Aug. 12, 2011
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HOUSTON - Junior forward Alex Burton scored goals in each half and senior Annie Kadota added another late in the contest to pace the Rice women's soccer team to a 3-0 exhibition victory over visiting Houston Baptist Friday night at the Rice Soccer Stadium.
The match between the crosstown foes was intended to help both teams prepare for their respective 2011 season-opener, now fast-approaching for Rice in only a week's time. It was literally a friendly, and therefore locked-in not to count in any team standings, nor would any individual performances register among the school's statistical records and ledgers. The Owls, however, didn't appear to be taking that approach.
Rice maintained a high work-rate for the full 90 minutes, controlled the tempo with a 25-6 advantage in shots, and held a 13-2 margin in corner kicks. The Blue & Gray posted a 16-2 shots advantage in the second half when fatigue from another summer day in the high 90s should have been playing a bigger role. The offense was in-gear, but almost lost in all the fireworks was a sound and solid effort by the Owl defenders who frustrated the Huskies in allowing only two shots on-goal for 90 minutes. Two Owl goalkeepers who were both playing in their first collegiate action, junior Andie Obermeyer and freshman Amy Czyz, corralled both shot attempts and combined for a shut-out victory.
Exhibition may imply it was only to be a light Sunday drive. The Owls wanted to see what the new engine could do.
"I'm really, really, happy with the way we played," said Rice head coach Nicky Adams. "I knew the first half was going to be a little chaotic. We've got some new people and it was really the first time for us to play a full 11-a-side game, so we knew it was going to take some time. We made some adjustments in the second half and those girls came out on fire. We were able to find our attacking mids and run at their backline.
"The big thing is the girls did their fitness work over the summer and it showed," Adams said. "In the second half, after you've been running and running but still able to put two goals in - that's coming in fit. We'll of course look at the video and see the areas we need to improve, but I am really happy to see where we are so far. It's nice to have a group of girls who are so committed."
It is no coincidence that one of the Owls at the forefront of striving to get better in the off-season was Alex Burton. After just one career start in her first two full years with the program, the junior from San Antonio had worked her way into a starting spot for the exhibition in the attacking third. It didn't take her long to make the most of the starting opportunity. In the 25th minute, senior midfielder Hope Ward played her the ball inside the 18 and Burton answered with a quick shot attempt. The ball sailed through the Huskies' defense to the back of the net for a 1-0 advantage.
"Last spring Alex really committed to upping her game and you saw it here today how much she's improved," Adams explained. "The kid's great and she's going to keep improving. I think we have a couple players like that this year who are gong to surprise some teams. We're going to have a lot more depth than we've had in the past. I think we could have 13 or 14 players playing well enough and hard enough to be in the starting lineup. It's nice to have some players who are going to be ready to come in and have an immediate impact."
Burton doubled the margin with her second score after the intermission. In the 61st minute Owl sophomore Rachel Petmecky made a long throw-in from the left side and found Ward in traffic in front of the HBU goal. As the HBU defenders closed-in on Ward, the Owl veteran needed only a touch to find Burton again, this time charging-in on the right wing. Burton blasted away on shot from close range that put the Blue & Gray up 2-0. At almost two-thirds of the way through the match the Burton and Ward duo had already combined for a pair of goals and pair of assists, respectively.
Rice was ahead 2-0 and continued to apply the offensive pressure. The team's final tally was in the 85th minute. Senior Nikki Storness dribbled passed one HBU defender then served the ball wide to Kadota on the right side. On only her second shot of the night Kadota floated a high-arcing attempt into the wind. The ball went over the keeper but found the back netting on the left side.
"We moved the ball around well up top," Burton said. "I thought everyone played well tonight. Hope (Ward) is amazing and I really like playing with our new freshmen in the middle. We all do. They are making it easy to find those gaps and give us some chances. I was able to get on the end of some and bounce them in.
"Two goals... for me... in one game?..." Burton said as she repeated aloud a question that a local reporter asked her after the exhibition. In doing so the junior forward was simultaneously trying to stay humble after a two-goal game, but also realizing that the results for a lot of work from the last few months had indeed paid-off rather quickly. After a moment of reflection her response of "it's been a while, that's for sure," satisfied the reporter and player alike.
The Rice soccer team officially opens the 2011 campaign with a road match on Aug. 19 at Big 12 power Texas Tech. Start time against the Red Raiders is set for 7:30 pm in Lubbock.
The complete box score from the exhibition can be viewed at the above link.