Aug. 24, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. - The Rice soccer team battled Southeastern Conference power LSU to a 1-1 tie before an LSU home record-breaking crowd of 2,624 fans Friday evening in Baton Rouge, La.
Not only did the Owls take a talented LSU squad that is receiving votes for the national Top 25 into two overtime periods before a rowdy home-Tiger crowd, the Blue & Gray did so in a heavy rain that fell for most of the second half, as well as playing the final 25 minutes down a player after being assessed a red card.
"I am so proud of our team, said Rice head coach Nicky Adams. "From the moment of the opening whistle to the end of double-overtime, the team fought with so much heart and passion. It was so great to see.
"After the Baylor game (a 1-0 loss in the home-opener on Aug. 17) the girls were really, really disappointed," Adams said. "It's great to see what kind of team we have - one that will bounce back so well and so quickly."
Rice took three of the game's first five shots, with the third opening the scoring in the 16th minute of the contest. True freshman Holly Hargreaves took possession of the ball in LSU's half and blasted away with a shot attempt from 35-yards out. The strike lined inside the left post to the back of the Tiger net for a 1-0 Rice advantage. The score was Hargreaves' first on the collegiate level after a standout prep and club career on the east coast.
"Holly hit a laser and that gave us a lot of momentum," Adams explained. "I thought we did a really good job in the first half of keeping possession of the ball. We had quite a few great opportunities."
A near-miss on a Rice opportunity in the second half could have gone a long way to helping the Owls secure a possible second-straight victory over LSU (after Rice claimed a 1-0 overtime victory against the Tigers in Houston a year ago). In the 53rd minute, senior Lauren LaGro hit the post with a hard shot from outside the 18 that had the Owls thinking `2-0 lead with 40 minutes left.'
Coach Adams knows it can sometimes be a game of inches - inches and momentum swings. Not too long after LaGro hit the post, LSU pushed across the equalizer in the 74th minute. Rice goalkeeper Amy Czyz made a stop of a Tiger shot, but Kaley Blades played the deflection for a close-range goal that made the score 1-1.
For the second time in as many games this season Czyz was sensational. The sophomore from Danville, Calif., surpassed her previous career-high of nine saves she had in the season-opener against Baylor with new career-high of 11 saves Friday night. The 11 saves was the most by an Owl keeper in four years and the fourth-highest single-game total in school history.
Czyz was big, particularly in the final minutes of regulation and then for two full overtime periods. In the game's 86 minute sophomore Lauren Busansky received a red card that put the Owls down a player, 11-vs.-10. It was a final hurdle Rice had to try and survive.
"I thought we did well to start the second half until we picked up that red card," Adams said. "That put us in a little bit of a pickle, but the girls fought hard to get that final result. Amy had another great game and our backline did a really good job. Jasmine Isokpunwu, a freshman, was really big today. `Dub' (Hayley Williams) did tremendous, winning balls out of the air. Overall I would say every single person on our team had moments throughout the game that were just brilliant. We had a lot step up in key moments.
"It's not a win but I'll tell you what," she explained, "for us to go earn this result - against an SEC team that is getting votes for the Top 25, on the road, in the rain, and then down a player for two overtime periods... that is pretty big time.
"I thought our girls kept their composure and at the end we have something to build on. I am proud of this team."
Rice soccer returns to action on Sunday night with a road game at McNeese State. Start time is set for 6 pm in Lake Charles, La.