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Blue Raiders sweep Rice in inaugural C-USA match

MT handles C-USA preseason favorite in conference opener

September 27, 2013 · @MTAthletics

HOUSTON - The Middle Tennessee volleyball team swept Conference USA preseason favorite Rice on Friday night in the Blue Raiders' first Conference USA match in program history. In the win, the Raiders improve to 9-5 and 1-0 in C-USA, while the Owls fall to 3-12 and 0-1 in conference play.

MT's inaugural Conference USA match was a battle between two teams receiving first-place votes in the preseason coaches poll. Rice was picked first was three first-place votes, while Middle Tennessee was chosen sixth with two first-place selections.

The Blue Raiders hit .398 for the match, as opposed to a .111 mark for Rice. Freshman Jale Hervey led MT with 13 kills on 24 attacks. Redshirt-junior Kendall Howard tallied 15 digs in the three-set victory, while redshirt-sophomore Tyler Richardson and sophomore Rachel Shaughnessy each notched six blocks in the match.

Rice opened up a 12-9 lead in the first set before a pair of kills by redshirt-junior Monet Marshall, sandwiched around an Owl attack error, knotted the opening stanza at 12. Rice would jump back in front, leading 18-16 after a service ace forced the second Blue Raider timeout of the set.

MT would respond, scoring the next four points out of the stoppage, erasing what would be the Raiders' final deficit of the entire match. Hervey (six) and Marshall (four) combined for 10 kills in the first set, with a Marshall kill capping off the first set victory at 25-21.

The Blue Raiders would hold a 5-1 advantage to begin the second set, and controlled throughout. Rice pulled to as close as 8-7, but six MT blocks in the set helped the Raiders lead wire-to-wire. An ace by junior Ailime de Freitas put the finishing touches on a convincing 25-14 second set win, sending the Blue Raiders back to the locker room up 2-0.

Middle Tennessee hit a stellar .500 (16-3-26) in the third set, with a Hervey kill extending the lead to 14-7 and forcing a Rice timeout. The Blue Raiders looked primed to coast to a victory; however, the Owls made things interesting, cutting the deficit to 21-17. Out of a timeout at 22-18, MT put Rice away with two kills from Marshall and a match-point kill by sophomore Chelsea Ross for the 25-19 win.

The Blue Raiders return to action on Sunday when Middle Tennessee faces North Texas in Denton, Texas at noon.

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