Head coach Chris Huston's influence on the Rice soccer program is easy to see. Since she started the program from scratch just four short years ago the Owls have achieved success on the field and in the classroom.
Last season under Huston's guidance Rice received its first bid to the NCAA Championship after winning a school record 14 matches. For the second year in a row she led Rice to the championship final of the Western Athletic Conference tournament and coached six players (the most of any school in the WAC) to all-league honors.
The gem of the decorated Owls senior goalkeeper Lauren Shockley, the 2004 WAC player of the year and an all-region honoree. For the incredible season of accomplishments, Huston was selected as the WAC coach of the year on a vote from her coaching peers in the league. It was her second time to earn the award in the last four years.
Rice may now be in a new conference in 2005, but the coach at the helm of the soccer team is the Owls' same leader, motivator and teacher of the game. With her success the past few years Huston has set a solid foundation to build a skyscraper of program.
Chris Huston on Rice soccer in 2005...
"Last season was an exciting one and I'm proud of what we accomplished in four short years. We set a great foundation to build upon and this year's team could achieve even more. We have an outstanding group of girls returning whose standards are high and with great expectations for the future of this program."
In 2003 seven Owls were named all-conference and five were selected to the league's all-tournament team. Rice won 11 games despite playing a rugged schedule that featured four games against teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament. It's an accomplishment to be sure but there's more to Huston's influence. She also demands academic success and in 2003 it was no surprise a total of 12 Owls, more than can even play on the field at one time, were named to the league's all-academic team. Two of her former Rice players have gone on to earn postgraduate scholarships.
Huston hit the ground running to build the program since the first day she was announced as the head coach of Rice's newest intercollegiate sport on May 26, 2000. In the program's debut season a year later, the Owls went 7-9 and earned the second seed in the WAC Tournament. Soccer Buzz magazine named Rice the second-best first-year program in the nation, behind only Binghamton (which had fielded a Division II team for 16 years), and Huston was tabbed as the WAC coach of the year.
As a follow up in 2002, Huston guided the Blue and Gray through some injuries to the semifinals of the WAC tournament for the second consecutive year. It was a springboard for the success a year later.
Huston is actually two-for-two at inaugurating women's soccer programs in the city of Houston. She joined the Rice staff after serving three years as the head coach at crosstown rival Houston, where she was hired as the inaugural coach for the Cougars' program in July 1997.
The Houston squad debuted in 1998, finishing third in Conference-USA. That was enough to earn Huston Soccer Buzz coach of the year honors, as the magazine tabbed her crew the number one new women's soccer program in the nation. The following season, Huston led the Cougars to a 9-2-2 record and a second-place finish in C-USA, which included an eight-game winning streak in the middle of the season. Her Houston teams produced one all-central region team player, two C-USA first-team players, two all-freshman team players and three additional players named to C-USA second and third teams. She also coached the 1999 C-USA defensive player of the year.
Before taking the reins at UH, Huston spent four years coaching successful club teams throughout Texas. In 1994-95, she coached the Dallas D'Feeters Soccer Club and was an Olympic Development coach for the under-14 age group for north and south Texas. During the next three years, Huston's coaching career brought her back to Houston where she was at the helm of the Challenge Soccer Club.
Huston's soccer career began at Klein Oak High School in north Houston, where she earned all-America honors for the Panthers and went on to play for legendary coach Anson Dorrance at the University of North Carolina. While at Chapel Hill, Huston - the 1988-89 rookie of the year for the Tar Heels - teamed up with current U.S. national team mainstays Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly and played a key role on the team's 1989 and 1990 NCAA championship runs. One of her career highlights was scoring the game-winning goal against Central Florida in the 1988 NCAA quarterfinals. Huston also played on the U.S. Olympic soccer sports festival team in 1989 and participated on the under-19 national team, where she earned USA all-America honors in 1986.
While injuries ended Huston's collegiate playing days, she graduated from UNC in 1992 with a degree in psychology and returned to Texas to begin her coaching career.
Now in her fifth season at Rice and her ninth as a collegiate head coach, Huston has a contagious optimism for the Owls' 2005 season.
"Last season was an exciting one and I'm proud of what we accomplished in four short years. We set a great foundation to build upon and this year's team could achieve even more. We have an outstanding group of girls returning whose standards are high and with great expectations for the future of this program.
"We have a very strong group of players returning from a year ago and a very talented freshman class. We'll have to be ready to play a demanding schedule against a number of regionally-ranked teams. That will help us get better as the year goes on. I am really excited for what is sure to be a great year."
Huston's Year-By-Year Coaching Records/Results Year School Record League Finish Postseason 1998 Houston 11-8-0 t 2nd, C-USA C-USA first round 1999 Houston 11-8-2 t 2nd, C-USA C-USA semifinals 2001 Rice 7-9-0 t 2nd, WAC WAC first round 2002 Rice 4-13-2 6th, WAC WAC semifinals 2003 Rice 11-8-1 3rd, WAC WAC finals 2004 Rice 14-5-3 t 2nd, WAC WAC finals and NCAA first round Career Totals 58-51-8 Rice Totals 36-35-6