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By Shehan Jeyarajah
Baylor volleyball plays Rice University in Houston tonight in a matchup of two teams who entered the season with major expectations but are currently struggling. The Bears were expected to improve after coming within a game of the NCAA Tournament last season, and Rice was picked by the coaches to win Conference USA in the preseason polls. Both teams look to pull themselves back to .500 after poor starts.
The Bears sit with a record of 4-7 through nonconference play, including a 2-1 finish in the Baylor Invitational tournament last weekend.
Baylor has won matches over Northwestern State, Southern Methodist University, Appalachian State and Mississippi State.
Rice comes in with a record of 3-7. The Owls lost three straight matches to start their season in the Bulldog Invitational at Fresno State University and have struggled to come back, similar to Baylor after its first tournament. Rice has wins over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Lamar and Houston Baptist.
Junior middle blocker Jillian Humphrey and senior setter Megan Murphy have led the way for Rice as Preseason All-Conference USA team members.
Junior middle blocker Lizzy Bache was named All-Rice Invitational I team after posting 30 kills on a .404 hitting percentage over the three match tournament.
Humphrey was named All-Rice Invitational II team after finishing with 39 kills and 11 blocks in the second three-match tournament.
Humphrey is currently on a personal hot streak. She has hit for 10 kills or better in eight of her 10 matches this season.
For the season, Humphrey has 126 blocks. She has hit over .300 in her last three matches, and is hitting .283 for the season.
Junior libero Daniela Arenas is coming off a career-high 35 digs last Friday. That total was the fourth most in the history of Rice volleyball.
Rice overall does not share in Humphrey’s hitting prowess. The Owls hit .197 for the season and allow opponents to hit .235.
Rice is a decent blocking team and put up 2.12 blocks per set, but allow opponents to block them 2.62 times per set. This is a disparity that Baylor should be able to use to their advantage.
Preseason All-Big 12 Team member and senior outside hitter Zoe Adom has led Baylor volleyball this season. Adom leads the Bears with 131 total kills this season and her 3.36 kills per set rank her sixth in the Big 12.
Sophomore setter Amy Rosenbaum has 393 total assists on the season and her 10.08 set per set average is fifth overall in the Big 12.
Sophomore middle hitter Adrien Richburg has risen to become a major contributor on both sides of the ball after only playing 50 sets her first season at Baylor. She currently leads the Bears with 44 blocks.
Sophomore libero Mackenzie Mayo has done the same in the back row, leading the Bears with 132 total digs and 3.38 digs per set.
Rice leads the all-time series over Baylor 23-16, but the two teams are meeting for the first time since 2008.
Baylor will play Rice at 7 p.m. tonight in Houston before playing in the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup at the University of Houston on Friday and Saturday.