Charlotte/Rice VB preview

Charlotte's Karen Weatherington coaches team in the huddle.

The Charlotte 49ers volleyball team faces Rice in their first game of the Conference USA (C-USA) Championships on Friday, Nov. 18. The 49ers look to make a run in the conference tournament to cap off their season. 

About the teams:

Charlotte is coming off being swept by Western Kentucky in their last two-game series of the season. Charlotte hopes to brush off their four-game losing streak and make history in the C-USA Championships. 

They will have an uphill battle as the four-seed 49ers will face the Owls, who are first in the C-USA West and undefeated in conference with a 12-0 record. Charlotte is taking lessons learned from last year's loss in the C-USA Championships into this season.

"We're glad we've all been through the tournament before," said Head Coach Karen Weatherington. "The travel, getting there, and knowing what it's like takes away some of the fanfare. That does definitely give you a bit of an advantage, knowing you're heading into a season that's going to be really, really fast. These three days in November can be a lot of fun."

Players to watch for:

Charlotte will be looking to setter Annika Wetterstrom, who, in their matchup against Western Kentucky, surpassed 2,000 career assists. Wetterstrom is only the ninth player in history to achieve such a feat. 

Charlotte will rely on fifth-year outside hitter Sydney Rowan to produce at a high level for the team. Rowan, who joined the 1,000 kills and digs club this season, added to her accomplishments by being named to the C-USA first team for the final time.  

On the other side, the Owls will lean on their senior outside hitter Nicole Lennon. Lennon is third among Division I players in career kills with 2,063. This season Lennon is 29th in points per set and 21st in kills per set. She is also in the running for finalists for the national Senior CLASS Award.

Keys for a Charlotte victory:

The first key is for the 49ers to start hot offensively and use their momentum to take hold of the game early. The team will need to block well and execute when they make contact. 

"First contact execution offensively and blocking well," said Weatherington. "We definitely have to block well. We've always been a team that rides behind our block, and I think offensive execution will be important for us and having we're having a lot of fun." 

Another key is for the 49ers to play loose and free by not taking the game so seriously. Coach Weatherington's goal is preparing the team to put the whole season behind them, and she wants her team to lock in and focus on winning the C-USA Championships.

"We are going to get after it," said Weatherington. "We're so happy to be in. We did some things throughout the season and made sure that we put ourselves in that position. Everybody is 0-0 now. We have had some big players step up and make big plays. It's been a long, whole year of volleyball, and I love that we're still playing with lots of passion, playing at a high level and we'll take that with us to Norfolk."

Gametime:

The C-USA Championships will be held in Norfolk, VA. The 49ers will face the Rice Owls in the opening round on Friday, Nov. 19. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN+.

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