Sept. 17, 2012
HOUSTON -- The University of Houston volleyball team will open Conference USA play and the first of three straight road matches at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Rice inside Tudor Fieldhouse.
The Cougars return to the court on Tuesday following the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup, which featured three Top 25 teams in No. 11 Florida State, No. 18 Pepperdine and No. 21 Ohio State. Houston dropped all three matches, but showed improvement down the stretch, forcing a fourth set against the Buckeyes on Saturday.
Houston is 1-9 on the year and 1-1 on the road and will play its first conference game of 2012 at Rice. The Cougars are coming off a 3-1 loss to No. 21 Ohio State and are looking to snap a four-game skid. As a team, Houston is hitting .166 led by senior Katie Norris' 144 kills, which ranks her fifth among C-USA. Senior Chandace Tryon's 110 kills and .332 attack percentage follow her, ranking Tryon third in C-USA hitting percentage. Senior setter Abby Simmons paces the squad with 316 assists and eight service aces. Defensively, sophomore libero Natalie Keck leads the team with 128 digs. Tryon has tallied a team-leading 22 block assists and nine block solos.
Rice enters Tuesday's contest with a 7-7 overall record and are 4-6 at home. The Owls are coming off a 3-0 sweep against Texas Tech at home and have won five of their last seven. Leading the way offensively is Nancy Cole with 170 kills and a .326 attack percentage. Three Owls have tallied over 100 kills, while setter Megan Murphy paces the team with 537 assists. Defensively, Daniela Arenas' 178 digs lead Rice while Jillian Humphrey has 10 block solos.
Houston and Rice will meet for the 79th time in the history of the program. The Cougars own the all-time record at 60-18 and won the last two contests a year ago, 3-2 and 3-0. 2011 marked the first year Houston had swept the series with Rice dating back to when the Owls joined the conference in 2005. Stephanie Nwachukwu led Houston in the last meeting with 16 kills.
Tuesday's contest will mark the 2012 C-USA opener. Rice was selected to finish second behind Tulsa in the Preseason Coaches Poll, while Houston was tabbed at fifth. A year ago, Houston finished fourth with a 12-8 conference record, while Rice was 13-7 and finished second.
Houston at Rice game will be available via GameTracker and live video on All-Access for a small fee at UHCougars.com.
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Houston will continue its conference road stretch with a 7 p.m. match at UAB on Friday and a 1 p.m. match on Sunday at Memphis.