Sept. 4, 2011
HOUSTON - Rice 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 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."
The Owls next play on the road at undefeated Utah State on Sept. 8. Rice then meets nationally-ranked BYU in Provo, Utah, on Sept. 10.