The Rice volleyball team soon will be on its way to Boulder while enduring a week full of the sort of real-life adversity no coach plans for.
Based in Houston, Rice's campus has been afflicted amid the torrential flooding unleashed this week by Tropical Storm Harvey. Owls volleyball coach Genny Volpe has a roster well-stocked with Texas natives, and for much of this week volleyball has taken a back seat to making sure loved ones and property are still above water back home.
Rice was on the road during the volleyball season's opening weekend last week and still has not returned to Houston, setting up shop this week in Waco after playing three games in Dallas last weekend. The Owls are scheduled to fly to Colorado out of Dallas on Thursday for the opener of the Omni Invitational Friday morning (10 a.m.) against Wake Forest at the Coors Events Center.
The Buffs don't begin play in the tournament until Saturday, when they host Wake Forest (1 p.m.) and the Owls (7 p.m.).
"We have a few girls from the Houston area and my family is there. Some of our staff members too," Volpe said. "It's hard wondering what's happening to your houses, your cars. A couple of our players are very concerned about their apartments because they live off-campus and a lot of the apartments were flooding around the Rice area. That was pretty stressful because no one can show you anything unless you're in it.
"We know at least one of our players' cars got submerged completely in water. It was parked in a spot that got the worst of it. But we know that everyone is safe."
The Rice volleyball team has been able to make a temporary home in Waco in part because junior outside hitter Shelby Livingstone is the daughter of Baylor president Linda Livingstone. While by all accounts the team's family members and friends are safe, that hasn't occurred without more than a few precautions. The family of sophomore setter Adria Martinez, from Spring, Texas, traveled to the tournament in Dallas and brought everything along, including the family cat, just in case. The Martinez family remains in Waco with the team.
Freshman Nicole Lennon is from the hard-hit Katy, Texas, area but her family was able to drive back from the Dallas tournament on Monday to find their house intact. Overall, though, it has been a week where the demands of a competitive trip to Boulder have been somewhat of an afterthought.
"The team has been awesome. I have to give them a lot of credit," Volpe said. "I have not had to motivate them. They're extremely grateful that we're safe. We all know it could have been a lot worse, and that there's people dealing with a lot worse than we are. We are definitely a team that is looking on the bright side. Tuesday's practice, as to be expected, they were pretty sloppy, but (Wednesday) was much better. Colorado reached out to us to see if they could help and I think they're going to help us with some laundry. We're really thankful for the help that we've been getting."
Messages will be played throughout this weekend's Omni Invitational instructing fans how to make donations.
Additionally, on Wednesday the CU men's basketball program answered a call by University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson to donate extra team gear to help flood victims. CU's coaching staff sent about four dozen extra basketball camp t-shirts along with polo shirts and several pairs of shoes.
Sampson requested basketball programs across the nation at all levels — from high school to junior college to all levels of NCAA basketball — to send as many spare shirts and shoes as possible. Any programs wishing to participate can send gear to: Kelvin Sampson, University of Houston Basketball, Guy V. Lewis Development Center, 3480 Cullen Blvd., Houston, TX, 77204.