Sept. 5, 2011
IRVING, Tex. -- Rice sophomore forward Jessica Howard has been named the Conference USA offensive player of the week for soccer the league office announced from its headquarters in Irving, Tex., on Monday (Sept. 5). While Howard garnered an individual honor, the 4-1-0 Owl team has earned a regional ranking by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), the organization has announced.
After four-straight wins and the team's best start to a season since 2006, Rice was ranked No. 8 in the NSCAA's Central Region in a weekly coaches' poll. The regional ranking is the Owls' first while under the direction of head coach Nicky Adams.
One of the catalysts behind the Owls' current four-match win streak has been the play of Jessica Howard in the attacking third of the field. Over the weekend the Owl standout scored the game-winning goals in both of the team's home games. Howard netted Friday's game-winner in double-overtime against SEC foe LSU, and did so with only two minutes remaining before the game would have ended in a draw. On Sunday, she broke a 1-1 deadlock with a goal in the 27th minute against Sam Houston State and the team went on to claim a convincing 4-1 victory. The Dallas native has tallied a team-leading three goals this season and Sunday's score was already her third-consecutive game with a game-winning goal (dating back to the Aug. 26 road win at TCU). In last week's action Howard led the team with eight shots, including four on-goal for a .500 shots-on-goal percentage, and she played a total of 133 minutes.
The award marks the first time for Howard to earn the league's offensive player of the week honor. She is the first Rice player to earn the C-USA weekly accolade since Catherine Fitzsimmons did so as a defender on Oct. 11, 2010. Howard is the Owls first to earn the offensive player of the week honor since Hope Ward on Oct. 4 that same year.
Memphis senior goalkeeper Elise Kuhar-Pitters was named the C-USA defensive player of the week after posting a shutout on the road at Western Kentucky. The Tigers moved to 5-0-0 and are ranked second in the NSCAA Central Region.
The Rice soccer team next plays on the road at undefeated Utah State (5-0-0) on Thursday (Sept. 8). Rice then meets nationally-ranked BYU in Provo, Utah, on Sept. 10.