Air Force Drops Season Opener to Rice

Aug. 24, 2012

HOUSTON, Texas - The Air Force volleyball team opened the 2012 campaign with a 3-0 loss to Rice on Friday, Aug. 24, in Houston, Texas. The Falcons bookended a 25-10 loss in the second set with two close 25-22, 25-23 decisions during the first day of competition at the Rice Invitational at Tudor Fieldhouse.

Freshman Felicia Clement put down the Falcons' first kill of the 2012 season to tie the score at one. The Owls pulled ahead 4-1, but kills from sophomore Ayesha Hein and junior Cami Richan helped pull the Falcons within one (4-3). Richan and Clement each recorded a pair of kills and freshman Raquel Rosas added one, but Rice extended their lead to 18-10. Following the Falcons' second timeout, Air Force scored three straight points, forcing Rice to call its own timeout. During the run, Hein and Richan teamed up for a block, while sophomore Hillary Keltner added a kill. Air Force continued to put the pressure on the Owls, cutting into Rice's lead. Rosas and classmate Taylor Parker each recorded a solo block, while Rosas teamed up with Hein for another stop. With two separate sets of back-to-back kills, Air Force cut the deficit to two at 22-20 (Hein, Keltner) and 24-22 (Hein, Richan), but Rice claimed the final point for the 25-22 victory.

Clement put down Air Force's first kill of the second set, stopping a quick 5-0 start by the Owls. Sophomore Victoria Foster recorded her first score of the season, but Rice extended its lead to 15-5. Air Force added kills from Richan, Keltner and sophomore Lizzy Carpenter, but fell by a 25-10 margin.

Hein put the Falcons on the board in the third set, but Rice quickly took an 8-3 lead. Clement stopped the Owls' 5-1 run, while Rosas followed with a solo block and a kill. A kill from Keltner put the Falcons within two (9-7) and additional strikes from Clement (10-8) and Hein (11-9) kept the score within two. A strike from Richan cut the deficit to one (12-11, 13-12), while an error by Rice and a kill from Rosas gave Air Force its first lead of the night at the 14-13 mark. Rosas and Clement posted back-to-back scores as Air Force went up two (16-14). The Owls responded with the next four points, but Clement tallied kills on consecutive plays to even the score at 18. Richan added four of the Falcons' next six points, bringing Air Force back within one at the 24-23 mark, before Rice earned the final, deciding point.

"This team knows what we're capable of," head coach Matt McShane said. "We know how we've been practicing. The key is consistency. We were a little nervous tonight when we started, but once we settled down, we started passing better and that led to some good rallies."

Richan led all scorers with 11 kills, while Clement added eight. Keltner paced the Falcons with 27 assists and senior Maiya Perich accounted for 19 digs. Rosas rounded out the Air Force leaders with three total blocks, including a pair of solo stops.

The Falcons return to action tomorrow, when they face former conference opponent BYU at 10 a.m. (CST) and first-time foe Arkansas State at 4:30 p.m.