Sept. 7, 2011
THIS WEEK: The Rice soccer team, 4-1-0 and winners of four-straight matches, is back on the road for a pair of games to be played on Thursday and Saturday (Sept. 8 & 10). The Owls face undefeated Utah State at 5 pm Thursday (Central Time) in Logan, Utah. Rice then meets nationally-ranked BYU in Provo on Saturday at 8 pm (Central Time).
QUICK ON THE OWLS: The 2011 Rice soccer team features 16 letterwinners, including seven regular starters, from last season's team that went 8-8-4 and reached the Conference USA Tournament. A total of eight newcomers are on the squad, all of which are freshmen with elite club and high school experience. The Blue & Gray has four veteran seniors, led by Hope Ward in the midfield. Junior defender Amy Beger is a stalwart on the Owls' backline who earned all-region and conference honors last season.
HEAD COACH NICKY ADAMS: Rice Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan promoted Nicky Adams to the Owls' head soccer coach on Nov. 15, 2010. Adams joined the Rice soccer staff in January of 2003 and was named associate head coach in 2006. She replaced former head coach Chris Huston (who started the Rice program in 2001) effective for the remainder of the 2010 schedule beginning with a home game against No. 9 BYU on Sept. 18. Adams, a former All-America soccer player and 2001 graduate of Texas A&M, has led the Owls to a 9-5-4 record since Sept. 18, 2010... She is assisted by coach John Adams (Cincinnati, 2003), who is in his second year with the team, Allison Martino (Texas A&M, 2008) who is in her first year at Rice, and Owl great Kate Edwards as the new student coach.
RANKED IN THE REGION: Rice has earned a regional ranking by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), the organization announced on Sept. 5. 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.
HOWARD NAMED C-USA OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: 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 Sept. 5. One of the catalysts behind the Owls' current four-match win streak has been the play of 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 offensive player to earn the 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.
DID YOU KNOW: Sophomore forward Jessica Howard has been getting offensive lately, and it has paid-off for the Blue & Gray. Howard leads the team in goals (3), shots (21) and shots on-goal (9). Not only does she lead the team in shots, she has done so in just 60 minutes of playing time per game. The Dallas standout is the first Rice player to score a goal in three-straight games since All-Region honoree Erin Scott accomplished the feat in 2008... Since the start if the Rice soccer program in 2001, five different Owls have scored goals in three-straight games a total of eight times. No Rice player has ever scored in four-straight games.
PREVIOUS OUTING: Owls Claim 4-1 Victory Against Sam Houston State (Sept. 4): HOUSTON - Sophomore forward Jessica Howard scored her third-straight game-winning goal in as many outings, while the Owl tandem of Lauren LaGro and Hayley Williams both notched a goal and an assist on the night, to help lead the Rice women's soccer team to a 4-1 victory over visiting Sam Houston State Sunday night (Sept. 4) at the Owls' soccer stadium in Houston... Rice improved to 4-1-0 on the season with the team's fourth-straight win. The Owls controlled the tempo with a 28-10 advantage shots, including 16 on-goal, and finished with a 10-3 margin in corner kicks. Sam Houston State dropped to 2-4-0 overall... "This was a great weekend for us," said Rice head coach Nicky Adams. "That was a tough, double-overtime game we had on Friday (a 1-0 victory over LSU) and to come back and play hard tonight was a great sign. We created opportunities and it was important to get some first half goals. We've been talking about that all year. (The first half goals) helped us loosen us up a little and play well again in the second half."... Rice opened what proved to be the team's biggest scoring night in three years with the game's first goal in the 10th minute. Senior Hope Ward served a corner kick into traffic in front of the keeper's box and found the leaping 6-foot Williams, who converted on a header to the back of the net on the left side for her fist goal of the season and a 1-0 lead... Sam Houston came right back with a quick goal to tie the game. In the 11th minute, Bearkat forward Jessica Toms took a free kick from the top of the 18. The shot hit the crossbar, and a charging Emily Edenstrom alertly played the deflection for an equalizer with her second goal of the young season... The Owls went back on the offensive and took the lead for good in the 27th minute. Jessica Howard took a left-to-right serve from LaGro and broke past the Bearkat defense. The Dallas native lofted a high-arcing shot from 10 yards out that was over the keeper's reach, but came-in just under the cross bar to make it a 2-1 game. The goal was Howard's third of the season - all of which went on to stand as the game-winning goal in the current four-game win streak... A little more than just two minutes later in the 29th minute, the Owls stretched the margin to 3-1 with an Amy Beger goal. The score was her second of the season and the team's third of the first half. The Blue & Gray closed out the offensive fireworks with one final score in the second half. Hayley Williams struck a hard shot attempt with Sam Houston managed to make a save with a deflection, but LaGro opportunistically corralled the carom and followed with a shot inside the keeper's box for her first goal of the season and 4-1 lead... With an eye on the big picture, Coach Adams welcomed the chance to substitute some new Owls into the match and utilize some young but talented depth. No less than 24 players saw action for Rice on the night, including seven of the team's eight true freshmen... "We got a lot of girls into the game tonight and got some experience," Adams added. "They played hard and it was exciting watching some of them get out there for the first time. That will help us down the road. We played well, and still want to see that final piece of the puzzle and put away goals that should be put away."
