken for our players, coaches, and support staff,” Rice Director of Athletics Joe Karlgaard said. “They’ve worked so hard this spring playing through difficult circumstances. Even with this terrible news, I want them to remember they’ve had a really terrific season. Rice is proud of who they are and what they’ve accomplished this year.”
“We are devastated that we won’t be able to compete in the NCAA Tournament this year,” AVCA South Region Coach of the Year Genny Volpe said. “This team deserved it, earning an at-large bid in a 48-team field and has so much to be proud of. It certainly is painful to see how much the team wanted to compete and to have to break the news to them that they couldn’t play. To compete in this tournament meant so much to all of us. Although this is a very sad moment, we know safety is the number one priority. We will be back stronger than ever. Rice Fight Never Dies.”