A Winning Spirit

Rice volleyball boasts historic season

Photo by Adam Gue
Photo by Adam Gue

When the Rice volleyball starting lineup takes the court, the remaining team members move to the corner of the gym. Once there, they launch into a gamelong litany of cheers and chants with banter that never lets up. If the Owls lose possession, you’ll hear them sing, “Side out! Side out!” During tense moments, it’s “R-I-C-E” — a Tudor Fieldhouse crowd favorite. Their ownership of the gym is total, and their message is clear: This is our house.

In their house, the Owls were practically unbeatable. In 2018, they won 13 of 14 matches at home en route to the program’s first Conference USA (C-USA) regular season title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore outside hitter Nicole Lennon won C-USA Player of the Year honors, and Rice finished the season ranked No. 30 in the NCAA’s rating percentage index. Rice’s banner season was not just a rare moment of good fortune, but the result of planned, incremental improvement within an established, successful program. With 24 wins, 2018 marked the Owls’ fifth consecutive 20-win season.

“We keep the standards very high in our gym and work toward cultivating a championship mindset,” says head coach Genny Volpe. “This means excelling in everything, all of the time, every day.” Volpe also places considerable emphasis on a less quantifiable characteristic of success: team spirit. “Their focus on team unity has created a cohesiveness that gives us an advantage both on and off the court.”

— Staff