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Texas Tech volleyball faces UC Irvine

The Red Raiders continue play in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship.

The quest for the championship of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) continues Wednesday for the Texas Tech volleyball team.

They began the tournament with a straight set victory over SMU, 26-24, 25-23, 25-20. The match was their first in postseason since 2001 and became their first postseason win since 1995.

Tech recorded their second-highest attack percentage of the season at .331 and were led offensively by sophomore outside hitters Emily Hill and Chandler Atwood with 20 and 17 kills, respectively. Hill, who has led the team in kills a team-best 14 times, also added 13 digs for her 12th double-double of the season.

All-Big 12 second team junior setter Missy Owens distributed the ball brilliantly finishing with 48 assists, her most in a three-set match this season. She also posted her 11th double-double of the season with 11 digs and also chipped in five kills and an ace. Defensively, senior libero Kate Klepetka led the team with 21 digs, and freshman Allison White tallied three blocks.

Next up was the host school Texas State. The Bobcats were dispatched rather convincingly in straight sets 25-18, 25-10, 26-24. Tech won the battle at the net by outhitting them, .306 to .183, and outblocking them by five.

Sophomore outside hitters Chandler Atwood and Emily Hill led the team again in kills with 14 and 12, respectively. Atwood's .414 hitting percentage marked a season high as she led the team in kills for the 12th time this season. Junior middle blocker Katy Keenan was the team's most efficient weapon, recording nine kills with one error on 14 swings to finish with a .571 hitting percentage.

Freshman middle blocker Allison White led the team with four blocks, senior libero Kate Klepetka posted a team-high 13 digs and two aces, and junior setter Missy Owens finished with 33 assists.

The 25-10 win in set two marked Tech's largest margin of victory of the season. With the victory over Texas State, the Raiders became the first team in program history to advance past the second round in a postseason tournament.

Up next for the Raiders is the quarterfinal round which will be Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 4 p.m. at TCU's University Recreation Center in Ft. Worth.

The quarterfinal round opponent is UC Irvine (24-7,10-6 Big West). UC Irvine finished third in the Big West Conference behind juniors Harlee Kekauoha, Haley DeSales and Idara Akpakpa, who were all named 2017 Big West First Team.

As an opposite side attacker, Kekauoha leads the team in kills with 370 on the year while Akpakpa leads the team in hitting percentage, at .361, from the middle blocker position. Other stat leaders include junior setter Ali Koumelis with 1154 assists, sophomore middle Makayla Wolfe with 81 blocks, and senior libero Luna Tsujimoto with 461 digs.

The Anteaters path to the quarterfinals included a first round straight set victory over Sacramento State, 25-16, 25-19, 25-10 and a five set win over Pacific, 25-21, 25-13, 19-25, 13-25, and 15-13. California is the lone common opponent from the 2017 season. The Anteaters beat Cal, 3-1, in their season opener, while Tech fell by the same score on Sept. 2 in the Cal Classic. This match will mark the first time the two squads face off in volleyball since 1990, when Tech took a straight-set win.

The Tech game is the first of three matches to take place at TCU this week. The Horned Frogs (14-16, 4-12) host Green Bay (17-15, 9-7 Horizon) in the other quarterfinal matchup Wednesday at 7 p.m. The two winners from Wednesday will square off in the semifinals Thursday at 7 p.m.