NEWS & NOTES:: The 4-1-0 Owls are off to their best start to a season since a 4-0-1 ledger to begin the 2006 campaign... In all five matches this year Rice has out-shot its opponent in the contest. The Owls have out-shot their opponent by a combined total of 107-43, a ratio 2.5-to-1. The team's advantage in corner kicks has been a steady 1.5-to-1... The Blue & Gray's four-goal outing against Sam Houston State on Sunday was the most the team had scored in a single game since 2008... Rice has been distributing the offensive attack equally across the roster. Six different Owls have scored the nine goals, while six players have all registered assists. There are three players, Alex Burton, Lauren LaGro and Hayley Williams who have a goal and an assist... Freshman goalkeeper Amy Czyz has been sound-and solid. So far this year the rookie keeper has maintained an .833 save percentage and a 0.41 goals-against average. With a wealth of offensive support Sunday against Sam Houston State she came out of a game for the first time this year. Czyz is third on the team in minutes-played... Credit Owl defenders for helping out their freshman keeper. The foursome of all-conference honoree Amy Beger, former C-USA all-freshman honoree Hayley Williams, junior Lauren LaGro and sophomore Rachel Petmecky have combined to hold opponents to just 8.6 shots per game. That's not a lot of chances over a 90-minute contest. Petmecky made a sensational sliding tackle on an LSU breakaway against Amy Czyz with just 30 seconds left in regulation.
VS. THIS WEEK'S OPPONENTS: Rice is meeting Utah State in soccer for the first time. The undefeated Aggies compete in the Owls' old neighborhood of the Western Athletic Conference. Rice was a WAC member from 2001-2004. The last time the Owls faced a WAC opponent was SMU in the Championship Final of the 2004 league tournament in Hawaii... Rice has met BYU once before. Last year the No. 9 Cougars topped the Owls 1-0 in Houston. That was Nicky Adams first game at the helm of the program.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU: Utah State is a new opponent for Rice. Since 2006 the Owls are 9-8-2 when facing an opponent the program has never played before.
JUST FOR KICKS: Fans will once again have a chance to get some extra insight to the Owls' soccer team via RiceOwls.com. Over the course of the season the players will be featured one-by-one in a question & answer segment titled "Just For Kicks." Fans can check out the feature at the link at the top of this page.
OTHER C-USA ACTION: Conference USA's high-flying brand of soccer is in full-swing. The league's weekend slate is as follows:
Thursday, Sept. 8
Rice at Utah State 5 pm
Friday, Sept. 9
Marshall at Eastern Kentucky 4 pm
Southern Miss vs. Lipscomb 4 pm
UCF vs. Penn State 6 pm
Texas Southern at Houston 7 pm
Ole Miss at (16) Memphis 7 pm
UAB at Alabama 7 pm
Tulsa at Missouri State 7 pm
UALR at UTEP 8 pm
SMU at (6) UCLA 9 pm
Saturday, Sept. 10
Rice at BYU 8 pm
Sunday, Sept. 11
Southern Miss vs. Ark.-Pine Bluff 11 am
UAB at Kennesaw State 11 am
Morehead State at Marshall Noon
UCF vs. Washington State Noon
(RV) William & Mary at East Carolina 1 pm
Charlotte at (16) Memphis 2 pm
Tulsa at Northwestern State 2 pm
Northern Colorado at UTEP 2 pm
SMU at Loyola Marymount 3 pm